Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In Love with Macau

These days when choosing a holiday destination, the dining possibilities are just as important as the sightseeing options, so when you find a place offering unique cultural attractions and food good enough to impress even the most hardened food critic ... well, you've got to visit, haven't you? 

Editor in Chief Rhonda Bannister has just spent some time in Macau, and here she shares with us her journey of discovery ... 

I'm on a press famil in Macau with Macau Tourism and we are so lucky because we have a great tour guide named Joao whose knowledge of the area is encyclopedic, his personality warm and friendly and his obvious love of this fabulously rich and diverse destination is quite contagious - so catching that after just a few days here, I'm really beginning to fall in love with the place myself! 

Most Australians probably think of Macau as Asia's own Las Vegas and whilst it's true that it's certainly a gambling mecca, that's just a shiny wrapping. Under the glitzy cover is a unique destination offering a centuries old blend of Asian and European cultures and architecture not seen anywhere else in the world. Macau is a truly fascinating place to visit! 

And the food – foodies will love it here with its Macanese, Portuguese and Asian inspired dishes including some of Asia's best dim sum. I've only been here three days and already gained two kilos but I don't care because I've experienced some of the best food in the world, even dining at the two Michelin starred Zi Yat Heen at the Four Seasons Hotel where we're staying. 

Take my advice if you're coming to Macau and stay here, it's a divine slice of heaven on the Cotai Strip where most of the casinos are (from the hotel you just walk through to The Venetian, which is also amazing). This property is so different from the glitz you would expect in Macau, with its classic design reminiscent of a Portuguese palace, manicured grounds which include five(!) swimming pools and adjoining Shoppes at Four Seasons - DFS Galleria ... there's no need to go outside! 

I'm on my way home now via a couple of days in Hong Kong (more on this destination later!) but here's my top things to see and do in Macau and please - if you're planning a trip to Hong Kong leave a few days to hop over here - you'll be glad you did:

Historic Macau
The historic centre of Macau is a World Heritage site and the streetscapes and squares, churches and temples are truly unique. The Ruins of St Paul's is the most famous image of Macau - it's a facade only of what was once a Jesuit church destroyed by fire in 1835.

Senado Square is so picturesque with its wave-patterned stone mosaics and gaily painted colonial buildings - it's not far from St Paul's.

Little alleyways run off the square and here you'll find little tea shops or Portuguese pastry shops such as Ou Mun Cafe - great spot for a coffee and pastry - just like a small cafe in Europe. Around every corner there's something new to see.

Mount Fortress and the Museum of Macau overlook the ruins - the museum traces the history of the colony and it's really fascinating. It's amazing to see all the cannons placed around the top of the fortress where you get a bird's eye view of the old and new.

Ah-Ma Temple is the most famous temple in Macau and helped give the city its name.

If you're up for a freefall at 200 kms an hour from what is reputed to be the highest bungee jump in the world (233 metres) then come to the Macau Tower.  You can also skywalk around the perimeter or just come for the best 360˚ views of Macau. You can't miss it - it's the tallest building around.

Favourite dining and nightlife:
For authentic Macanese food and THE best African chicken and other traditional favourites, head to the lovely Restaurant Litoral just around the corner from Ah-Ma Temple. With its warm and inviting decor of whitewashed walls and gleaming timber furniture plus the standout cuisine it's a sure winner for lunch or dinner. www.restaurante-litoral.com

Authentic Portuguese food doesn't come any better than that served up at Antonios by renowned chef Antonio Coelho. This hole in the wall restaurant situated in a colonial building in the alleyways of the charming Taipa Village is an absolute MUST when you come to Macau but make sure to book and also ask if the musician, Marcelino will be there - he's terrific! This restaurant is one of the reasons I've gained so much weight in a couple of days!

It comes as no surprise to find truly innovative chinese food in Macau but I have to make note of two that we tried and couldn't fault - the two Michelin starred, Zi Yat Heen restaurant where Chef Ho Pui Yung creates unique Cantonese cuisine at the Four Seasons Hotel and Beijing Kitchen at the Grand Hyatt which features specialities from northern China - quite different from Cantonese cuisine.

We went to City of Dreams Casino to see a fantastic show - The House of Dancing Water which was unbelievable - probably the most spectacular performance by an incredibly talented troupe I've yet seen and I have seen a few ... don't miss it if you come!

I can't wait to go back to discover more fabulous restaurants but first I'm going on a diet to lose what I've gained this trip!


Getting Here: 
We flew from Sydney to HK with Cathay Pacific and were lucky to experience the new seating/lie-flat beds in business class which of course made the flight fantastically comfortable - not to mention the great service, food and wine along the way – the only way to travel! On arrival into Hong Kong airport we jumped on one of the subterranean trains that whisk you around this gigantic airport to arrive at the Turbojet counter for our one hour cruise to Macau - you don't go through immigration or collect your bags if you have pre-booked your tickets from Australia and the whole process is just so easy. 
www.cathaypacific.com  www.turbojet.com.hk

Fun at Antonios with Marcelino 

Restaurant Litoral

Lisboa Casino

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