21 things to gamble on in Macau
1. Pay homage to MJ
The MJ Gallery at Ponte 16 opened today. The permanent exhibition is home to some of the most coveted Michael Jackson memorabilia, including the white rhinestone-encrusted glove from "Billie Jean" and a "Thriller" suit worn by the King of Pop in an MTV performance.
2. Jump off a building
The SkyJump at Macau Tower is the world's highest jump at 233 meters. Whether daredevils choose to do it bungee style or strap themselves onto the Decelerator Descent -- using a steel cable and decelerator system -- the fall happens very close to the building and gives a unique perspective on skyscrapers.
3. Binge on souvenirs
Koi Kei started out as just another cart at the street market, selling nutty pastries, candies, and other Southern Chinese sweets. It has since evolved to become a confectionary giant, synonymous with Macanese quality. The brand is practically a Macanese ambassador and visitors return home laden with boxes upon boxes of Koi Kei's almond cookies, peanut brittle, and sweet-filled pastries all made in Macau.
4. Get lost
The sights of Macau are clumped together making the city highly walkable for visitors. The Macau Government Tourist Office has a list of great walking tours, but the best way to get a feel for the former colony's pulse is to chuck the map and stroll aimlessly. The streets have a distinct nostalgic atmosphere, with rows of pastel colonial architecture housing ancient-looking shops identified by Portuguese and Chinese signage.
5. Watch big shows
Macau is increasingly the venue for big ticket international shows. It isn't just pop divas such as Beyonce and A-mei who stop by, rock shows like Fall Out Boy, celebrity DJs such as the recent 2manydjs, and of course, Cirque du Soleil's long-running Zaia at The Venetian, are some of the heavyweight acts that the city plays host to.
6. Visit museums, yawn-free
Macau's museums are excellent and abundant. The most interesting are the Macau Museum of History with its elaborate displays, and the Maritime Museum that resembles a docked ship. The Taipa Houses Museum is a collection of refurbished residences of the Macanese elite dating from the 1920s and its serene grounds are a respite from the crowded tourist madness of the nearby Rua do Cunha. There's also the Grand Prix museum and Wine Museum.
7. Hit the beach
The most popular beaches in Macau are Cheoc Van Beach and Hac Sa Beach, the latter being particularly popular with Hong Kong visitors for its 'black' sand. Big and clean, Hac Sa is also frequented by diners who just finished their meal at the nearby Fernando's, one of the best Portuguese restaurants outside of Portugal, which you will find in our Eat list below.
It’s not in the city center, there is no air-conditioning, and you always have to wait for a table -- but it's all worth it for a taste of some of the best Portuguese food in Macau. Owner Fernando will seat you himself at this beach-side restaurant and recommend the cod fish, prawns, mussels, roast suckling pig, plus a glass of Portuguese wine. The vegetables are from the restaurant's garden and the bread is house-baked.
Hac Sa Beach, 9 Coloane, Macau +853 2888 2264 www.fernando-restaurant.com
2. A Lorcha
The colonial-style restaurant is small and cosy with an intimate ambiance. Regulars come for the char-grilled Portuguese chorizo, clams with tomato and herbs sauce, Galinha à Africana (African chicken), ox-tail stew, and excellent bread.
Rua Almirante Sergio 289, Barra, Macau tel +853 2831 3195
3. Shark's fin
There is no denying the adverse impact the hunt for shark's fin has on the ecosystem. Despite this, the soup is still considered a delicacy among many Chinese and part of the region's cultural heritage. Hong Kongers flock to Macau's seafood restaurants for excellently prepared shark’s fin soup at affordable prices. Queues form at Tim Fat for a taste of the shark's fin, divided into eight different classes from faux shark’s fin (MOP$20) to shark’s fin with sea cucumber and fish maw (MOP$260). Lai Kei Restaurant is also popular for the shark’s fin served with abalone in a rich, opaque chicken broth.
Tim Fat 添發碗仔翅美食, G/F, 18 Rua da Felicidade, Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, Macau, tel +853 6650 8211
Lai Kei, 135-137 Rua Dos Mercadores, Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, Macau, tel +853 2856 4440 / 2857 3117
(Editor's Note: A number of respondents have emailed and complained that our inclusion of restaurants that serve shark's fin soup is very questionable, especially in light of CNN's own reporting on the ecological impact associated with shark’s fin soup. We feel it is important to direct users to CNN's Planet in Peril report on shark's fin soup and also to the Hong Kong Shark Foundation for more information on the topic. We urge anyone contemplating consuming the dish to look at these and other resources. CNNGo will bear our user feedback and information in mind regarding any future posts about shark’s fin soup.)
