Macau is known as the Las Vegas of the Far East, and it’s easy to see why. The Macau Peninsula and the Cotai Strip (a reclaimed piece of land between the islands of Taipa and Coloane) are filled with several of the very same casinos and luxury hotels that line the Strip in Sin City. You name it, they’ve got it—there’s Four Seasons Hotel Macao, Cotai Strip; Mandarin Oriental, Macau; The Venetian Macao Resort Hotel; MGM Macau; and both Wynn and Encore Macau.
And in 2015, plan on seeing the famed Eiffel Tower on Macau’s Cotai Strip, too. Thanks to the Las Vegas Sands Corp., the Parisian Macao will grace the city’s popular tourist-filled area. Then in 2016, hotel magnate Steve Wynn will bring Wynn Palace to the Cotai Strip with Wynn Diamond to follow as part two of his $9 billion project.
But even with all of this development going on and close to $45 billion grossed in gaming revenue last year, there is so much more to do in Macau than just piddle away time (and patacas) at the baccarat table. After a recent trip discovering lots of what Macau has to offer, our Forbes Travel Guide editors have created a two-day itinerary filled with fantastic places to stay, delicious food to savor and tons of sightseeing and fun to be had along the way.
Going all out in Macau starts with knowing where to stay. So be sure to book a room at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Conrad Macao, Cotai Central. The hotel is centered in the middle of the Cotai Strip’s action (and within Sands Cotai Central, whose other properties include Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Holiday Inn Macao Cotai Central and Sheraton Macao Hotel Cotai Central) and is about five minutes away from Macau International Airport.
You’ll want to stay in Conrad’s fabulous 1,119-square-foot King Deluxe suite. Its opulent interior is outfitted with dark woods, couches with plush deep purple and brown throw pillows, textured wallpaper decorated with butterflies and birds, a king-size bed with silk headboard, and the cutest little gold-and-black Conrad teddy bear placed atop a pillow for you to keep as a souvenir. Other suite highlights include a Nespresso coffeemaker, a tea maker with Harney & Sons tea packets, a circular bathtub surrounded by marble with a flat-screen TV, and vegan bath amenities by Tara Smith and the luxe Shanghai Tang.
Another option is Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Macao, Cotai Strip, which is across the street from Conrad. You’ll be blown away by the beauty (expect to see lavender roses in the lobby and a splendid contrast of East-meets-West furnishings throughout—from an Oriental-style console table set in front of a mustard screen to a European-style grand staircase that greets you upon arrival), service (the staff knows just what you need: Order an omelet and your favorite condiment will be served on the side without you even asking for it. How does the staff know which items you want with your eggs? It just knows.) and amenities (the 24-hour fitness center comes complete with TechnoGym equipment, an on-site trainer who assists guests from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a separate yoga room with Pilates and Kinesis equipment).
To make the most of your time in Macau, take a stroll through the Shoppes at Cotai Central, the Shoppes at Four Seasons and the Shoppes at Venetian, which can be accessed from Conrad, Four Seasons Macao or The Venetian without even having to walk outside of the respective properties. Among the more than 600 duty-free shops, pop into places such as Bershka for contemporary women’s and men’s fashions, Kee Wah Bakery for delicious mooncakes and rice dumplings, and Chow Sang Sang for its character-inspired jewelry such as Hello Kitty crystal- and gem-encrusted necklaces, rings and bracelets. You will also find the usual brands, such as L’Occitane, Swarovski, Burberry, Prada and Hermès.
After spending lots of time and money shopping, grab a bite to eat nearby. Head to North restaurant (located on Level 1 of the Shoppes at Cotai Central) for its traditional Chinese fare from the Sichuan and Dongbei regions. Chef Jeff Chang and his crew work around the clock in an open kitchen—the 234-seat eatery is open 24 hours—to create housemade dishes such as Beijing noodles and dumplings. Once you’ve filled up, you must try a popular Beijing family dessert: fried bananas. If you don’t want bananas, Chang will happily whip up fried apples or strawberries for you alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
From there, take a 30-minute cab ride to check out a couple of places—the Historic Centre of Macau is a UNESCO World Heritage Site—around town including the Ruins of St. Paul’s, which at one point served as the first Church and College of the Jesuits in China. Demolished in a massive fire in 1835, all that’s left of the 17th-century establishment is a cathedral-like carved stone façade. Tourists come to admire its beauty, and plenty of locals can be found doing the same. We spotted a young couple taking wedding pictures near the front of the religious monument.
Another must-see site is the A-Ma Temple located about 15 minutes (via taxi) from the Ruins of St. Paul’s. Built in 1488, it draws many people who want to offer prayers up to the gods and several shrines within the four-level complex. A Taoist temple, this sacred place is dedicated to sea goddess Mazu, and there are several other pavilions honoring different deities. Whether you are a spiritual person or not, a walk through the incense-filled edifice will have you doing ritualistic things such as throwing a couple of coins into a water-filled copper basin and then placing your hands inside the bowl before rubbing them on each side of the basin’s handles. It’s been said that if the water “jumps” from rubbing the handles, you’ll have a prosperous future. And according to the story, the higher the H2O rises, the richer you will be.
