For details of accommodation, sightseeing, dining and entertainment, contact the Macau Government Tourism Office. More: (02) 9264 1488; visitmacao.com.au. Banyan Tree Macau has a special package including two nights’ accommodation, breakfast and MOP1000 ($173) credit for use at the hotel’s restaurants, spa or gallery. More: banyantree.com. Cathay Pacific operates more than 70 flights a week between Australian ports and Hong Kong, including four daily flights from Sydney and three from Melbourne. More: 131 747; cathaypacific.com.au.
Today, Cotai is a hub of gambling and tourism, all done on a scale to rival Las Vegas.
Already there is a Venetian-styled resort, complete with gondola rides, and an enormous Eiffel Tower replica has been built, ready for the opening of a Parisianthemed centre later this year. The massive Wynn Palace, still under construction, will welcome guests via cable car.
At one end of Cotai sits Galaxy Macau, almost a small suburb with its six hotels, 120 restaurants, about 200 shops, multiple casinos and cinemas. Taking up one of its three gold towers is the 31-storey Banyan Tree Macau, opened in 2011 and billed as the territory’s first high-rise urban resort. Its villas come with private pools and gardens, while suites have Japanese-inspired wooden bath tubs and their own indoor “relaxation pools”. Floating in your air-conditioned swimming space, many floors up and within steps from your bed, and gazing at a futuristic skyline might seem like a surreal experience, but in Macau it somehow feels luxuriously acceptable.
The hotel is linked to Galaxy Macau via a vast deck featuring multiple outdoor pools and gardens, an artificial beach, a wave pool and rapids. This is two storeys above street level, so you can wander, slide, swim or walk at leisure, away from the drone of the traffic below.
When you can relax no more, a pocket of old Macau is surprisingly close. Taipa is a quaint village, separated from Cotai by a busy street and an under-construction light rail system. Sitting in the shadow of Cotai’s glitzy towers, its cobbled streets display an eclectic but soothing mix of Macau’s heritage. The Taipa-Houses Museum features five restored Macanese buildings from the 1920s, and provides an intimate insight into old Macau. For a more current perspective, wander the village’s streets and lanes in the early morning when the comparatively few people about are heading to or from the local market. At night, the narrow thoroughfares are full of revellers sneaking free food samples from the stalls on the pedestrian route Rua do Cunha or spilling out of an Australian-themed bar.
A few blocks away, and inside one recently restored building with a dark wood-stained trim more suggestive of Europe than Asia, a Portuguese guitarist sings of old Lisbon over a rich repast of goat’s cheese and grilled cod. Antonio Coelho has been presenting Portuguese food at his eponymous restaurant Antonio since 2008, importing most ingredients from his homeland. A meal here, beneath a beamed ceiling and to the sounds of traditional fado music, is quintessentially Portuguese — and, in turn, most definitely of Macau.
Taipa is connected by three long bridges to the Macau Peninsula, home to many of the city’s best-known sights,