Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Asian Attractions Expo 2008 Preview: The Contrasting Culture and Excitement of Macau

One of the most amazing things about working for IAAPA is that I have had the chance to do some great traveling, including my first trip to Asia for IAAPA Asian Expo 2007 in Bangkok. It was a terrific show and I was in awe of the sights, sounds, people, food, and cultural spots I was lucky enough to visit. One of the highlights of the nine-day working adventure was a short site visit to Macau (10 hours to be exact … we arrived at 5 a.m. and left in the late afternoon—no comment on our moods) with my colleagues Pete Barto and Diane Vidoni to see the Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel, home of Asian Attractions Expo 2008 in July.

Before we talk Macau, you may be wondering the same thing I was … so I asked Augustus, our wonderful host from the Venetian: “What’s up with the two different spellings of Macau?” Check out our Macau FAQ for the answer. And, no, IAAPA hasn’t fallen into editorial laziness.

Back to the trip, and what you can expect from Macau. We arrived very early in the morning and were thrilled to find the hotel and other sites quite close to the airport. You can see the Venetian rising in the background of this photo from the cab stand at Macau International Airport.

Our first step off that cab stand was to the resort for a hard-hat tour of the exhibit floor, ballrooms, and registration and entrance areas. What a property! It was amazing to see all of the detail and interior design work going into perfecting this new hotel. We were immediately struck by the size of the facilities and the opportunity to have an “all under one roof” experience at the expo. The hotel, which is twice the size of The Venetian in Las Vegas, features 350 shops, more than 30 restaurants, three canals, a theater and sports arena, and, of course, the casino.

Now that our site visit was complete, it was time to indulge the “foodie” in me. There is little more enjoyable to me than a new culinary experience … particularly in Asia! To wrap up our business discussion, Augustus took us over to The Sands and we retreated to a private board room for what can only be described as the most amazing and exquisite lunch of my life, a six-course Cantonese extravaganza. And this was just the beginning of all the dining delights, cultural adventures, and retail therapy Macau has to offer. Here is your guide to some of the best treats of the city …

You can, of course, find food choices from around the world in Macau. However, you should be sure to treat yourself to the cuisines famous in the region, including Cantonese, Portuguese, and Macanese, which is Macau’s unique blend of Portuguese, Chinese, Indian, and Malay cooking.
Augustus, recommended A Lorcha and Ristorante Litoral as two of the most “rightfully famous” Portuguese restaurants in Macau. In the mood for Cantonese instead? We dined with Augustus at the Sands Golden Court and I can’t recommend highly enough the light, delicious, and distinct flavors of the Cantonese dishes we sampled. Canton in the Venetian is also getting great reviews. Looking for more? Here are more restaurant options than you’ll ever need.

With its cross-pollination of Portuguese, Chinese, and Las Vegas culture, you will not be bored during your free time in Macau. From casinos to beaches, Chinese temples and monuments to the Portuguese settlement, and Fisherman’s Wharf, the first theme park in Macau, the only thing you need to worry about is finding the time to do what suits your fancy. Here’s a look at just some of the things on offer.

Thanks to its free port status, which means no sales tax and duty-free prices, Macau is loaded with great finds for the shopping enthusiast. Gold, clothes, Chinese antiques, Portuguese wine … take your pick of small markets in quaint piazzas, Red Market, Fisherman’s Wharf, Avenida Almeida Ribeiro, and more than 300 shops at the Venetian. Here are more things to buy than you’ll ever need.

For more on Macau, visit the Macau Government Tourism Office site.

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