Macau escape loads of fun

ROMANCE stems from the heart but attitude can help. In the 1990s the concept of the dirty weekend is outdated, but for those looking for a getaway that combines style, atmosphere and fun, the place to head for is Macau.

The most mundane event could be memorable for lovers. A jetfoil ride could be a space age adventure, the high speed ferry a luxury cruise.

Arriving in Macau, the posters at the terminal promote the sleazier side of life - saunas and topless dancing girls - so for real romance forget the cost and have a car meet you outside.

High on the Rua do Comendador Kou Ho Neng, the re-furbished Bela Vista is a beacon for the hopeless romantic.

The ochre columns face the sea, as stalwart as they have been for more than a century, as the car pulls up a sweeping staircase bring couples to their own fairytale castle.

It is an exquisite hideaway from the modern world. On the balcony, wicker chairs overlook the harbour while liveried footmen pour tea from a silver pot into bone china cups.

After a leisurely afternoon lounging around, there is always the nagging compulsion to get up and see the sights.

Riding in a Macau cab may not seem wildly exciting but dodging the traffic as the sun goes down, hand in hand with a lover certainly gets the heart pumping.

Afterall, it's not every day that the love of your life gets to save you from the chaotic traffic of the Avenida da Amizade.

High above Macau, at the Fortaleza do Monte, couples pose for photographs perched on the cannon.

Below, the ruins of St Paul's are surrounded by wrinkled old crones haggling over cracked porcelain antiques and souvenirs. Dark backstreet shops hide treasures for homemakers, elephant plant stands and mouldy lithographs.

Street signs take on the romance of a South American republic in Macau. The tree-lined Avenida da Republica, Rua da Praia do Bom Parto. No one knows what they mean, those curled up in cars by the side of the road seem not to care.

Portuguese home cooking warms after a dusk walk. Dinner at the Bela Vista will cost about $500, but what price can you put on love? For those looking for romance, the Bela Vista has a timeless quality.

The fixtures and soft furnishings are plush, luxurious but sympathetic. Air-conditioning is built into the walls leaving a ceiling fan to turn slowly as patrons fall asleep between the freshly ironed cotton sheets on a feather pillow.

In fact it is so devastatingly romantic that your partner could be the let down of the trip.

Fortunately, a cunning arrangement of doors, air-lock style, could be used to keep warring couples out of each other's and other guests' way.