With casinos, skywalking, music and endless shopping opportunities, here’s where you should ring in the New Year
When we step out on the walkway, for the skywalk, butterflies are dancing in my stomach. The location is the 61st floor of the Macau Tower. A stiff breeze is blowing and you can see the island of Macau—buildings, bridges and boats now reduced to matchboxes. As you walk along the ridge (5.8 feet wide), you can’t help but look down the 288-foot-drop. David, a young Chinese helper, suggests we run and then leap into space. Anxious cries of “No, no” from the women are met with a laugh and a “Try it.” And it is indeed exhilarating, to say the least—to leap off the walkway, legs going skywards, and then to be held back by the safety harness.
Right next to this is the bungee jump, the world’s highest commercial leap, at 788 feet. When you look down from the edge, have no doubt that your stomach will churn in fear and excitement. A fragile-looking 18-year-old Chinese girl takes the jump with an insouciant smile. Here are some nerve-tingling statistics: you reach a speed of 180 km/hour. However, it lasts only six seconds. And the adrenalin flow does not come cheap—at Rs.23,000 a jump.
Small is beautiful
All this excitement is taking place on an island that is only 33 sq km in size, with a population of five lakh. Of course, Macau is world-famous for its casinos, with their 24 hour non-stop action— slot machines, baccarat, blackjack, roulette, poker and more. Last year’s annual gambling revenues were a mind-boggling $45 billion. Not surprisingly, education is free till class 10, but their new university is only the size of a high school in India.
It is a place where the hotels on the Cotai Strip, like the Venetian Macau, the Conrad, the Holiday Inn and the Four Seasons, will take your breath away by their sheer size and grandeur. I was lucky to be staying at the Sheraton Macao Hotel—the largest there, with 3,896 rooms. Near the lobby, there is a natural forest, with palm trees reaching up to the second-floor, a free-flowing stream, flower pots and green grass—a sight many guests stop to stare at.
The rooms at the Sheraton are plush—the highlight being the two-bedroom family suite with a specially designed children’s room. “We have a high occupancy rate for 2014. Most of our visitors are from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and India. We expect tourist arrivals to keep increasing for the next several years,” smiles Josef Dolp, the managing director.
As for the restaurants, I liked Feast—featuring open cooking stations—where you can choose from a wide variety, including Asian, Portuguese and Macanese dishes. For those who’d rather fill their shopping bags than their tummies, visit the Sands Cotai Central (where the Sheraton is located) and shop at its over-100 world-class retail stores, including names like Versace, Louis Vuitton and Gucci.
Much as new Macau is dazzling, there is a charm to the old city. The streets are narrow and paved with coloured tiles. At the Senado Square, there is a striking wave-like pattern on the mosaic stones (pick up clothes and knick-knacks here at affordable rates). There is also a lot of history here. Did you know that the Chapel of our Lady of Penha was built in 1622 by the crew and passengers of a Portuguese ship that had escaped capture by the Dutch. Other places of interest include the Formula 3 Grand Prix Museum, the Wine Museum (where you can sample three wines at the end of your visit), the A-Ma temple, the Ruins of St Paul’s, and the bronze Kun Iam Statue, which towers 60 feet and has a dome-shaped lotus base, with sixteen petals. If you are planning a trip now, do pack a sweater because though the days are pleasant, the nights can be cold. Rooms from Rs.10,131. Details: sheratonmacao.com
Choose the DreamWorks Experience Package (Rs.11,958 plus taxes onwards) at the hotel and you can eat breakfast with Shrek and his friends. Tuck into ‘Kung Fu Panda’ red bean buns and dragon’s eggs sunny side up, while Alex the Lion, Donkey and the rest of the gang entertain you. At the Urumqi Ballroom, Sands Cotai Central, you can also click pictures with the characters. Details: sandscotaicentral.com
There is a touch of Bollywood glamour at the Aruna Indian Curry and Cafe House. The walls are covered with photos of celebrities—like Shah Rukh Khan posing with the owner, Aruna Jha. “All Bollywood celebrities come to my restaurant because they crave Indian food after a couple of days,” says Jha, who has been living in the city for over three decades. Head there if you crave traditional fare like dal, chicken tikka and naan. Meal for two at approximately Rs.2,000. Details: arunaindiancurry.com
Xin is a one-of-a-kind Asian hotpot and seafood restaurant at the Sheraton Macao. Tanks of fresh seafood—featuring lobsters, clams, abalone and more—are on display for guests to choose from. Once you have made your selection, cook your own hotpot at the burner provided at each table. Dinner buffet from Rs.2,783 onwards. Details: xinmacau.com
Shopping: Book a room at the Sheraton Macao (till January 31, 2015) and enjoy a fun shopping experience in the over-260 stores at the Four seasons, the Venetian and the Cotai Central. Get shopping vouchers worth Rs.1,500 and discounts at select stores. Rs.12,600 plus taxes, per night. Details: deals.sheraton.com On the go: Stop by McPherson’s Sweet’s Shoppe to pick up their black garlic chocolate—black garlic ganache sandwiched between two pieces of dark chocolate. Rs.116 onwards. Details: mcmacau.co Snack street: If you fancy food with a twist, then head
to Fong Kei, a century-old pastry shop on Rua do Cunha. They are famous for their cookies with pork and lard fillings. We suggest their signature almond cookies with pork filling. Details: +853 28827142