Though I much prefer sunbathing on the beach or trekking through the jungle because I do not consider urbanised environments as ideal getaway destination, Macao to me is interestingly exceptional.
The East Asian city is widely dubbed as the Las Vegas of Asia but I found Macao more fascinating since literally has a bit of everything. From the replica of the great Roman Colosseum to the romantic canals and streets like the ones in Venice, including the copy of the iconic Eiffel Tower, it feels as if I am travelling the globe at one go. It seems that each and every traveller has their own version of Macao experience – from the highly-anticipated annual Grand Prix to panda sanctuary and world-renowned heritage gems to some of the best modern architecture ever existed in this side of the world, it is fair to say that pulsating Macao is undisputedly, and rightfully, showy.
WHAT TO VISIT?
Built on a 20,000-metre squared land, this educational attraction made up of Exhibition Centre, Planetarium and Convention Centre, making it suitable for families with children. At its Exhibition Centre, travellers can discover many permanent galleries covering topics such as technology, music, and nature, among others. In most parts, visitors can also get involved in several installed games. But the centre’s highlight is its Planetarium, said to be the first planetarium in the world equipped with 3D and ultra-high definition system comprising 8,000 x 8,000 pixels that transports travellers across space and time as they watch interactive live shows and educational movies under the giant dome!
One of the most anticipated events in Macao is the Macao Grand Prix, which is in its 65th instalment in 2018. If you are a fan and dreaming of becoming a celebrated driver on the real track, you might want to try your luck on an alternative track: the virtual simulator at G Racing Simulator at Ponte 16, which is the one and only virtual F1 Racing in Macao that all travellers should experience! In the same building, younger travellers would be thrilled to find the Angry Birds Play Centre, opened in later part of 2018.
This tower is probably the best vantage point for travellers to see the whole of Macao. Opened since December 2001, Macao Tower stands at 228 metres tall with the viewing deck located on level 61 overlooking the entire city and the river that separates Macao from mainland Hong Kong. This deck is also designed for thrilling activities such as sky-walking, sky-jumping, bungee-jumping and tower-climbing. To note, the bungee jump here is the highest from a building in the world, costing MOP3,488 per person.
For safer option, travellers can go to level 58 and vertiginously walk on its transparent glass-floor.
Formerly Macao’s primary defence against pirates, this historic place also known as Fortaleza do Monte was built between 1617 and 1626 by a group of Jesuits. The fort stands 52 metres tall at Mount Hill, just a four-minute walk from the Ruins of St. Paul’s. On April 1998, after being converted into a weather observatory, it eventually turned into the Museum of Macau, significantly showcasing the four-century long history of the once Portuguese-colonised city.
Ruins of St. Paul’s
No trip to Macao would be complete without a photo at this emblematic ruin of once one of the largest Catholic churches in Asia. The 17th century Portuguese church was burnt down during a typhoon in 1835, leaving behind the facade that was painstakingly carved with religious symbols and characters.
Tip: This is arguably Macao’s most popular Instagram-worthy spot, so travellers need to contend with the crowd. However, if you wish to take a ‘just-me’ photo minus the crowd, then come to the Ruins of St. Paul as soon as the sun comes out.
Read also: Obrigado Macao!
This neo-classic, paved town square is equipped with vibrant-coloured buildings, making it another photo-op station for travellers. The centre of attention would be the water fountain where a statue of a Portuguese soldier was originally placed but brought down by the Chinese because the soldier was responsible for the death of many Chinese soldiers.
Today, besides being a venue for public events, this is also the spot where people usually hang out with their loved ones while visiting shops and making memories.
Among other notable structures and streets around the area are Sam Kai Vui Kun (Kuan Tai Temple), Love Lane and Holy House of Mercy (Santa Casa da Misericórdia).
The sight of the half-sized replica of the iconic Eiffel Tower in the middle of Macao is unavoidable. What’s more, it is located on the Cotai Strip that is home to some of the best, world-class hotels and resorts in Macao.
This replica of Eiffel Tower, which is open to the general public, is part of Parisian Macao Hotel Resort, inspired by the famed City of Lights. I managed to climb up to level 37 of the tower where I was greeted with the city view of Macao. As it is built in one of the most luxurious areas in town, the tower seems to be surrounded by ritzy hotels.
I then took a walk inside Parisian Macao Hotel Resort, just to indulge in its stunning, flamboyant design. From the Palais Garnier-inspired gilded doors to the dome inside the Rotunda that is inspired from one of France’s most famous domed buildings L’Hotel National des Invalides, including the replica of the Fontaine de Mers just under the dome, there is so much to be awed here than shops selling world-class brands.
If you are into art and entertainment, then MGM Cotai suits you. This well-appointed jewellery-box-inspired building of MGM Cotai is a new installation of MGM property in China. Through integrated technology, MGM Cotai represents art and entertainment on a definite, grandiose scale. It has the Spectacle, the world’s largest indoor art garden with astonishing 25 giant LED screens covering four storeys showcasing digital artworks by world-class artists; MGM Theatre, Asia’s first dynamic theatre with resident shows; 300 pieces of contemporary art with the theme of bridging the East and West, tradition and technology, 28 of which are Chinese imperial carpets from the Qing Dynasty originally displayed at the Forbidden City, Beijing. It also has the largest permanent gallery of art collection in Macao.
