Life of glamour on offer
With the opening of each new five-star resort in Macau, the bar for luxury and comfort seems to get raised a bit higher. If there is a trend, it appears to be away from ostentation and towards glamour.
There is that subtle attention to detail that doesn't always confront you when you first walk through the front door. It's only when you take a second look that you realise it isn't wallpaper - it's embroidered silk.
The Encore, which opened last April in the Nape district, is an example. With 410 suites and four villas, the property - which positions itself as a boutique hotel - has an extravagant chandelier in the lobby, but you hardly notice it at first. It's only when you step back and survey the room that you discover this dazzling array of sparkling precious rocks suspended from the ceiling - tucked away almost out of view.
What does catch your eye the moment you walk through the door is the 7.5-metre-long, 2.2-metre-high backdrop behind the front desk. You assume that it is a massive LED screen with some kind of moving display. Upon closer examination, you realise it's a massive fish tank with live jellyfish slowly moving about in playful circular motions. Creative lighting gives them an iridescent, bluish hue.
Just off the main lobby is Bar Crystal, which was designed around an antique 19th-century French crystal chandelier. Acquired at auction, it has a subtle dull sheen - unlike most of the flashy chandeliers found in these parts.
Like a jewel box, the room's walls are lined with Venetian silks in dark tones and lit with sparkling crystals and mirrors. Venetian-style mirrors adorn the walls behind the bar. There are Brno chairs, designed in 1928 by Mies van der Rohe, and crafted polished-steel orange crate tables with tempered glass tops.
The 11,500 sqft Spa at Encore has one couple's room and seven private rooms, each with its own steam shower, sauna and aroma hydrotherapy bath, and shower. The restful environment is enhanced by natural materials. The walls and ceiling, for example, are lined with what appears to be hemp. The signature treatment, a synchronised four-hand massage, is pure bliss.
The Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel is the city's largest, with 3,000 rooms. It has a huge convention and exhibition centre and a massive shopping mall with a vast array of shops. It also has more than 30 food and beverage outlets. Among the most popular is Portofino, which serves some of the best Italian food in town, and Fogo Samba, a Brazilian-style steak house.
The MGM Grand Macau's Grande Praca is styled on a Portuguese town square. Rossio features a fusion menu with Mediterranean, Portuguese and Southeast Asian influences. Aux Beaux Arts is a Parisian-style brasserie right out of the 1930s. Serving contemporary Cantonese cuisine in sophisticated surroundings, the Imperial Court received one Michelin star this year.
The Wynn Macau has several food and beverage outlets. Ristorante Il Teatro serves southern Italian food prepared in an open kitchen. Classic Cantonese cuisine is served in the opulent Wing Lei. The recently opened Golden Flower features Tan, Sichuan and Shandong cuisines.
While most of Macau's finest restaurants are located in the four- and five-star hotels that have opened in recent years, the only restaurant in town to have been awarded three Michelin stars is in the city's oldest hotel-casino complex, the Hotel Lisboa - not to be confused with the recently launched Grand Lisboa. Joel Robuchon a Galera opened to rave reviews in 2001. It has one of the most extensive wine lists in the Pearl River Delta and serves haute cuisine in plush blue and gold surroundings.
Most of Macau's high-end nightspots are located in five-star hotels, with top acts flown in from Las Vegas and Atlantic City. You will find live bands, discos, and various sundry shows performing their hearts out.
For a walk on the wild side, however, you should check out the action in Nape, on the outer harbour, along Rua Dr Sun Yat Sen, between Avenida 24 de Julho and Alameda Dr Carlos D'Assumcao. Just steps from the Wynn, Mandarin Oriental and MGM Grand, you will find a fascinating array of storefront bars and pubs with music and shows. There are also small cafes serving everything from Korean and Indian delicacies, to oysters on the half shell.
If you arrive by day, you might think that you have stumbled across a ghost town. In the evenings, however, the doors are thrown open and chairs and tables are set up on the sidewalk. Don't arrive early. The Macanese - in true Portuguese tradition - show up late, and they leave late, as well.