Macao

Macao old and new: 10 reasons to go

With a new bridge and Cathay Pacific’s ferry service codeshare, it’s now easier than ever to get to Macao from Hong Kong. And there are many reasons to visit – ones we’ve known for years, as well as up-to-the-minute developments. Words by ANNA CUMMINS

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After seven years of construction, the 55-kilometre Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge opens this summer, offering a new way to get to Macao from Hong Kong. But the traditional travel method is, of course, by ferry. And Cathay Pacific recently introduced a codeshare agreement with Cotai Water Jet, allowing travellers to purchase ferry tickets along with flights. Whichever route you take, there’s much awaiting in today’s Macao. Here we explore the best of the city, both in the old and the new.

Hotels

MGM Cotai

The lavish MGM Cotai opened in February, with numerous family-friendly attractions. Visitors can check out the enormous 4K LED screen in its cinema, enjoy restaurants by acclaimed chefs, view a collection of 300 art pieces, and watch The Spectacle, an ever-changing display of 25 LED screens in the cavernous atrium. The 38-tonne lion statue outside is gilded in 24-karat gold because – why not? Also new on the Cotai Strip are the Wynn Palace, Macao’s most expensive resort to date, and Morpheus, an architectural marvel designed by the late Zaha Hadid, slated to open this month.

Grand Coloane Resort

The Grand Coloane Resort may not be the sleekest hotel in Macao, but it’s got a trick up its sleeve: every room has a sizeable sun terrace, with many offering ocean views. If you can drag yourself off your lounger, you’ll get to enjoy facilities such as an outdoor pool complex, golf course, spa and fitness centre, kids’ club, tennis courts and the nearby Hac Sa beach. It’s the perfect antidote to bright lights and tourist throngs. If you prefer a more boutique feel, the nearby Pousada de Coloane – formerly a private retreat for a wealthy Macanese tycoon – is a charming, bucolic alternative.

Shows

Right image: EyePress News / EyePress / AFP

Monkey King

Eight years in the making, with a budget of US$300 million, Monkey King was never going to be a letdown. This adaptation of classical Chinese novel Journey to the West is a visual feast that weaves 3D projections, a pair of giant talons and a seven-tonne Buddha hand into the narrative, alongside routines by a company of world-class acrobats, martial artists, magicians and dancers. The show debuted at Sands Cotai Central in February and is performed in Chinese with English subtitles. Meanwhile, Destiny opens at MGM Cotai later this summer. It’s set to be an immersive mix of live performance and cinema, with the audience helping to decide how the show ends each night.

The House of Dancing Water

The ‘world’s largest water extravaganza’ is worthy of the hype. The House of Dancing Water has become a mainstay of Macao’s entertainment scene since 2010, performed in a purpose-built, 270-degree theatre with a pool holding 3.7 million gallons of water. It features 90 performers doing crazy acrobatics and frankly preposterous feats of diving. Those seeking a splash of Parisian cabaret glamour should seek out the free Crazy Paris show, which has been going for 27 years and is held at the Grand Lisboa every evening.

Landmarks

Parisian Eiffel Tower

Let’s face it: on paper, a replica Eiffel Tower sounds garish at best. But a visit to The Parisian Macao reveals otherwise. This new landmark for the city is built at half scale to the real thing with outstanding attention to detail while incorporating two observations decks. Each evening, the tower is illuminated with a light and music show. Fans of quirky attractions should also take a ride on the Golden Reel Ferris wheel, built into the facade of the Hollywood-themed Studio City hotel. The world’s first figure-eight-shaped Ferris wheel has 17 steampunk-themed cabins that rise 130 metres above the ground.

Our Lady of St Penha Chapel

Take a break from the bustle at this serene chapel on top of Penha Hill, which was constructed in 1622 and rebuilt in 1935. Thousands of Catholics make their way here on 13 May every year for the Procession of Our Lady of Fátima. The chapel is simple, but the panoramic views over the Macao Tower and the city’s three bridges are sensational, making the steep ascent worthwhile. The beautiful baroque St Dominic’s Church, just off Senado Square, is also worth a visit, and makes a great alternative to the busy Ruins of St Paul’s – don’t miss the Treasure of Sacred Art Museum in the bell tower.

Neighbourhoods

Rua de Nossa Senhora do Amparo

Design-oriented stores and cafes are currently springing up along two historic streets near St Paul’s: Rua de Nossa Senhora do Amparo and Rua dos Ervanários. This has to do with a push by local property company Number 81 to boost the area. Visitors can fuel up at a handful of stylish coffee shops, including A Porta Da Arte and Black Gold Coffee Corner, before enjoying a wander down Patio de Chon Sau – a small terrace lined with colourful street art installations. Number 81 is also supporting new businesses in the nearby St Lazarus district, which comprises Patio de Sao Lazaro and the surrounding streets. Head here to pay a visit to the One Creative Arts Department Store, filled with local merchants showcasing their wares, before wrapping up with a sundowner at Beer Temple, which is one of the city’s best spots for international craft ale.

Coloane Village

While the egg tarts at Lord Stow’s Bakery are the best-known reason to venture down to the southwestern corner of Coloane, the sleepy village surrounding the bakery is well worth a trip. Visit the baroque-style Chapel of Francis Xavier and the surrounding Portuguese cobblestone square, which features a monument celebrating the local victory over pirates in 1910. Then, head to the northern edge of the village to explore the eerie abandoned Lai Chi Vun shipyards. The heritage value of the shipyards is currently under consultation after two were demolished last year, so check them out while you can.

Restaurants

Voyages by Alain Ducasse

The new Morpheus hotel has a whole floor dedicated to celebrated chef Alain Ducasse, who has launched two restaurants and a bar here. While the restaurant Alain Ducasse at Morpheus serves the chef’s signature haute French cuisine, Voyages by Alain Ducasse pays tribute to Asian food, with contemporary dishes inspired by his travels across the region over the past three decades. For a more casual option, head to The Blissful Carrot in Taipa Village. This small takeaway spot opened three years ago and has become the go-to destination for vegetarian dishes including tacos and rice bowls, as well as fresh juice, organic wine and house-made cupcakes.

Albergue 1601

Recently named a Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO, Macao is known for its excellent cuisine. There are more famous spots, but our top pick is Albergue 1601. It offers solid Portuguese and Macanese fare, but the real draw is the setting: the restaurant sits in a butterscotch-coloured, 1920s colonial building next to a courtyard framed by giant camphor trees. Come for a relaxed lunch, then get an outside table and while the afternoon away over fresh sangria before checking out the art gallery and Portuguese provisions store next door. Alternatively, for an authentic and delicious pit stop, grab a pork chop bun at Ou Mun Cafe near Senado Square, or stop for steaming fresh dim sum at Lung Wah Tea House.

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Cathay Pacific’s ferry service codeshare

Cathay Pacific customers can now buy flights together with a ferry ride to Macao’s Cotai Strip. The fast ferry services from Cotai Water Jet run from Hong Kong International Airport’s SkyPier, and passengers can enjoy checked-through baggage and a choice of six daily sailings. Initially, Cathay Pacific customers in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and the US can book travel to Macao through the airline’s local websites. This will be extended to other international markets soon.

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