TREA­SURES OF MA­CAO

Ma­cao’s fu­tur­is­tic cityscape and World Her­itage sites melds into a fu­sion of trea­sures that will en­thral vis­i­tors of all ages,

Travel Bulletin - - MACAO - writes CHRISTINA PFEIFFER. Pho­tos pre­vi­ous page: Stu­dio City This page clock­wise from top left: Ma­cau Tower Ad­ven­ture Deck (MGTO); House of Danc­ing Wa­ter; the Vene­tian; Wynn Ma­cau’s Dragon of For­tune; Ru­ins of St Paul’s (MGTO)

THERE’S a buzz of ex­cite­ment in the air on Ma­cau Tower’s Ad­ven­ture Deck, as the bungy jumpers are ush­ered onto the tower’s out­door deck. One by one, the men and women kit­ted up in spe­cial jump suits, take the plunge off the tower from a dizzy­ing height of 233m.

The bird’s-eye view of Ma­cao from the tower high­lights the chang­ing sky­line of the for­mer Por­tuguese en­clave. Af­ter ex­plor­ing Ma­cao, I’m sure it’s this rapidly chang­ing land­scape cou­pled with a well-main­tained col­lec­tion of World Her­itage at­trac­tions that makes Ma­cao a com­pelling place to visit.

Over the past two decades, the changes in Ma­cao have been as dizzy­ing as a bungy jump. Ever since the for­mer Por­tuguese en­clave was handed back to China in 1999, Ma­cao has been on an ex­cit­ing tra­jec­tory of growth.

Back then, ac­cord­ing to He­len Wong, Gen­eral Man­ager of the Ma­cao Gov­ern­ment Tourism Of­fice Aus­tralia and New Zealand, there were 9469 ho­tel rooms. Last year there were 32,608 rooms in Ma­cao and this fig­ure is ex­pected to grow to over 50,000 within two years.

HIS­TORIC WON­DERS

While gam­ing used to be the main at­trac­tion for pun­ters and week­end vis­i­tors, in re­cent times, the for­mer Por­tuguese en­clave has ma­tured into a fully-fledged city des­ti­na­tion with plenty of at­trac­tions for ev­ery­one, from vis­it­ing charm­ing her­itage build­ings, Chi­nese tem­ples and Euro­pean-style paved squares to sam­pling Ma­canese cui­sine, sip­ping Por­tuguese wine in sleek bars and dis­cov­er­ing quirky gal­leries.

It has been 10 years since my last visit to Ma­cao, when most of my ex­plor­ing was of Ma­cao’s World Her­itage cen­tre. When I last vis­ited, I was im­pressed with Ma­cao’s clean streets and well-kept his­toric at­trac­tions.

Dur­ing this visit, a quick whip around the main her­itage sights con­firms that Ma­cao’s his­toric spots are as well pa­tro­n­ised as the city’s casi­nos. The aroma of Por­tuguese tarts and al­mond cook­ies wafts through air as I stroll past the tra­di­tional bak­eries in Se­nado Square. The Ru­ins of St Paul’s, Ma­cao’s fa­mous his­toric land­mark, and A Ma Tem­ple, which built by fish­er­men in the 16th cen­tury in hon­our of the sea god­dess, bus­tle with ac­tiv­ity.

FU­TUR­IS­TIC BRIDGE

Af­ter reac­quaint­ing my­self with Ma­cao’s his­toric land­marks, I fo­cus most of my ex­plor­ing on the new glitzy mega re­sorts that have mush­roomed on the Co­tai strip. This is an area of re­claimed land that links the is­lands of Taipa and Coloane; Co­tai is a fu­tur­is­tic bridge be­tween two old sec­tions of the city.

This glit­ter­ing new sec­tion has earned Ma­cao the la­bel of the Las Ve­gas of Asia but I soon dis­cover there are plenty of de­lights be­yond the gam­ing ta­bles.

I’m chat­ting to a friend on my smart­phone as I walk into The Vene­tian’s Grand Canal. The sight of the clouds painted on the ceil­ing stops me in mid-sen­tence and I stare in awe at the painted “sky”. The Grand Canal’s streetscape is a pic­turesque ver­sion of Venice. A gon­dola floats past and the har­mo­nious bari­tone of the gon­do­lier is a sooth­ing melody to my ears.

Later, I mar­vel at the view of the city from Asia’s high­est Fer­ris wheel. The Golden Reel - which is the first fig­ure-8 Fer­ris wheel in the world - is lo­cated in Stu­dio City Ma­cao. Other ex­cit­ing at­trac­tions at Stu­dio City are the 4D Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios Bat­man Dark Flight, vi­brant shop­ping streets, themed night­clubs and cre­ative shop­ping streets.

DRAGONS AND FOUNTAINS

Even though many of Ma­cao’s newer at­trac­tions are free, they are worth a look. I’m mes­mer­ized by Wynn Ma­cau’s Dragon of For­tune. The gi­ant sculp­tured dragon rises from the floor and fills the atrium ac­com­pa­nied by spec­tac­u­lar mul­ti­me­dia ef­fects.

Out­side Wynn, I’m cap­ti­vated by the shim­mer­ing dis­play of the nightly wa­ter show at Per­for­mance Lake. The colour­ful show of spe­cial ef­fects light­ing co­or­di­nated with the shoot­ing wa­ter fountains and back­ground mu­sic is worth mak­ing the ef­fort to see.

An­other impressive spot in Ma­cao is Galaxy’s Grand Re­sort Deck, which has a mas­sive wa­ter­park with trop­i­cal gar­dens, wa­ter­slides, la­goons and the world’s largest Sky­top Wave Pool. Five ho­tels have ac­cess to this at­trac­tion (JW Mar­riott, Ritz Carl­ton, Ho­tel Okura, Banyan Tree and Galaxy Ho­tel).

At the House of Danc­ing Wa­ter in the City of Dreams, I’m awestruck by the breath­tak­ing scale of the pro­duc­tion. Dur­ing the show the “floor” trans­forms into a lake that holds the equiv­a­lent of five Olympic-sized swim­ming pools of wa­ter. I’m at the edge of my seat the en­tire time as the ac­ro­batic dis­plays of­fer many “wow’ mo­ments.

Af­ter thor­oughly ex­plor­ing Ma­cao, I’ve come to the con­clu­sion that com­pared to other Asian cities, Ma­cao is unique. The com­bi­na­tion of his­tor­i­cal trea­sures and a flood of ex­cit­ing new de­vel­op­ments packed into a com­pact area puts Ma­cao on the map as an Asian city on the rise.

‘ The aroma of Por­tuguese tarts and al­mond cook­ies wafts through air as I stroll past the tra­di­tional bak­eries in Square’ Se­nado

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