One of the best ways to discover the hidden gems of a city is to ask someone who lives and works there. Macau (or Macao – as the locals prefer to spell it) might be compact but there are lots of Macau local secrets to discover.
I recently caught up with Donna Campbell, who is originally from Queensland in Australia. Donna moved to Shanghai in 2006 to work in Public Relations for luxury hotels and with more than 11 years’ experience working for Casino Hotels it was a natural progression for Donna to find herself in Macau.
These days, she heads up the PR department for Sands China Ltd and is responsible for their three hotels – The Venetian, Conrad and Holiday Inn.
How did you end up in Macau?
Given my background of working for casino hotels and resorts (11 years with Conrad Treasury and Conrad Jupiters in Australia, plus a one year working for Crown Melbourne) it was always a goal of mine to secure a role in Macao given that this is where the growth and development is at the moment.
It just so happened that a friend of mine was visiting Macao for business and met with a mutual friend of mine who happened to mention that there was a vacancy.
Two days later I had a job interview and a week later I secured the role as Director of Marketing & PR for Conrad Macao and Holiday Inn Macao Cotai Central which is part of the integrated resort complex Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao which is also home to The Venetian, Four Seasons Macao and Sheraton Macao. Earlier this year I was promoted to head up the PR team for the whole complex.
Where do you live?
I live in Taipa which is very close to my work and I walk to work each day through the Taipa Village filled with quaint old-style Portuguese houses.
Everyone lives in apartments here in Asia and I love the fact that I can walk out of my apartment and everything is located within a few blocks, from the choice of four supermarkets, numerous local restaurants and bars, along with all the services that you need.
My apartment is an eclectic mix of antiques, Chinese artefacts and great pieces that I have picked up from my many travels over the years including a zebra skin rug from South Africa and lots of great finds from antique markets in Shanghai.
Best of all I have my cat Puxi that I rescued as a three-week old kitten outside my apartment in Shanghai and I bought him down to Macao with me, he grounds me and gives me a sense of home.
What was your first impression of Macau?
I first came to Macao in 2004 to visit some friends that had moved here from the Gold Coast for work.
In those days none of the new Casinos were even built then and there were still a lot of the older style houses in old Macau as well as lot of the Portuguese elements which made it a quaint getaway.
I remember walking around the ruins of St Pauls and finding little laneways and alleys filled with antique stores and locals going about their day.
What do you love about Macau?
I love the fact that you have all the international elements of luxury hotels, entertainment and shopping, juxtaposed against old-style villages like Taipa Village and old Macau.
There really is something for everyone, including families.
Describe a typical day in your life
My working day is very diverse from meeting with my team of 15 to discuss the day’s tasks, to internal meetings to plan upcoming special events and planning our Public Relations strategies for the coming year, to hosting visiting journalists to showcase our properties, no two days are ever the same.
To succeed in this industry it is important to be flexible as well and being able to prioritise tasks. At the moment I am working on PR strategies for our Beauty and The Beast theatre show, a retail promotion Shop and Stay and also a boxing event Victory at The Venetian on 18 July, so as you can see it is very diverse.
Where do you hang out with friends?
My job entails hosting visiting media and journalists at least two or three nights a week and I entertain them at one of the many restaurants here at Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao.
When I do have a free night I usually catch up with friends for drinks or a casual dinner after work at one of the local restaurants.
Name three spots you’d take your Mum
1-I would certainly take my Mum to afternoon at Conrad Macao – the presentation is beautiful and also sitting in the Lobby Lounge is a great people watching experience.
2-The Pagoda Outlook at the top of the hill opposite the Ah Ma temple and statue. Macau’s name comes from A-Ma-Gau or Place of A-Ma. The temple is dedicated to the seafarers’ goddess and existed before the city of Macau was born. The variety of pavillions dedicated to the worship of different deities makes A-Ma Temple really unusual.
3-I would also take her to have a lunch at the Military Club in Macao with its beautiful architecture – it is hard to believe that just a few years ago this is where the water used to come up to – now it is all reclaimed land in front of the building
Where do you go to get away from stress?
Every weekend I walk the Taipa Grand trail hike which is about a 90-minute walk. That is how I de-stress after a long week.
It takes you up over the Taipa hill and the first section is an eco-trail which offers lush greenery and makes you forget that you are in an urban jungle and then you walk around the back of the airport and you come across sweeping views of the sea and Macao peninsula.
My all-time favourite restaurant is Portofino located within The Venetian which serves amazing fresh pastas and wood-fired pizzas. I have always been a great fan of Italian food and this one is no exception.
My favourite dish is the linguine with fresh crab and chilli or the Parma Ham pizza.
For authentic Chinese I enjoy Dynasty 8 at Sands Cotai Central which serves traditional Chinese from eight different reasons, my favourite is the king prawns with egg white, plus the restaurant was just awarded one of the Top 100 restaurants in the South China Morning Post 2015 awards.
Another favourite is Golden Peacock at The Venetian which serves Indian cuisine and is also a one-Michelin star restaurant, the only Indian restaurant in Asia to receive such an accolade.
Other local restaurant finds around my neighbourhood include:
Kingship in Taipa for the freshest sushi and sashimi
The Blissful Carrot which is a little hole in the wall in Taipa Village but serves the best vegetarian and organic salads and juices
Other good reasons to visit?
Macau is definitely a destination in its own right both as a cultural centre and a heritage destination, with multiple offerings for both leisure travellers and families. Macau’s distinct local culture is a blend of Chinese and Portuguese influence with more than 600 years of Sino-Portuguese heritage.
You really can find anything from modern large-scale integrated resorts to the 15th-Century A-Ma Temple and 22 other UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
At Shoppes at Sands there are over 650 luxury and lifestyle duty-free shops to get a retail therapy fix, plus there are always entertainment shows and restaurants to experience.
Secret shopping place?
My secret shopping place is called Green Door on Macau peninsula side; it is hidden up a set of green steps with no signage and it stocks factory seconds casual clothing and jeans from labels such as Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang.
In the old days Macao was home to a thriving garment industry and many of the factories are still here and they send their run-ons here. It’s a little gem, every time I bring friends here they leave with at least 10 pairs of jeans!
Donna Campbell is the PR head for Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao, which encompasses five hotels including The Venetian, Conrad Macao and Holiday Inn Macao Cotai Strip as well as Shoppes which has more than 650 luxury and lifestyle duty-free shops, an Arena that seats 15,000 (we just had Katy Perry perform a few weeks ago), the Venetian Theatre that seats 1,200 and a convention and exhibition space that can host up to 15,000 delegates.
It is the largest integrated resort of its kind in SE Asia with 9,000 hotel rooms, 650 luxury and lifestyle duty-free stores, more than 50 restaurants and bars as well as a 1,200 seat theatre, 15,000 seat Arena and the largest meeting and convention space in SE Asia.
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