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On my September visit to Macau, signs of a global economic crisis were virtually undetectable. Tourism is thriving, and the numbers are astonishing. As of July, in comparison to the same time last year, overnight stays have increased by 46 percent and hotel occupancy rates hover around 83 percent, according to the Macau Government Tourist Office. Several hoteliers with whom I spoke said that their properties reach capacity on the weekends as well as during Chinese holidays. With an average nightly rate of less than $165 and top-notch dining and entertainment options, it’s easy to see why visitors are flocking to the Vegas of the East. In no particular order, here are five great places to lay your head in Macau.
Mandarin Oriental, MacauLocated on the Macau Peninsula waterfront, Mandarin Oriental, Macau is, at once, elegant and understated. During my fall visit, the 213-room hotel in the One Central mixed-use complex was an ideal spot to view the annual Macau International Fireworks Display Contest without having to worry about fighting the traffic and crowds. Guestrooms have just about everything a weary traveler could want, including a Nespresso machine, a goose down duvet, a marble bathtub that offers views of the Macau Tower, complimentary Wi-Fi access and even a yoga mat. The buffet breakfast (featuring freshly baked pastries, homemade jams, dumplings and made-to-order noodles) or a coursed meal at Vida Rica Restaurant & Bar is not to be missed.www.mandarinoriental.com/macau
Hotel Okura MacauOpen since May and located in the Galaxy Macau megaresort complex, the 488-room Hotel Okura Macau features Japanese-inspired design elements, from kimono-clad employees and a Japanese garden to hand-folded origami that tops each pillow at turndown. Guests have access to the Galaxy Macau’s more than 50 restaurants and bars as well as the world’s largest skytop wave pool, which laps against a manmade white-sand beach with cabanas. For an experience to remember, book an otemae (Japanese tea ceremony) at the hotel’s tea ceremony room with Shirai Yayoi, who has been a Japanese tea ceremony master for 50 years.www.okura.com
Wynn MacauIn 2006, Wynn Macau opened as the first Vegas-style resort in Macau and, for three consecutive years, the trendsetting property has received the Forbes Five Star hospitality award. Opulent design elements at this 1,000-room property include the Encore tower’s moon jellyfish aquarium, home to 1,000 jellyfish from Japan and Taiwan and a 19th-century antique crystal chandelier at the lobby bar, Bar Crystal.
Guests in need of individualized pampering will be treated to an ultra-exclusive experience at the Spa at Wynn Macau. Each of its eight spa suites features a private relaxation area with a fully-loaded vanity, a Jacuzzi with aromatherapy settings, a steam shower with adjustable chromatherapy, a sauna and a separate treatment room.www.wynnmacau.com/en
The Venetian Macao-Resort-HotelHome to Cirque du Soleil’s impressive acrobatic show, “Zaia,” The Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel offers 3,000 spacious suites with canopy-draped king- or queen-size beds and marble bathrooms. Similar to the Venetian Las Vegas, the Macau property features the Grand Canal Shoppes, complete with cobblestone walkways and gondola rides. Unlike newer casino resorts on the island that offer nothing but high-end retail, The Venetian offers a varied mix of stores — from Crocs to Coach.www.venetianmacao.com
Hard Rock Hotel at City of DreamsAt the Hard Rock Hotel at City of Dreams, there seems to be a surprise around every corner. Geared toward music fans, families and young travelers, the hotel is decked out with memorabilia from famous rock stars and bands, including Michael Jackson’s famous silver-sequin glove. Guestrooms come with martini mixing kits, iPod docking stations, Hard Rock’s signature Sleep Like a Rock bedding and faux fur furnishings. The hotel’s two Rock Star Suites can placate just about any diva’s demands with 65-inch HDTVs, 180-degree views of the Cotai area and a very unique amenity — either a mechanical bull (seriously) or race car simulators. Need a karaoke system delivered to your room? Let me assure you, it won’t be a problem.www.hardrockhotelmacau.com