Chopping, peeling, whipping and then cooking local cuisine is a good way to get acquainted with a foreign culture. On a recent trip to Macau (also known as Macao) with a group of friends, I do just that. We take a cooking class at Posada de Coloane. A compact city with lots to offer, Macau is an easy travel destination to visit as a group. Here are some ideas on what to do in Macau when travelling with a group of friends.
Macau cooking class
We learn how to cook genuine Macanese fare, which is a blend of Portuguese and Cantonese cuisines.
Macanese food has a distinct flavour through the use of spices like turmeric, cinnamon and coconut milk.
We start the class by visiting the Red Market on the Macau peninsula, which is a wet market that sells live chickens, fresh fish and meats along with spices and vegetables.
The school is in a charming building on a hill with views over a beach and a courtyard bursting with flowering bougainvillea.
We learn how to make a chickpea and cod salad, Portuguese style baked coconut chicken and Baba de Camelo (which has a humorous English translation: camel drool). And wash down our meal with Portuguese wine, savouring the flavours we have learned to create.
Camel drool might sound unappetising but it’s actually a combination of whipped milk and egg whites.
After lunch, we head off to Lord Stow’s Bakery in Coloane Town Square. Here I try another Portuguese favorite, egg tarts.
The Portuguese egg tarts are delicious, with flaky pastries sprinkled with cinnamon. Yum!
Las Vegas of Asia
Macau’s Chinese and Portuguese heritage gives it a huge dose of charm.
Its land mass is only 28.2 square kilometers (about one-twelfth of Las Vegas).
This former Portuguese colony has attracted Asian high rollers for years. But lately, with the development of Macau’s Cotai Strip and its impressive hotels, Macau has well and truly earned its stripes as the Las Vegas of Asia.
Macau is leaving glitzy Las Vegas in its dust with impressive entertainment options and shopping malls that have hundreds of shops.
But even with all the glitz and glamour, you couldn’t really mistake Macau for Las Vegas. There’s a distinct feel of Asia in the air.
I love browsing through the local shops and discovering unique things for sale, such as Chinese jewellery shops selling traditional Chinese wedding necklaces with dangling piglet charms, a symbol of fertility.
The Sheraton Macao Cotai Central with its 4001 rooms is a good example Vegas-y atmosphere. Kids will love Shrekfast, a fun breakfast where a cast of Dreamworks characters like Shrek, Princess Fiona and Mr. Peabody and Sherman mingles with the crowd. Sheraton Cotai Strip is family friendly and casino entrances are unobtrusive.
Another dazzling show, The House of Dancing Water, combines stunning acrobatics with an eye-popping set designed with pools and fountains.
We ooh and aah over the dazzling costumes. We’re amazed when during the show, the water is drained from the set leaving the floor dry.
Then the water is pumped back and performers dive into the pools from trapeze perches about 15m high.
The grand finale is a jaw-dropping motorcycle spectacle, where motorcyclists soar through the air from different ramps, crisscrossing one another in the air with split-second timing.
Macau’s gaming strip retains more than a dash of Asian culture. A delicious Chinese dinner awaits us at the Sheraton, where the dining room is decorated with red Chinese lanterns and flower decorations on the table.
We feast on wasabi-infused jellyfish and suckling pig while Chinese acrobats and dancers entertain.
Macau’s historic centre
Macau’s Historic Centre is a World Heritage site and a blend of Eastern and Western cultures.
Macau’s most famous attraction is the Ruins of St. Paul. Built in the early 17th century by the Jesuits, only its façade remains today.
The A-Ma (Goddess of the Sea) is another historic icon. As we wander through the temple, we’re drawn to the scent of incense wafting through the air.
At the top of several flights of stone steps, there’s a huge boulder with a Chinese character etched onto it and a woman praying.
Narrow streets with old buildings fill much of Macau’s Historic Centre.
The Old Village in Taipa recreates some of the Portuguese settlement. Down a narrow street sits a row of restored, early 20th-century colonial houses – The Taipa Houses –Museum.
Inside these green and white buildings are traditional settler’s costumes, musical instruments and furniture.
Most locals live on the peninsula in Rotunda de Carlos da Maia, often referred to as The Three Lamps District – three lamps illuminate its park.
The area is packed with shops, some over 100 years old. They sell everything from electronics and brand-name merchandise to fresh fruit, cookies, antiques, toys, clothes and traditional Chinese medicine.
Coconuts with Chinese characters are for sale at some stalls. This makes the perfect gift for the bride and groom. The Chinese believe this gift will help the newlyweds to have many sons.
Adventure in the sky
One of our group, Kelly, was terrified about doing the jump. For three days before jumping, she would almost shake whenever anyone mentioned the word “bungee.” But after she did the jump, she couldn’t stop smiling.
As bungee jumping has never been on my bucket list, I decide to attempt the Sky Walk. Strolling atop the tower on a 1.8-meter-wide platform while wearing a zipline-type harness gives me quite a buzz!
After wandering around Macau, I come to the conclusion that the Western-influenced Cotai Strip with its shops, gambling and entertainment might make Macau a popular destination. But it’s the blend of Portuguese, Southeast Asian and Chinese cultures that makes it all the more interesting.
It’s this blend of old and new that makes Macau a good choice when choosing a destination to please a group of friends.
The writer was a guest of Sheraton Macao Hotel Cotai Central
The pataca is the local currency but Hong Kong dollars are accepted in most places. Ferry services are available from Hong Kong.
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