4. Portuguese-style egg tarts
Macau's original Portuguese-style egg tarts are from Lord Stow's bakery, but we are rooting for Margaret's Cafe e Nata opened by Stow's ex-wife. The cafe's charming location in a back alley near the Lisboa makes it one of those secret places to hide away from the casino madness -- it's too bad that Margaret's has also become a bit of a tourist attraction.
G/F, 17A Rua Alm Costa Cabral R/C, Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, Macau, tel +853 2871 0032
5. Café Tai Lei
If you plan on getting Tai Lei's signature pork chop bun fresh out of the oven, start queuing at least an hour before the 3 o’clock selling time or there is no way you will get one. Visitors come here as much for savoring the big, juicy pork chops stuffed inside a freshly baked bun, as for gaping at the incredibly long line-up.
Largo Governador Tamagnini Barbosa, Taipa Village, Macau, tel +853 2882 7150
6. Robuchon a Galera
Although lacking in local flavor, Macau's most impressive and exclusive restaurant remains Robuchon a Galera. The place has all the spit and polish expected of a Michelin three-star restaurant: Robuchon's signature modern French style is executed with finesse and served elegantly by near flawless staff. The restaurant is popular for special occasions, or when someone strikes it big at the casinos.
3/F Hotel Lisboa, Avenida da Amizade, Centro, Macau, tel +853 8803 7878 www.hotelisboa.com
7. O Santos Comida Portuguesa
Stepping off of the touristy Rua do Cunha and into O Santos might be a bit of a shock to the senses. The stillness of the homey little restaurant is worlds apart from the street outside teeming with aggressive touts. The smell of Portuguese home-cooking wafting from the kitchen and the warm hospitality of Portuguese owner Santos himself will make all visitors soon forget that the restaurant is situated smack center of tourist-ville. Try the stir-fry clams, baked duck rice, and ox-tail stew.
20 Rua do Cunha, Taipa, Macau +853 2882 5594
1. Grand Lisboa
Macau's original glam casino, the Grand Lisboa has been around for decades and in the harsh daylight, it shows it's age. However, when night falls, the Grand Lisboa lights up and its iconic status becomes apparent. The grand dame also hosts Asia's biggest poker tournaments.
2. Wynn Macau
When compared to the Wynn in Las Vegas, the Wynn Macau may be miniature in size, but it's big on spectacles. This classy playground for high-rollers has fantastic signature shows, such as the Dragon of Fortune that rises to 28 feet in the air, with an animated head complete with glowing eyes and billowing smoke coming out of it's nostrils. It’s covered in 2,450 square feet of gold leaf -- that kind of bling pushes the whole show just above cliché and into the ranks of spectacle. The second show, the Tree of Prosperity, is a giant golden tree literally rising up from the ground.
3. The Venetian Macao
This theme park of a casino is the largest casino in the world and a hub for all international artists who visit Asia. The famous canals of Venice are recreated indoors and exclusive shows like Zaia, a mini-golf course, and top-notch dining are on offer. The Venetian's emphasis is on recreation and entertainment over gambling.
4. Galaxy Rio
The Galaxy Rio is the gambling den set from old B movies -- you almost want to don a fedora and toothpick when walking into here. Gambling-wise, lower stakes games can be found here, which will attract a certain local crowd. Its small-scale approach makes for an intimate atmosphere, although the crowd may not be one you would always want to be intimate with.
5. Play Chinese games
Fan Tan, Boc Hop Bu, Sic Bo, Yee Ha Hai all originated in China. When Macau legalized gambling in the 1800s, the games flourished and were brought to America by railway workers. Sic Bo's popularity in Macau today is probably only second to Baccarat and is offered on all Macau casino floors.
6. Greyhound Racing
Greyhound racing is still a popular pastime for locals in Macau, attracting an older working class crowd. The Canidrome has races on Monday, Thursday, Friday, and weekends starting at 7.45pm. There's also an off-course betting center at the ground floor of the Hotel Lisboa, Jai-Alai Palace, and Kam Pek Casino.
Canidrome, Avenida General Castelo Branco, Macau www.macauyydog.com
7. Macau Jockey Club
Although Hong Kong hosts the higher calibre international races, Macau's Jockey Club is endearing for other reasons. Membership requirements are lower than its Hong Kong sibling, and racing does not break for the summer. Race days are also more frequent and last longer.