After leaving the temple, walk a few steps to Barra Square to pick up a couple of postcards detailing landmarks such as the Macau Tower (more on that later) for your friends back at home. The cobblestone streets are loaded with peddlers selling ice cream (try Mei Dick’s homemade mango, melon, coconut and mint flavors) and keepsakes that will entice you to hang out for a while before ending your first day with dinner at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Vida Rica Restaurant and Bar located inside Five-Star Mandarin Oriental, Macau.
After sightseeing, head back to your hotel room to shower and then change into one of your favorite little black dresses or button-down shirt, jacket and pants. When you’re finished primping, jump in a cab and cross the Sai Van Bridge to get to Mandarin Oriental, Macau. After the 10-minute taxi ride to the luxury property, take the elevator up to the second floor and be instantly swept away by the beautiful view you’ll have of the South China Sea and Nam Van Lake through the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
Once at your table, you’ll be brought a savory amuse-bouche such as a lobster mousse with lobster eggs accompanied by an avocado sauce and crab tartare with artichoke crisp served with vanilla syrup. Then, a basket will come out filled with warm tomato focaccia, mini baguettes and a seeded brown bread. But what’s even more interesting to the palate is the housemade butter selection that comes in flavors such as chili, lemon and salted. For your entrée, order the squid ink risotto with seared scallop, crustacean and chouriço sausage (similar to chorizo) before treating your sweet tooth to the Summer-Summer confection. This delicious dish of raspberry Chantilly with lychee and raspberry sherbet sits in a sphere of white chocolate and is served tableside with a warm berry sauce. Surrounded by strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, you’ll scrape the plate clean before ending your meal with other treats brought to your table via cart such as a chocolate macaron or mango marshmallow.
Stuffed and sleepy, you’ll enjoy the cab ride back to your hotel on the Cotai Strip as the drive back over the Sai Van Bridge at night allows for a look at the city as it dazzles in all of its illuminating lights. And after hopping from place to place at a steady pace today, you’ll want to get a good night’s rest because tomorrow is going to be another activity-filled day.
If you’re traveling with kids in tow, start your day with Shrekfast, a lively interactive breakfast that offers everything from waffles to dim sum while being surrounded by Shrek, Fiona and a bunch of other DreamWorks characters such as Puss in Boots, Kung Fu Panda and more. This entertaining DreamWorks Experience at Cotai Strip Resorts lets you snag pictures with these playful creatures while you dine. If you’re staying at Sheraton Macao, Holiday Inn Macao Cotai Central or Conrad, all you have to do is book the DreamWorks Experience package. Otherwise, you can find out about hanging out with Alex the Lion from Madagascar and the rest of the gang by visiting the DreamWorks Experience counter at Paradise Gardens inside Sands Cotai Central. (Quick tip: Before leaving the property for your next destination, be sure to pack a small bag with a change of clothes—aim for casual chic—for dinner later.)
Keep the party going and head back over the Sai Van Bridge to get to Macau Tower. Your mission while there is simple: Take the elevator up to the 61st floor’s observation deck and strap in for the time of your life. You’ll either decide to bungee jump down 765 feet or you’ll choose Skywalk X and walk around the outer rim of the tower with nothing to hold onto aside from your prayers to the please-don’t-let-me-fall-off-this-building god. Whichever one you opt for, your heart will be racing and when it’s all said and done, you’ve definitely earned yourself some quality R&R time.
So hop in a cab and head to Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Spa at Wynn Macau, which is about 10 minutes away from Macau Tower. The sophisticated sanctuary was just given a new look by the property’s go-to guy Roger Thomas (who serves as the executive vice president of design for Wynn design and development). With Thomas’ careful attention to detail, the revamped space has gold, cream and caramel hues throughout in addition to silk wall coverings, refreshed limed oak woodwork and elegant lanterns. Unwind with the 90-minute Macanese massage or the two-hour Deluxe Caviar facial in one of the 14 well-appointed treatment rooms. Thomas also put his stamp on the Five-Star hotel’s Deluxe and Grand Deluxe rooms (picture grasscloth wall coverings and artwork by Georgia O’Keeffe) as well as its one- and two-bedroom suites (complete with cozy couches made just for Wynn).
Now that you’ve been properly pampered, savor dinner at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Wing Lei at Wynn Macau. You’ll be wowed by the striking flying dragon (it’s made of 90,000 Swarovski crystals) in the restaurant’s main dining room and will continue to be pleasantly surprised throughout the night with each Cantonese dish that executive chef Chan Tak Kwong and his team prepare. Try tea-smoked crispy chicken or steamed Macau sole in soy sauce while sipping on any of the Wing Lei Signature Tea blends (we love popular flavors such as Hangzhou Pre-Spring Dragon Well and Aloeswood Aroma).
With just 48 hours to spend in this culture-rich city, you won’t want to leave. But if you have to, rest assured that this two-day itinerary will have you covered from fabulous to fun in more ways than one.
Photos Courtesy of The Venetian Macau, Hilton Worldwide, Holiday Inn Macao and Wynn Resorts Holdings LLC