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It’s the opening night of Club Cubic in Macau, and I somehow managed to be one of the fortunate people and scored a coveted entrance bracelet. Normally, this is not my scene — rubbing elbows with VIPs, socialites, ex-pat scenesters and the like — but the experience of seeing popular hip-hop artist Flo-Rida in a live, exclusive performance is too hard to pass up. That, and I am living history in the making. Club Cubic, an iconic club that officially — and finally — shut down its former location in Macau’s small club district has reopened in Macau’s jewel entertainment complex, City of Dreams, which is truly remedying what the destination-within-a-destination lacked — nightlife.
While visitors may know Macau as the “Vegas of China,” there’s more to the city than casinos and high-end hotels — such as Portuguese history, a terrific culinary scene, a UNESCO-appointed historic center, notorious egg tarts and more. But, at the end of the day, Macau keeps building its entertainment infrastructure to lure big spenders, most particularly with City of Dreams, an integrated entertainment resort that is so immense, it’s hard for visitors to see much else of the city.
City of Dreams’ initial opening less than a year ago included a 420,000-square-foot casino with approximately 400 gaming tables and 1,300 gaming machines; more than 20 restaurants and bars; luxury boutique retail stores carrying designer brands such as Coach and Marc Jacobs; and a technologically advanced audio/video multimedia experience in a domed-shaped theater called Dragon’s Treasure.
Of course, no entertainment complex would be complete without high-end accommodations. City of Dreams features three hotels. Perhaps the most stylish property is the 184-room Crown Towers, which is notable for an art collection featuring contemporary artists from around Asia and Macau as well as a truly decadent spa. As the tallest building on Taipa Island, the 38th floor features commanding views of the Macau Peninsula. Hard Rock Macau — with 326 guestrooms — offers the American music culture that the brand is known for, including musician memorabilia framed throughout the property (now sporting Flo-Rida’s donation of his signature sunglasses and sneakers), a penthouse suite with an mechanical bull and an outdoor, heated pool that plays rock music underwater. Grand Hyatt Macau, with 791 rooms and suites, features a buzzing lobby bar and more than 30,000 square feet of meeting space. Furthermore, a second planned phase in development includes an 800-room apartment-style hotel.
With all of its bells and whistles and its striking resemblance to Vegas, City of Dreams still feels very much like China. The complex’s “water” theme, which is recurrent in ancient Chinese folklore, is introduced at the entrance via a large-screen wall projecting the depths of the ocean as a mermaid electronically materializes periodically out of nowhere. Water is also a Chinese symbol for money, considerably appropriate for the entertainment complex’s gaming environment.
Also catching the wave of the water theme is Franco Dragone’s $250 million production, “The House of Dancing Water.” Currently the world’s largest indoor, water-based show, the performance takes stage in a 270-degree theater-in-the-round on an impressive central pool holding 3.7 million gallons of water with more than 75 performance artists from 18 countries.
Until its premiere, Macau had little to offer for nightlife entertainment save a handful of free “acts” in lobby lounges and “Zaia” by Cirque Du Soleil. Now, “The House of Dancing Water” gives visitors nighttime entertainment options beyond placing bets.
And speaking of bets, moving Club Cubic into the integrated resort complex may have been City of Dreams’ best gamble. The club, which opened in April, is jacked up with advanced technology (high-tech, controlled lighting, laser projection facilities and an LED system specified for Olympic games) and state-of-the-art D&B soundsystem. Club Cubic plans on regularly inviting A-list guests — as it did with Flo-Rida for the opening — for special performances in order to to continue to attract a high-brow crowd who will ultimately get its money’s worth as well as wild nights to remember.
With the addition of Club Cubic, Macau’s once underwhelming nightlife scene is showing promise and the ambitious development of City of Dreams feels complete. Now, the only thing at stake, considering the approximately 27 million visitors arriving in Macau every year, is not having enough space in the club to cater to everyone.
New & Noteworthy
Macau’s Historic CenterIn July, the 29th session of the World Heritage Committee agreed to change the name of “The Historic Monuments of Macau” to “The Historic Center of Macau,” on its prestigious World Heritage List, under the terms of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
The newly listed World Heritage Site incorporates streetscapes and piazzas such as Barra Square, Lilau Square, St. Augustine’s Square and many more. These provide the linkage for a succession of more than 20 monuments such as A-Ma Temple, Mandarin’s House, St. Lawrence’s Chruch and other landmarks.
Central ParkMacau will soon have a Central Park to call its own, which is scheduled to debut during the second quarter of 2012. Though it will be located on Taipa Island between Avenida de Kwong Tung and Avenida de Guimaraes, rather than the city center, Macau’s Central Park will provide publicly accessible green space and diverse recreational facilities to visitors and local residents who live and work in the busy buildings lining nearby Rua de Sent Tou and Rua de Coimbra.
Macau Turns a New LeafIn an effort to balance its rich, emerging city with its natural environments, the Chinese and Portuguese have combined their landscaping talents to establish and maintain attractive green spaces, even in the busiest urban neighborhoods of Macau. The new Sun Yat Sen Park, looking out at China’s Zhu Hai from the northern edge of Macau, is one of the latest additions to the collection. This landmark features greenscapes and water zones and rests atop of what used to be a site for discarding waste.
