Saturday, 6 October 2012

Macau Must-Sees

What To Do and See in Macau 
by Kristin Cosgrove

With its glittering Cotai Strip, rich Chinese history and heavy Portuguese influence, Macau is a fascinating place with tons of things to do and see. 

Claiming the prize for highest population density of any region in the world, Macau has few “tourist areas.” Space is at a premium, so locals and tourists frequent the same shops and eateries, giving Macau a very authentic feel. 

Entertainment, sightseeing and leisure activities abound in Macau, and in my four days I felt I only scratched the surface. Here are a few sites and activities I recommend to give you a taste of what this bustling Special Administrative Region to China is all about. 

Alley art in Macau
Alley art in Macau
First, grab an egg tart. The light and flaky crust and warm, custard center make these little handfuls of goodness an absolute must in Macau. Find them anywhere and everywhere and snack your way through the sights!
Egg tarts
Egg tarts are a must-have in Macau.
Image courtesy of wikimedia

Macau’s Historic City Centre
A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Macau’s City Centre reflects the influences from both East and West with its historic street and Portuguese and Chinese religious and public buildings.
St. Dominic's Church is prime example of Portuguese architecture styles.
St. Dominic's Catholic Church, Macau's Historic City Centre
Decorated for the Moon Cake Festival.
Senado Square, Macau City Centre
"Portuguese Pavement"

Among these, and the symbol of Macau, are the Ruins of St. Paul’s. 

Ruins of St. Paul’s
The façade of St. Paul’s is simply stunning. Carved from stone from 1620-27, the façade includes statues and symbols of Christianity, a Chinese dragon and a Japanese chrysanthemum, a Portuguese sailing ship and pious warnings inscribed in Chinese. Be sure to walk behind the façade and to the back of the foundation, where a small museum with religious artifacts can be found at the bottom of the stairs. It’s free to go in, but I had the feeling many people skipped right over this not realizing it was even there.
Ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral Facade
Stone Carved Facade of St. Paul's Cathedral
A-Ma Temple
Built into the rocks at the tip of the Macau peninsula stands the A-Ma temple, the oldest temple in Macau. The temple was built in 1488 to honour Mazu, the sacred sea goddess who blesses the fisherman of Macau.  

This was the landing place of the Portuguese who first came to Macau in the 16th century. The story goes that the sailors asked the locals “Where are we?” and, thinking they were asking the name of the temple, the locals replied, “Ma-Ge”.  The Portuguese later translated this to “Macau” and referred to the land by this name. 

Chinese Spouting Bowl.  First place a coin in the bowl, wet your hands, then rub the handles vigorously. The vibrations of the bowl can cause the water to dance or spout – sometimes up to 2 feet high!  The group I was with seemed to think it was good luck if you got the water to dance.  
Sounds good to me, now time to the casinos! 
The Cotai "Strip”
Cotai is a stretch of reclaimed land in Macau, named for the two islands it connects: Taipa and Coloane.  It is the vision of casino mogul, Joseph Adelson, Chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation who says he wants to build a Las Vegas for Asians, in Asia. The Strip is, so far, on a much smaller scale and seems to be missing the unique energy and party atmosphere of Sin City.  But then, some of the sin is missing too…which is probably a good thing. It comes with an upside; the sidewalks on The Strip are not at all crowded and very clean, making it feel safe and pleasant, even at night.

There are always the casinos, but if gambling isn't your thing and you’d prefer to get actual stuff when you spend your money, perhaps shopping would be more your speed. The Cotai Strip has every luxury shop you can think of and then some. Between the Shoppes at Cotai Central, Grand Canal Shoppes at Venetian and the Shops at the Boulevard in City of Dreams, more than 600 shops await you, and with Macau’s duty free status, you’re sure to win some good deals.  
Shoppes at Cotai Central
Shoppes at Cotai Central
Entrance to Venetian
Entrance to the City of Dreams Casino
Dragon adorning the ceiling in City of Dreams complex
House of Dancing Water
A show in, on and around a watery stage, House of Dancing Water combines dance, diving, circus arts and a spectacular set into a must-see theatre extravaganza.  Directed by Franco Dagone, House of Dancing Water is similar to Las Vegas Bellagio’s O in design and cutting-edge entertainment style. Think Cirque Du Soliel with water. Lots and lots of water.
House of Dancing Water Ship Rope swing
House of Dancing Water pool with emerging ship. Unbelievable!
Purpose-built for the show, the theatre is one of the largest water-based theatres in the world, but designed to feel intimate.  I got the very last cheap seat and was in the very back corner of the house, but still felt right up close. I would never have guessed the theatre holds 1,961 audience members.  It seemed much smaller.
House of Dancing Water
House of Dancing Water Stage
Photo Courtesy of House of Dancing Water
The stage itself plays a lead role in the show; it changes from pool to fountain to dry floor in a matter of minutes, often coming to life as a beautiful fountain – hence the name of the show. In fact, 11 hydraulic stage lifts can transform the pool into a spectacular stage in less than a minute!
Ninety minutes of breathtaking stunt after stunt I sat on the edge of my seat, completely dazzled by the music, artistry and sheer physicality of the performers.  I snapped a few pictures (which I can’t believe is allowed, even without flash) but after awhile I just wanted to sit in awe and enjoy.  

Upcoming Exhibits
If you’ll be in Macau between October 25th and February 24th, don’t miss The Human Bodies Exhibition at the The Venetian Macao Cotai Expo Hall F

I saw a similar exhibit several years ago in the US and it was worth every second of my time and every penny spent for admission. It was awe-inspiring and educational, astounding and empowering all at the same time.

Advertisements claim it is for every age, but I’d exercise caution with small or sensitive children who might find it disturbing.  These are real human bodies and organs that have been preserved at the cellular level via a method called plastination. More 200 individual organs and full body specimens will be on display to help illustrate how our fascinating body works.

Other upcoming happenings at the Venetian include the Titanic The Exhibit and Winter in Venice (also at Venetian), both look worthy of a visit.

REASONS TO VISIT MACAU: Culture, casinos, history and entertainment, Macau has something for everyone.


  1. I love Portuguese egg tarts!!! Yummmm!!!!

  2. Egg tarts and white port - my two biggest downfalls in Macau :-)