Whether it’s rolling the dice until sunrise or exploring its Portuguese heritage, here’s what not to miss in Macao. Words: Lee Cobaj
Hit the casinos
With 38 mega-casinos packed into less than 12 square miles, there’s a reason why Macao is known as ‘the Vegas of the East’. But you’ll also find plenty to keep you entertained even if you don’t gamble. Start your roll at The Venetian, the world’s largest casino, with masked jesters and gondola rides, before heading to The Parisian’s replica of the Eiffel Tower for a gawp from the 37th floor observation deck. Later, nip to Studio City, a cinema-themed resort with a Gotham-esque look.
Owing to its colonial past, Macao serves up an extraordinary blend of Portuguese and Chinese flavours making it one of the most exciting foodie prospects in Asia. Fill up on marinated pork chop buns from Cafe Tai Lei Loi Kei, goat’s cheese with honey from Antonio’s, or if you’re feeling flush, slow-cooked Mediterranean seabass in oyster and champagne sauce from two-Michelin-star winner The Tasting Room. Wash it all down with a bottle of light, citrusy vinho verdi and top with an egg custard tart.
So far unsullied by glass and steel skyscrapers, the southern quarter of Coloane is the place to soak up Macao’s unique quasi-Mediterranean atmosphere. Wander its black-and-white stone streets passing by flower-filled gardens, tiny Taoist temples and under the balconies of old Portuguese villas. Afterwards, follow the five-mile Coloane Trail, which loops through the island’s lush green hills, before circling back to the black sands of Hac Sa Beach.
Macao has a rich seam of history to tap into, from Ming-era Taoist temples to Catholic churches and 16th-century cobbled courtyards. Check out Senado Square lined with custard-yellow buildings trimmed with green shuttered windows, the ornate San Domingos church and the neoclassical Holy House of Mercy. The historic quarter’s showpiece is the magnificent ruins of St. Paul’s. Built by Jesuits between 1602 and 1640, and struck by lightning in 1835, all that remains today is its elaborate facade, looming atop a sweeping stone staircase.
The House of Dancing Water is Macao’s top show, on a par with any entertainment extravaganza you might find in Las Vegas. Located in the City of Dreams casino complex, the water-based show is directed by Franco Dragone (one of the original creators of Cirque du Soleil). It blends Chinese mythology with wild acrobatics, motorcycle stunts, high dives and psychedelic lighting. It’s completely mad, the story makes very little sense but it’s absolutely unmissable.