Macao is much more than ‘the Vegas of the East.’ We travelled with Bollywood’s leading lady, Sonakshi Sinha, to discover why the integrated luxury resorts of The Parisian Macao and The Venetian Macao are the best in business, if what you’re looking for is a European experience closer home. By Aindrila Mitra
The first few reactions I received from my peers when they became privy to the fact that I was travelling to Macao for a shoot with my crew and cover star, Dabangg actress Sonakshi Sinha, were predictable. “They have some great casinos!” “Try the slot machine… it’s fun.” “Try your luck on the table.” But there were a few suggestions that instantly resonated with me. “It’s a shoppers’ paradise.” “It’s a great family destination… the kids will enjoy.” Particularly, this one: “You should dine at the Eiffel Tower!”
Now I’m no gambler, but I love Europe, and if you can experience a slice of two iconic European cities at a destination that’s closer home in Asia, then why not? Located in the heart of Macao—a 15-minute drive from the Cotai Ferry Terminal—The Parisian Macao and The Venetian Macao, part of the Sands Resorts Macao, boast over 6,000 rooms, 850 shops, and multiple fine dining options, including the Michelin-star Golden Peacock.
American business magnate Sheldon Adelson, who happens to be the world’s 15th richest person, was so in love with Venice—which he visited for his honeymoon—and Paris, for the city personified romanticism, that he decided to build his Macao hotels emulating the two European cities. With billions of dollars pumped in to get it just right, the doors of The Venetian Macao were finally opened to public in 2007. The Parisian Macao followed suit in 2016.
“It’s the most unique integrated resort offering, the perfect location to experience Europe in Asia,” said Australian Stephanie J Tanpure, vice president of sales, Sands China Ltd, who has been in Macao since 2009. It’s no surprise that the resort welcomes almost 70,000 visitors a day, who are served by over 28,000 staff members of Sands Resorts Macao.
The Parisian Life
As we entered the gates of The Parisian Macao, where the crew was put up, it didn’t quite seem that we were in Asia. The fountain reminiscent of the Fontaine des Mers, the gilded
doors inspired by Palais Garnier, the dome fashioned after the iconic Les Invalides of the 7th arrondissement, the (mini) Eiffel Tower that stood metres away from the hotel façade—you could just as well be in Paris, minus the freezing weather, and relish some egg tarts instead of croissants! The Parisian Macao has recreated 20 Parisian landmarks, and deservedly earned its French parallels.
I met Chef Emmanual Souliere, the executive chef at The Parisian Macao, at La Chine, which takes pride in serving Chinese food ‘with a French touch.’ While the chef was undisputedly French, he was proud of his “multi-cultural team.” “I’ve spent 22 years in Asia,” he said, and cautioned me against leaving the place without trying the signature ‘Omni-pork.’ “It’s vegan pork, made of cereals,” he smiled. I did try it later the same day at the Market Bistro, a 24-hour noodle eatery serving Macanese, Vietnamese, and Hong Kong cuisines. As a hardcore meat consumer, I was pleasantly surprised.
If you’re a family of foodies, The Parisian Macao is a culinary paradise—from the signature Chinese restaurant Lotus Palace (I’d recommend the fresh oyster with bean curd custard topped with spicy lemon jelly and caviar), to the all-day dining Brasserie, which offers French cuisine led by chef Daniel Brolese, and Le Buffet, where I had breakfast every day (the matcha buns are recommended), to Crystal Jade that serves Chinese regional cuisine (Beijing, Szechuan, and Shanghai), and finally, the Parisian Pool Bar, which is an al fresco cafe with a view of the Eiffel replica. Your taste buds are bound to be satisfied, vegetarian options included. Chef Souliere emphasised, “We are working with organic products for the
vegetarian dishes across all our restaurants, and want to [push] the vegan trend.” The assurance received a sigh of relief from the vegetarian and vegan members of my crew.
