Macau has many outdoor attractions, its Portuguese flavour and charming historic buildings are not the least of them. But if you’re visiting Macau in the heat, or a typhoon, there are plenty of indoor diversions too. Here are some Macau attractions that will allow you to stay cool.
Almost as good as Venice?
Luciano scarcely paused to consider his answer as he rowed the gondola along the canal. “How does Macau differ from Venice? It’s cleaner!” he said as we glided under a hump-backed bridge. It was a less random question than it may seem.
Although we were in a genuine gondola skimming past the classic balconied stucco terraces of Venice, and Luciano really was Italian, we were far from Italy and even quite a long way from being outside.
I was grateful for that. A 40-minute ferry trip from Hong Kong airport, Macau in August is so sauna-like that even the locals keep off the streets as much as possible, scuttling under umbrellas from one air-conditioned shop to another.
The humidity alone would have been enough to attract me to the climate-controlled environment of The Venetian resort-hotel. But to find myself under a permanently perfect blue sky in an idealised replica of Venice complete with canals, striped-jumper gondoliers, wandering minstrels and 330 shops was delightful.
An architect’s fantasyland
Macau is compact and an excellent way to view the layout is from the 61st floor of the Macau Tower. From here, you’ll see that Macau is a short, fat peninsula close to China’s mainland.
It’s connected by three long and graceful bridges to the islands of Taipa and Coloane which have been merged by an impressive programme of land reclamation.
Macau has a lot more green spaces than might be expected, but most striking of all are the clusters of modern buildings rising from the grey huddle of apartment blocks.
Macau is an architect’s fantasy land. It’s a collection of extravagant shapes in stone and coloured mirror glass. There are towers, domes, rippled rectangles, stepped pyramids and, weirdest of all, the gravity-defying gold glass fountain of the Hotel Grand Lisboa, frozen in mid-spout above downtown’s skyscrapers.
Shows and shops
Macau’s bigger hotels are in fierce competition with each other to offer the grandest and glitziest experience. Most have entertainment precincts including casinos, spas, shows, shops and restaurants to entice people into their cool and shiny interiors.
At the City of Dreams, celebrating its fifth birthday is the impressive ‘The House of Dancing Water’. The show incorporates 14 million litres of water, 80 performance artists, 400 costumes, 239 fountains, seven motorcycles and five sharks to entertain so far 700,000 people, and was so popular I couldn’t get a ticket.
It’s the showpiece of the resort, which also offers other entertainments including a children’s super-scaled indoor fun park and an equally plus-sized amusement area for adults: a casino with 400 gaming tables and 1300 machines.
Free and dazzling
Gambling is a serious business in Macau and punters keep their wits about them, drinking only tea and soft drinks — alcohol is forbidden — as they push stacks of chips about and feed coins into the slots, looking mesmerised by the flashing lights.
For me, there was more than enough dazzle in the hotel foyers. Wynn has 800 turquoise jellyfish wafting around a tank behind the reception desk, a chandelier of 7000 huge crystals hanging from the ceiling and a spectacular musical fountain just outside the door.
At Sofitel there’s a Michael Jackson exhibition, with not only his sparkly glove, but the matching socks too.
Galaxy has an attention-grabbing hydraulic water show every half hour culminating in probably the biggest mirror diamond in the world; and a second-floor outdoor swimming pool with a 1.5m wave.
While all the other hotels made me walk on common old marble, MGM laid down jade and lapis lazuli beneath my feet and hung extraordinary artwork in fabric, beads and LED lighting above my head.
Museums and pandas
If that’s all too much glitz, Macau does have more soothing indoor attractions such as the Science Centre, which is an architecturally distinctive building with a 3D planetarium.
The Wine Museum is also worth a visit. The displays reflect Macau’s Portuguese history by focusing on port (ruby, tawny and white). Tastings are offered but maybe you shouldn’t drink before trying the race simulator at the adjoining Grand Prix Museum.
Here you can sit in a Reynard 923 — if you can fit. The city circuit has provided petrol-head excitement since 1954 and many of the Formula 3 winning cars are on display, as well as motorbikes and some stately vintage vehicles.
You can even get a taste of nature that’s also comfortably indoors at the Panda Pavilion. Here Kaikai and Xinxin are protected from the elements by a high domed roof and lie back in soft grass gnawing on bamboo.
There’s nothing guaranteed to bring a smile to anyone’s face faster than seeing these adorable bears close up: I’d go to Macau just to see them.