It’s been three days since the Macau trip. Sitting on a mosaic stairway with the sounds of a raging storm for company, the bright lights and casino tables seem a world away. In fact, unlike most tourist spots, this tiny island may not even be on the map for the global Indian. Ask three people where it’s located, and you will probably get a quizzical response for an answer. ‘Is it in Malaysia?’ somebody asked.
So here’s some rush and-go trivia for you:
l Macau is a one-hour ferry ride from Hong Kong;
l The currency sounds like a Diwali firecracker — the Macanese Pataka;
l With an annual revenue of $2,490 billion, this casino destination brings home 10 times the revenue of Las Vegas.So, ready to get on that ferry?
There is only one thing better than taking an exotic holiday. And that, is getting the taste of the ‘high roller’ life without gambling. The reason that Macau makes more money than Las Vegas is that the average Asian ‘player’ (casino talk for gambler) prefers tables to slot machines — the opposite of Vegas. Chips andnChinese flavours aside, the first week was a momentous occasion as the Sands Cotai Central — the largest Sheraton in the world — threw open their many doors. The launch of the hotel recently marked the 75th anniversary of the Sheraton group. With over 60 floors and over 60 rooms on each floor, this getaway is gargantuan. Unfortunately, the intake of the grand tour along plush carpeted corridors quickly turns from one of awe to puzzlement.
From a slightly overdone jungle backdrop in the hotel’s lobby right down to shiny metal beading on the embroidery of the armchairs (very Star Trek), the interiors are more ‘confused’ than eclectic.
If you have a palate for fresh seafood, this island destination is a must-visit. The Sheraton’s tastefully designed Italian restaurant, Bene, is delightful with the warm glow of chandeliers and white curtains and the restaurant is royal and ‘homey’ all at once. And there’s always some surprise entertainment. On this particular occasion, interactive opera did the trick. Sadly, despite being promised that the service staff could speak “20 different languages,” communication with the waiters was a bit of a hassle.
However, understandably, the hotel having just opened, is still in the process of hiring. Perhaps the only disappointed guests of the evening were the ones seated at the ‘vegetarian table’. No jokes here. One journalist even complained of receiving dal, rice, pappad and penne in the same serving! What can one say, except, “Thank god I’m not a vegetarian.” If you consider Italian passé, you can choose to dine at any of the other 20 restaurants and cafes.
One has to admit though, in a hotel of this size and length, even wearing heels and walking to a restaurant can end up tiring your feet. Think foot massage options at the Sheraton Club lounge, customised fitness options to suit a high-activity business schedule and for those who can spare the time — a 24 carat gold massage at the Sheraton’s Shine Spa. Interestingly, the director of wellness and leisure, Johan Potgieter, points out, “This particular programme has been designed with the help of a feng shui master, based on the Chinese zodiac.” He explains, “Each guest is asked a series of questions that determines which is their feng shui element.” That is, earth, fire, water, wood or metal. Once this is done, the relevant massage is carried out. One of the favourites so far is the ‘candle massage’ based on the fire element. The mix of shea butter and coconut oil, quite literally, resembles candle wax. Once warmed, it is drizzled over the skin for instant rejuvenation. So there you have it — what Macau lacks in places of historical value, it makes up for by being an upmarket vacation destination and the casino capital of Asia.
How to get there
There are ferries from Hong Kong to Macau. The best time to visit is between October to December and March to May. A Cathay Airways ticket costs approximately ` 35,500.
The writer was in Macau at the invitation of Starwood Hotels & Resorts.