The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE -

For de­tails of ac­com­mo­da­tion, sight­see­ing, din­ing and en­ter­tain­ment, con­tact the Ma­cau Govern­ment Tourism Of­fice. More: (02) 9264 1488; vis­it­ 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: 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; cathay­pa­

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,

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