Sleepless in Macau
An edited version of this article was published in the February 2016 issue of Vistara in flight magazine.
Macau is a classic example of the East meets West kind of story. An amalgamation of European culture from 500 years of Portuguese colonization and Oriental culture with strong Chinese influences this SAR (Special Administrative Region) with odd polarities has loads of surprises in store for its visitors.
MACAU – Dash of culture
Well known around the world as the hot destination for high rollers, Macau astonishes the tourists with relics, churches, quaint and colourful Portuguese styled houses and Azulego the glazed handmade Portuguese tiles across cobbled streets. Most streets have two names each, one in Chinese and the other in Portuguese. If you are on the lookout for culture and heritage Old Macau is the place you got to be. Head to A- Ma temple dedicated to the sea goddess. It is believed that when Portuguese sailors landed here for the first time they enquired the name of the land. The residents called out ‘A-Ma Gau’ meaning ‘Bay of A-Ma’ which over the period changed to Macau. The huge conical incense coils hanging around the temple is a pretty sight to watch. Further ahead do not forget to take a sip from the fountains of Lilau Square as a popular Portuguese phrase states “One who drinks from Lilau never forgets Macau.”
Close to Senado Square, the heart of Macau with its bustling street is St. Dominic’s Church. Founded by Spanish Dominican priests this beautiful yellow building with green wooden doors and windows is striking and sure to catch your sight. Few steps ahead are the ruins of St. Paul’s Church a national identity of Macau. Built in the sixteenth century this church was destroyed in a fire in the nineteenth century, the façade and the stone stairs is all that remains. Adjoining the church is the Monte Fort with bastions and barracks which was once a defence setup and now houses the Macau Museum a great place to spend few hours if you would want to get an insight into the history, arts and traditions of Macau. Walk around the fort and you are bound to get a panoramic view of the old city.
MACAU – A potpourri
New Macau is extraordinarily diverse when compared to the old town. For those who are keen on trying their luck in gaming head to the gambling dens at The Venetian, MGM or the casinos of Grand Lisboa. With a very active night life Macau is aptly called the gambling capital of the world. There is also the unusual greyhound race where people bet from the confines of their home through telephone or else visit various agencies. If you are interested in adrenaline pumping activities head to the Macau Tower and indulge in skywalk or bungee jumping from a giddy height of 338 metres. You can also watch the Macau Grand Prix live in action as motorcycles and cars race across the twisted Guia street circuit of Macau. If you are unable to make it in time for the live race which is mostly held in November you can visit the Grand Prix museum and try your hand at the simulator to experience the rush of Formula 3 racing. Next door is the Wine museum with numerous brands of wine from Portugal to be sampled.
MACAU – Activities galore
For the uninitiated there are ample shows conducted all day long in Macau. Watch the Tree of Prosperity show at The Wynn hotel as a golden tree emerges from the bowels of the earth and blooms in front of your eyes. This show is followed by an equally breath taking Dragon of Fortune show where a dragon uncoils and puffs smoke as it rises from the depths. Do not miss the renowned House of Dancing Water show with acrobatics and stunts designed by Franco Dragone in the in-house theater built in the City of Dreams. If you are the kind who lives a branded lifestyle go shopping in the high streets of Venetian lined with canals and gondola rides that is sure to transport you to Venice.
Macau – Wine and Dine
The gastronomic scene in Macau is quite interesting as you get to savour a varied platter of Portuguese, Cantanese and Chinese cuisines. The succulent prawns in tomato sauce, African chicken cooked in onion paste at Restaurant Litoral is renowned for Macanese cooking. If you want to sink your taste buds with some Portuguese delicacies head to A Lorcha. The chicken curry in coconut base and the semi freeze home- made chocolates are a must have here. The biscuit mousse a speciality of Macau is not to be missed when in the city that never sleeps. At Coloane do not forget to buy a box of egg tarts from Lord Stow’s bakery. This Portuguese pastry with an English influence has got Macau on the world map of gastronomy. Other local treats are the soft almond cookies from Koi Kei and the beef jerky sold in most bakeries.
Macau might be a small pearl in the world map but she sure is a treasure trove of revelations as this city of dreams takes you on a whirlwind trip.
- Macau is made of Macau peninsula and the islands Taipa and Coloane. Taipa and Coloane is connected by the landfill called Cotai. Macau has been growing in size in the last few decades as land is being reclaimed from sea.
- Macanese are those born to a Chinese mother and a Portuguese father
- Cars with two number plates are seen plying in Macau one issued by the Chinese government and the other by Macau.
- Most people in Macau speak Cantonese, a Chinese dialect.
- Agriculture is not carried out in Macau as there is not much land; all vegetables and fruits are imported.
DO NOT MISS
- If you are an animal lover you shouldn’t miss a visit to the Macao Giant Panda Pavilion to watch the cuddly giant pandas Kai Kai and Xin Xin.
- Head to MGM for the underwater event in an eight metre tall aquarium called Water Aurora as divers enter it and feed school of fish.
- Lou Lim Leoc Garden is modelled on Suzhou, a classic Chinese garden. Watch people practice Tai Chi or stroll on the bridge across a pond of flowers