Macau, beyond the casinos

Dec 02 2012, 00:45 IST
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SummaryAsia’s Vegas is transforming itself into an integrated leisure, business and family destination. A look beyond the poker tables and glitzy casinos, where a wonderful fusion of cuisine, craft and culture exists

Macau’s glitzy Cotai Strip is forever compared with Las Vegas for its entertainment, nightlife and, of course, gambling opportunities. Macau, long touted as Asia’s Vegas, is fast turning into a destination with more than just the blackjack tables. Sheldon G Adelson, the 12th wealthiest American according to Forbes and the man responsible for developing some of Vegas’s most glamorous attractions and turning the desert into an entertainment hub, offers a startling bit of statistics, when I get an opportunity to hear him: Only 14% of Las Vegas’s visitors go there to gamble currently.

That’s contrary to all that all of us had believed. In Macau, where Adelson has a considerable stake (he has developed the entire Cotai Strip), that is clearly the model to follow now. That, despite the fact that the destination rakes in more than Vegas at the tables. Yes, gambling is still to be an attraction. But only one of the many—as more integrated resorts come up, allowing travellers to indulge in anything from theatre to gastronomy to quality family time with equal ease.

At the newly-opened Sheraton hotel in Cotai Strip, the casino is hardly in your face. Instead, it is nestled in between the Polynesian-style lobby, family-style restaurants and elevators that will lead you to the staggering 3,896 guest rooms plus 15,000 metre-square of banqueting/meeting space. The message is clear: Contrary to what you may expect, Macau’s latest hospitality venture, incidentally the biggest Sheraton in the world, situated bang opposite the opulent Venetian, is not just for those casino thrill-seekers. Instead, this is very much a family and MICE destination, offering a little something for everyone—from retail therapy to personal trainers and fitness kits to even a play area for the kiddies.

So what else is there to do in Macau other than attempting to hit the jackpot? We uncover some answers wandering through the old Portuguese quarters of this once fishing outpost, through its churches and temples, the blend of the East and the West that is all pervasive, and through its unique cuisine that combines the techniques and spices of the colonial explorers with the native produce and culinary traditions of this former Portuguese colony.

Macanese food, of course, is hardly something well explored. As a fusion cuisine, blending together elements of Cantonese and Portuguese cooking, this is as vibrant as only children of a mixed parentage can be. Unfortunately, it has remained somewhat in the shadow

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