Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper BrandedUp Hello! Create with us Privacy Policy

The many faces of Macau

By Andrea Panaligan, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 06, 2024 9:02 am

In the imagination of the Filipino, Macau houses sprawling casinos and tourists already days deep into their vacation—the region is often a Hong Kong vacationer’s stopover, after Disneyland and Victoria Harbour.

Once we got the ball rolling on our jampacked three-day itinerary, prepared with heart by Joao Sales of the Tourism Office, our perception of glittering Macau did a full 180. To say it was full of surprises is an understatement. It’s a tourist treasure, and the more I explored, the more I got convinced this is the perfect vacation destination for Filipinos, just waiting to be discovered.

Let’s debunk the popular travel myth: A day trip is not enough to explore what Macau has to offer.

Our Cebu Pacific direct flight from Manila to Macau International Airport took a little over two hours—shorter than my usual trip from my home in Cavite to my work in Manila. We came in November, and the weather was reminiscent of Baguio. Don’t be fooled by its size: Macau, with its Chinese heritage and Portuguese influences, brims with diverse experiences for all kinds of travelers. And with the number of Filipinos we serendipitously met while there, it has just the right hint of home.

Here are some of the most memorable spots we visited in our three-day reintroduction to Macau.

Walk through old and new
The world-famous Ruins of St. Paul's lights up at night.

A few minutes from the bustling tourism center are pockets of nature and history. Perhaps most known is the Ruins of St. Paul’s, the facade of what used to be a 17th-century Catholic religious complex. Just above it is the Intramuros-like Monte Forte (Fortaleza do Monte), a former military base that now has a public park, an observatory, and the Macau Museum. It’s dotted with warm fairy lights that look extra magical at sundown, with locals setting up picnic blankets for the early evening. Below the Ruins is a busy cobblestone street of shops hawking Macau’s famous paslaubong, the egg tart. (I tried some and it lives up to the hype).

History and the modern world coexist at Senado Square.

Shoppers who don’t mind long walks may find delight in Senado Square and Taipa Village’s Rua do Cunha. Sandwiched between global brands and local finds are historic structures and quaint restaurants; getting lost in the various artery-like streets is part of the experience. It made me appreciate how so many areas don’t welcome cars—I recall a cheeky online post that said, “Am I finally happy and content, or am I just in a walkable city?”

Around the world in Asia

When people think of Macau, they probably picture Cotai, home to luxury hotels that have become tourist spots in themselves. Must-visits for a little taste of Europe are The Parisian and The Londoner, boasting replicas of The Eiffel Tower—you can climb up, just pass through their own Love Lock Bridge—and Big Ben.

The writer poses in front of The Parisian's own Eiffel Tower.

For a bit of Versailles (or perhaps Bridgerton, which was my media group’s first impression), head to the lush gardens of Grand Lisboa Palace Resort. It has served as a romantic venue for many weddings, and it’s easy to see why—its manicured greenery and picturesque gazebos made me want to do nothing more but run around in a dress. Also in Macau is the only hotel in the world designed by Karl Lagerfeld, aptly called the Karl Lagerfeld Hotel. The gorgeous lobby is decked in his signature black and white.

The romantic garden of Grand Lisboa

The best way to cap off a day of exploring Cotai is the Open Top Bus Tour, where Europe appears to shrink into two streets. Look to your left and be greeted by Big Ben, turn to your right and see lights go up in the Eiffel Tower. By evening, drop by the Wynn Palace for a ride in their cable car.

The view of Big Ben during the Open Top Bus Tour
Adrenaline rush

Those in search of more thrilling activities are in for a treat at the Macau Tower, where the sky becomes your playground. It’s here, at 764 feet, that Alan John Hackett made a Guinness World Record in 2007 as the highest commercial bungee jump in the world—visitors are welcome to earn the same record. People of all ages can also try the SkyWalk, where views of the city can be enjoyed at the same height.

The author Andrea Panaligan with Vincent, her indoor skydiving trainer, at GoAirborne

By far my favorite—whenever I remember, I still get a pang of adrenaline—is indoor skydiving at GoAirbone. It truly felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience; where else could I try an extreme sport at competition standards with no formal training? Anyone four years old and above is permitted to fly, and a short training session will be held before entering the wind tunnel.

Something less extreme but equally exciting is the Grand Prix Museum, an unmissable stop for F1 fans. Relive the history of the Macau Grand Prix as it became a favorite competition among amateur and professional drivers and their fans. We got to try the 20-minute guided tour and many of the hands-on games and activities scattered over the museum’s four floors.

Immerse yourself in a world of lights at teamLab SuperNature.

Reserve an entire afternoon for teamLab SuperNature, an immersive art space spanning 86,000 square feet full of 26-foot-tall artwork. Aiming to renew visitors’ perception of our planet, teamLab has three-dimensional, interactive activities involving flowers, stars, clouds, light sculptures, and even a tea house.

Foodie’s paradise
Portucau's Sawdust pudding

Macau shares the Philippines’ history of colonization, so like us, their food is a diverse mix of Asian and European cuisines. Executive chef Martinho Moniz heads Vic’s Restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf and served our group a comforting four-course dinner of what he calls “grandma-style Portuguese food.” He, of course, toured us through his kitchen first, which he says is always open to the public and is staffed with many Filipino cooks and servers. Be sure to try the Iberian Black Pork “Presa” Skewer, served family-style.

Hearty appetizers at Vic's Restaurant

Tucked away in Senado Square is Portucau, another charming Portuguese restaurant with the best dessert menu of our trip. Look for their Filipino supervisor J for recommendations, though their Sawdust pudding and slow-cooked apple are no-fail selections.