Ice World at The Venetian, MacauThrough Sept. 18, from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends, The Venetian in Macau hosts Ice World, one of the largest indoor ice exhibits ever created. Forty-nine renowned Harbin artisans held a “carvathon” and created spectacular ice sculptures with more than 9,000 ice blocks. Using chainsaws, knives and shovels to create masterpieces such as an Ice Bar, an ice slide castle and iconic landmarks from around the world, this exhibit is sure to be a cool experience for all ages. Tickets are approximately $12 per person. www.venetianmacao.com
Coloane IslandColoane Island is known for its tranquil environment, beaches and cultural villages and is popular for tourism and adventures. Two of the best beaches in the area, Cheoc Van Beach and Hac-Sa Beach, are found on Coloane Island along with a number of activities such as miniature-golf courses, Olympic-size swimming pools for adults and children, tennis courts, picnic and camping areas, cafes, restaurants and more. Coloane Island is also home to two hiking trails; the Coloane Trail is sure to fulfill arduous adventurers but leisure trails can be found along the Dam Circuit near Hac Sa Beach for relaxing strolls.
9/11The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is a harvest festival celebrated all over China. In Macau, it is held at the Praia Grande and Nam Van lakes and more. Festival participants leave floating lanterns on the water, creating an extraordinary tableau. (Sept. 12)
10/11The 25th Annual Macau International Music Festival (MIMF) returns this year with even more attractions. This season’s lineup includes opera, musical theater and performances in genres such as contemporary, folk, pop, fusion and jazz. (Oct.7-Nov. 6)
11/11Experience the longest-running street race in the world at the 58th Macau Grand Prix. The Grand Prix will feature car and motorcycle races along a city circuit with roaring engines, crowds of tourists and colorfully decorated streets. (Nov. 17-20)
A-Ma Cultural VillageThe A-Ma Cultural Village is a local favorite in Macau. The complex is comprised of towers, temple palaces, museums and shops overlooked by the goddess of A-Ma, the deity of seafarers, who rests atop the palace of Tian Hou. The village is located in the heart of Coloane Island on a stretch of land known as the Cotai Strip and covers approximately 75,000 square feet. It affords 360-degree views of Coloane, Hacsa Beach and Cotai and attracts mainly Chinese tourists. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
The Island’s Weekly FairFor shopping, dining and entertainment, visitors should explore The Island’s Weekly Fair which takes place on Taipa Island in the Village Center, between Bombeiros Square and Camoes Square. There are 125 booths selling traditional crafts and souvenirs, food and beverages, brand-name items, clothes, toys and other products. From 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. there are cultural and recreational events at Maia de Magalhaes Square.
A Lorcha De Bche RestaurantJust a short walk from A-Ma Temple, A Lorcha De Bche is known for its delicious traditional Portuguese and Macanese dishes. The restaurant offers its diners the best of both worlds with its blend of local culinary elements.
Seac Pai Van ParkThe Seac Pai Van Park is the largest of the parks and gardens in Macau. Located in the wooden hills of the Coloane islet, the nature park exhibits flora and fauna of Macau, Taipa and Coloane. Seac Van Park is a breathtaking garden that offers many little adventures. In the park, there is a mini zoo with various kinds of animals; a trail that runs to the A-Ma shrine; picnic areas and playgrounds; even archeological exhibitions. It is also home to the Museum of Nature & Agriculture with excellent presentations of Macau’s geography, climate and other facades of its natural environment.
San Ma LoAlso officially known as Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, San Ma Lo is the most famous street of Macau. It is polished with elegant architecture and cultural glory. This about a mile length popular destination offer art exhibitions, music, shops and open-air cafes and restaurants with daily festivities that continue on well in the evening. There are also plenty of historical landmarks to be seen and visited here.
CasinosCasinos are a large part of Macau’s local cultural entertainment. Many hotels such as Lisboa, Mandarin, Hyatt and Kingsway and entertainment centers such as Jai-Alai, the Macau Jockey Club and the Floating Palace, offer casinos on site for visitors to take a chance on luck. Major games found in the casinos include baccarat, black jack, roulette, craps, and slot machines.
Banyan Tree Hotel & Resorts, MacauThrough Sept. 28, Banyan Tree Hotel & Resorts is offering a Summer Double Fun Package. This tranquil haven in a bustling city offers an exquisite all-suite urban resort. Starting at approximately $272 per suite, per night, this package includes a 10 percent discount at Banyan Tree Spa, a 10 percent discount at Banyan Tree Gallery and two sets of first-class, one-way ferry tickets from the Macau Taipa Ferry Terminal to Hong Kong. www.banyantree.com
Four Seasons Hotel, Macau, Cotai StripThis Macau Getaway Package is a great way for clients to discover their own private Macau at Four Seasons Hotel, Macau, Cotai Strip. A surfeit of culture, the resort is located in the heritage-rich, Portuguese enclave of the Cotai strip, yet apart from the crowds, giving visitors the best of both worlds. The package includes complimentary scheduled shuttle services to the hotel from select locations; a pair of one-way Cotai Class, Cotai Jet Ferry tickets between the Shun Tak Center in Hong Kong and Macau; and other luxurious amenities such as use of the spa facilities, Finnish saunas and vitality pools. Rates vary by room type and the day of the week and range from $242 to $1,155 per room, per night. www.fourseasons.com/macau
Mandarin Oriental, MacauThe Mandarin Oriental, Macau is offering a Macau Tower Experience available through December. The package includes two complimentary tickets to the Macau Observation Deck which offers spectacular views of the Pearl River Delta, Macau Peninsula, Taipa Island, Coloane and the city’s extraordinary nighttime lights from 731 feet above the ground. Other accommodations include a breakfast buffet at Vida Rica Restaurant for two as well as a one-way hotel transfer between the hotel and the Macau Tower. Rates for the package start at approximately $284, per night, with blackout dates. www.mandarinoriental.com/macau
City of Dreamswww.cityofdreams.com.mo
Destination Specialist Programwww.learnaboutmacau.com
Macau wholesaler partners: Aberdeen Tourswww.aberdeentours.com
Charming Asia Tourswww.charmingasiatours.com
Asia Luxe Holidayswww.asialuxeholidays.com
SITA World Travelwww.sitatours.com