All I knew about Macau before I got there was that it gets very cold in December. And that it has the best almond cookies in the world.
At first glance, the city of Macau is a paradox. Its shoulder-to-shoulder neon-lit hotels give the city a bustling, modern feel, yet its small, quiet villages lend a quaint and relaxed vibe.
The Portuguese influence is heavily evident in the smattering of churches and other sacred architecture: The villages remind one of a well-preserved Old Manila.
The different islands comprising Macau are laid out in such a way that a very efficient and experienced tourist can easily create a full day’s itinerary covering a lot of the points of interest.
But Macau’s laid-back atmosphere invites its visitors to leisurely dawdle and savor the sights.
Macau’s sights and spectacles are not to be missed, as each hotel boasts a show and attraction that even the Macanese residents can’t resist. Most of these shows are free, so be sure to set aside time to tour the hotels and see each one, such as Wynn’s Tree of Prosperity Show and Dragon of Fortune and Performance Lake. You’ll be left wondering how they’re done, with their intricate mechanisms and moving ceiling.
The free shows are great, but nothing will prepare you for Cirque du Soleil’s ZAIA. Housed at The Venetian Macao, this whimsical tale interspersed with dazzling lights and awesome performances will delight viewers of any age; but kids especially will enjoy this, so families traveling with little ones may want to include this in their itinerary.
For the older set looking for extreme adventure and breathtaking stunts, a must-see show is The House of Dancing Water at City of Dreams. The entire stage and set is done in a sea of water, and it is truly a sight to behold. The stunts are short of terrifying, and calling it “death-defying” is not even an exaggeration. I found myself holding my breath and covering my eyes during the extreme high jumps.
And speaking of high jumps, the adventurous ones looking to do stunts of their own need not go farther than Macau Tower, where the 233-meter tethered “Skyjump” (second highest commercial jumping point in the world) awaits the bold and intrepid. If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, the tower is also a perfect observation point to see the city in its entirety.
If you’re in need of a relaxing vacation, you need not look further than Macau. Its warm and welcoming people and the city’s leisurely pace will instantly make you feel right at home.
Cebu Pacific has daily direct flights to Macau, but it’s just as easy to fly to Hong Kong and take the TurboJet ferry from the airport. The ferry company handles the transfer of your luggage from the plane to the ferry and the whole trip takes 45 minutes.
Where to stay
Those looking for a luxurious treat should head straight to the Four Seasons at the Cotai Strip. The rooms are a study in luxury, yet still very homey, thanks largely in part to its cozy interiors and the very friendly and accommodating (mostly Pinoy) staff.
Those who love art should check out MGM Grand. This pet project of Pansy Ho houses a sculpture from Salvador Dali and is the home of artist Dale Chihuly’s first gallery in Asia, where you can check out his display of delicate glass art.
Don’t miss these uniquely Macanese treats which will make you a fan of the city.
1. Feast like a king. Michelin-star restaurants are plentiful in Macau, and anyone looking for beautifully presented and insanely delicious dim sum courses should head to The Eight Restaurant in Grand Lisboa.
2. The art of tarts. Lord Stow’s Bakery, a name recognized for its creamy, flaky sublime egg tarts is a must-visit. This nondescript tiny bakery in Coloane Village is always bursting with tourists clamoring for egg tarts still warm from the oven.
3. Houses by the banks. These cultural houses along Taipa village show a well-preserved day in the lives of Macau’s Portuguese predecessors. Go up the stone steps to visit one of the oldest churches in the city. The picturesque houses and church make it a great site for engaged couples to have photos taken.
4. Fast cars and wine. Motoring and wine enthusiasts can’t miss the Grand Prix & Wine Museum. Our country even has its own showcase in the museum as Macau honors one of the racing greats, Arsenio “Dodjie” Laurel, whose race car is part of the exhibit. Meanwhile, the other side of the museum shows how wine is made in the early days, with the tour culminating in a wine-tasting session. The wine selection is good enough that you’ll find yourself heading to the shop to bring home a bottle or two.
5. Ice, ice, baby. Drop by Fisherman’s Wharf for great ice cream, and an icy tour inside Show House Ice Gallery, filled with ice sculptures and a small ramp for sledding the kids will go crazy over.
6. Stop by the souvenir lane near the Senado Square shopping area and bring back boxes of freshly made almond cookies, and buttery egg rolls.