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