MGM Cotai is also home to several acclaimed restaurants by world-renowned chefs such as Mauro Colagreco, Mitsuharu Tsumura and Janice Wong, giving travellers one-of-a-kind culinary experience when being here.
Another hotel worth visiting other than to stay is The Venetian, arguably Macao’s most photographed and filmed location – it even appeared in Psy’s New Face music video, Hollywood’s Now You See Me 2 and the phenomenal K-drama entitled Boys Over Flower, to name a few.
As the name suggests, this first integrated resort in Macao takes credit from its Italian-styled architecture besides the world-class indoor mall that comes with canals bearing the names of San Luca, Marco Polo or Grand Canal where travellers may experience a romantic ride on a gondola. It also has some of the finest restaurants in town.
Since the Venetian Macao is the largest single-structure hotel building in Asia and one of the largest buildings in the world, with such a huge crowd at any one time, one should be prepared in getting lost.
If urban attractions are not your liking, head to Coloane Village instead. Usually, travellers will start their journey from a small shop named Lord Stow’s Bakery, the origin of the well-known Portuguese Egg Tart, a must-taste in Macao.
While strolling along its esplanade, travellers will find peace as they walk pass its pastel-coloured houses and shops overlooking the famous Hac Sa beach. I also paid a visit to the 90-year-old Chapel of St. Francis Xavier, a monument that commemorates the local’s victory against pirates in 1910.
Comprising five distinctive Portuguese-styled houses in green, this picturesque and lovingly restored complex once served as homes for Portugese high officials built in the 1920s. Now, each of these houses portrays displays different exhibits such as “Macanese Living Museum”, the “Exhibitions Gallery”, the “Creative Casa”, the “Nostalgic House” and the “House for Reception”.
Derived its name from a Portuguese explorer, Tristão da Cunha, this street is famous for travellers to buy souvenirs, mostly snacks such as almond cakes, coconut flakes and phoenix egg rolls. There are also several restaurants popular among locals. However, Muslims need to be careful as it is quite hard to find halal foods as souvenir. For halal and vegetarian alternative, head to Blissful Carrot vegetarian take-away shop located along Direita Carlos Eugenio Road and close to the steps leading up to Largo do Carmo.
Prior to my visit, I have no idea that Macao is home to four giant pandas, specifically located on a hillside in Seac Pai Van Park, Coloane. It is heartwarming to see these adorable creatures playing with each other. The park also houses red pandas, monkeys, parrots, flamingos and deer.
WHAT TO EXPERIENCE
One of the most convenient ways to travel around Macao is by taking this service. At MOP150 (for adults) and MOP100 (for kids) per day, the bus brings travellers to 11 stops around Macao such as Macau Ferry Terminal, Macau Fisherman’s Wharf, Kun Lam Statue, Hotel Lisboa, New Yaohan, Macao Tower, A-Ma Temple, Galaxy Macau, Broadway Macau dan The Venetian Macao.
The bus is also equipped with a guide so travellers can learn more about the places of interest in Macao.
This is Asia’s first leisure property that integrates television and film production facilities with gaming, retail and accommodations. This futuristic building looks even surreal with a gigantic Ferris wheel in the shape of the digit eight with 17 Steampunk-themed cabins hovering 130 metres up in the air, making it the highest Ferris wheel in the world!
I also experienced the nerve-wrecking attraction called Batman Dark Flight, the world’s first DC Comic’s Batman 4D flight simulation ride. The journey, in brief, brings travellers to Gotham city on a Batplane with the mission of battling notorious criminals such as The Joker, Bane and Two-Face. The experience felt almost real!
WHERE TO EAT
2018 is Macao Year of Gastronomy that reflect the destination’s rich culinary offerings. From local stalls serving authentic Macanese snacks to Michelin-starred restaurants, Macao has so much to offer that travellers should savour.
- Dong Lai Shun Muslim Restaurant (484, Rua Cidade de Coimbra) – A Beijing-styled hot pot restaurant, once recognised as China Time-Honoured Brands between 1930-1940.
- Taste of India – The first restaurant in Macao that receives halal certification. It serves Indian cuisine besides Portuguese specialty.
- Lou Lan Islam Restaurant (Rua do Teatro) – Xinjiang cuisine is slightly different than other parts in China as geographically, it is located near to Russia and Pakistan. And that is what served here.
- Coast @ MGM Cotai – It mainly showcases Californian cuisines by celebrity Chef Graham Elliott.
- Golden Peacock @ The Venetian – A halal, Michelin-starred restaurant worth trying serving exquisite dishes from India.
- Tapas de Portugal – Located in Taipa, this restaurant specialises in Portuguese menu by Chef António Coelho, who also owns the Michelin-recommended restaurant, Antonio.
WHERE TO SLEEP
This gilded property is a five-star deluxe hotel, one of the rarest of its kind in Macao. From the outside, it almost seems like a palace fit for a king. With state-of-the-art services and facilities, staying here is definitely memorable. Each room is assiduously equipped with modern technology, offering guests a splendid, ultra-comfortable experience.
This article is included in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 13.3. Read the magazine for free HERE.