MACAO: A BLEND OF EAST MEETS WEST

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KNOWN AS THE Monte Carlo of the orient, Macao is an alternative for “gamblers with style” in the eastern part of the world. However, Macao has a lot to offer to tourists who opt not to spend their money on the many casinos that dotted this former Portuguese colonised Island.

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Yes, the flashy and glitzy casinos are the popular attractions in Macao, however, the hotels that house these casinos are also creating family oriented attractions to attract not just the men but big wallets but also bring entertainment to the whole family.

If you’re planning to put Macao as a must visit place, the best time to go is during winter time where the weather is cool and around 10°C especially in February. The highest temperature is 31°C in July. May is when the highest rain in a year is recorded.

Just bring along a suitable jackets and umbrella as although the weather is not too cold during winter time, but it is always raining.

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Okay, first some geographic information about Macao.

Macao island is located at the southern tip of Guandong province in China. Apart from the peninsula, there are several small island easily connected with each other. Visitors can either fly to Macao or take a ferry ride (around 1 hour) from Hong Kong.

The area where most luxury hotels are situated such as The Venetian, Four Season Hotel is called the Cotai Strip. It is a land reclamation project funded by the Las Vegas Sands and now links the islands of Coloane and Taipa.

Meanwhile, the Macao Peninsula is where the History Centre of Macao, a UNESCO World Heritage site can be found. The most popular site would be the Ruins of St Paul, a must visit place in Macao as it shared some similarities with the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Melaka, especially the Bukit St Paul or St Paul’s Hill.

Attractions in Macao

As mentioned above, every luxury hotels in Macao have their own attractions to woo tourists to stay or just spend money there. From boutiques selling branded items to Ferris wheel located 130 meter above ground, suspended between two holes that gives you either a sense of adventure or vertigo.

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Called the Golden Reel, it is the world’s highest figure-8 Ferris wheel at almost the top of Studio City Hotel. From the gondola, one can admire the panoramic view of this rapidly developed island.

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Well, if you’re not a fan of heights, then you maybe a fan of Batman. There is a special “Batman Dark Flight”simulation based on the Batman’s intellectual property franchise.

In this special simulation visitors were “saved” and virtually fly with him virtually in Gotham City while our hero fought his enemies.

Tickets to experience the whirlwind actions cost at MOP150 for adults and MOP125 for children.

Macao is also best place to visit for honeymooners. There are so many places and locations where couples can pose for their romantic moments. Either you can go boating at The Venetian and pretend that you’re in Venice or climb the Eiffel Tower at the Parisian Hotel and enjoy parts of the beautiful city.

If luxury hotels, shopping at boutiques or just games and entertainments are not really your thing, then head towards the Avenida da Praia, Taipa to visit the Taipa Houses-Museum.

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The Museum, comprises five distinctive green houses with the style of Portuguese architecture are considered one of the cultural relics and heritage of the island. The museum feature “Macanese Living Museum”, the “Exhibition Gallery”, the “Creative Casa”, the “Nostalgic House”, and the “House for Reception”.
The Taipa Village Macao website:

“In 1992, the Taipa Houses-Museum was acclaimed as one of in the top eight scenes of Macao for its outstanding beauty and important architectural value. In the old times, a large mangrove swamp was seen adjacent to the Portuguese residential complex. But today the Museum is surrounded by large-scale tourism and entertainment facilities, witnessing the rapid urban development of the island.”

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The Portuguese influence can bee seen in the rest of old buildings here. The use of colourful tiles and cobble stones especially at Senado Square are considered as the heart of Portuguese. Even the road signs are written in both Chinese letters and Portuguese.

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The Macanese (mostly Chinese) are people who hold strongly to religion and traditions.

Apart from Chinese temples, there are a lot of Catholic churches on this island such as Chapel of Our Lady of Penha at Penha Hill ; St. Dominic’s Church; Guia Chapel; St. Gereja Francis Xavier in Coloane; Gereja St. Lawrence R. de São Lourenco and of course the historical Ruins of St Paul. Stroll along the roads in Macao and you can still hear the older generation of Macanese speaking Cantonese laced with Portuguese.

FoodFor Muslim travellers in Macao, you may need to spend extra if you’re looking for Halal food here. There are several halal restaurants but they are a bit pricey and not to mention that most of them are Indian restaurants.

However, there are several Muslim friendly restaurants and Chinese Halal restaurants available for those who crave to taste some local food.

Another must try local cuisine is the Portuguese egg tart and milk pudding and the ice cream dessert called Serradura. This dessert is also nicknamed “sawdust pudding” and unlike other Macanese desserts, this one is hard to come by outside Macao. (Recipe below).

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Meanwhile, there are two places where you can get the popular Portuguese egg tarts; the Lord Stow’s Bakery at Coloane and the other is at Margaret’s Cafe e Nata. At both places, you may need to be patient as the queues are long. I was told that at first the Lord Stow’s Bakery was started by a husband and wife, and when the couple estranged, the wife opened her own bakery and it is called Margaret’s Cafe e Nata.

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All these desserts are Muslim friendly but to be sure, just ask the locals on the ingredients that they use to make these delectable sweet desserts.

Recipe for Serradura (Macau/Sawdust Pudding)

Ingredients250ml

Whipping cream80g

Marie biscuits (I used 100g)

50g Condensed milk

Vanilla essence (I used 2 tsp)

Method

1. Crush Marie biscuits finely. (crushed or use the food processor)

2. Whip whipping cream to soft peaks. Add vanilla essence and condensed milk (Suggests you add 2/3 first, taste, then add more if it needs sweetening). Continue whipping until stiff peaks.

3. Transfer the cream into a piping bag. (fitted with a plain 1 or 2 cm nozzle)

4. Place a layer of biscuit into your vessel (individual moulds, mousse rings or cups) and pipe a layer of cream on top. Repeat until vessel is filled. (Suggests that don’t put too much biscuit, or the cream will adhere to only the top bits and the dessert will look messy)

5. Chill in the freezer for two hours. When serving, leave it out for a bit (around 10 minutes) for it to soften.

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