As I headed back to my Champagne Suite overlooking the Eiffel Tower, the Shoppes at Parisian housing popular Parisian labels as well as international brands were in full business
with the Chinese New Year around the corner. Couples and families with kids in tow were busy clicking the perfect Insta-worthy image against the Eiffel Tower. Kids were happy at the Qube Kingdom (the 2,000-square-metre indoor and outdoor play area), and parents had enough ‘me time’ to enjoy this recreation of Paris. And I couldn’t help but swing by the
Love Lock Bridge to reinstate my love for the ‘City of Lights’ and add my own love lock.
The Venetian Ride
The Venetian Macao has always been Bollywood’s favourite—it has hosted two IIFA shows already. For me, the Venetian Macao—conveniently connected with The Parisian Macao via
walkways—was all about the gondola rides while rejoicing some delectable ice cream, and then hopping over to enjoy my favourite pastime a.k.a. shopping at the Grand Canal Street. Shoppes at Venetian is a 93,000-square-metre indoor mall that features the best of global brands and is connected with Shoppes at Four Seasons, Shoppes at Cotai Central, and Shoppes at Parisian. Inspired by the legendary Las Vegas Strip, when The Venetian Macao opened its doors in 2007, it became the largest integrated resort in Asia. From replicas of the famous canals to the signature architecture of Venice, The Venetian Macao is inspired by the Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas. And while The Venetian Macao inevitably sees “repeat guests,” as Tanpure confirmed, The Parisian Macao is where the nextgen flocks. With over 350 stores at Shoppes at Venetian and over 30 restaurants, it’s the perfect family getaway. As I waded through what seemed like an unending shopping paradise, I finally managed to catch up with the PR manager, Posy Kuok, to experience a slice of India in Macao.
Welcome to Sands Macao’s one Michelin-star Indian restaurant, the Golden Peacock. Chef Justin Paul, from Trichi, Kerala, is the man behind the Michelin star. Extremely affable, he greeted me with some kadak chai. “I was part of the opening team at Sands Macao in 2007,” he smiled. “Then IIFA happened in 2009, and suddenly there was a rush of Indian clients,” he revealed, adding that his restaurant served no beef and pork, and only halal meat. After spending five years in Hong Kong, Chef Paul shifted base to Macao because it was “quiet and safe.” When the restaurant opened in 2013, his challenge was to make it one of the best eateries in Macao and Hong Kong—one that he has successfully delivered—and the proof was in the pudding, as I tried a meal there later that night. The kandari murgh tikka was one of the best I’d ever had. The chef told us that there was a special Jain menu for conservative vegetarians. Would you expect that from the ‘Vegas of the East’? Besides the Golden Peacock, The Venetian Macao has several options for fine dining. These include Cantonese delicacies at the Canton, and Italian food at Portofino, among others. I spent 72 hours in Macao. Experienced luxury at its best, savoured fabulous delicacies, kept adulting at bay as I Instagrammed the Eiffel Tower from a carousel, soaked in the energy of the casinos, and realised that there was indeed a ‘Europe in Asia’—one that’s easily accessible and where my family would love to spend their summers.
Multiple airlines operate from Mumbai and Delhi to Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific has direct
flights on the routes. Take the Cotai Water Jet Ferry from Skypier, Hong Kong International Airport, to the Taipa Ferry Terminal, Macao (60-70 minutes). The Venetian Macao and The Parisian Macao have free shuttles from the ferry terminal.
Macao is two hours and 30 minutes ahead of India.
While 5-star hotels accept HKD (1 HKD = INR 8.94), local shops accept only Macanese Patacas (1 MOP = INR 8.59).
The Parisian Macao has 3,000 guestrooms and suites. These are divided into Deluxe
Rooms (from INR 11,600), Famille Room (INR 15,200), Lyon Suites (INR 16,100), and Champagne Suites (INR 17,000). Taxes extra. parisianmacao.com
The Venetian Macao has 3,000 suites. These comprise the Premio Royale Suite (from INR 16,100); and Premio Bella Suite (from INR 18,400). Taxes extra. venetianmacao.com
The Parisian Macao
The Eiffel Tower (at Forecourt): Half the size of the original, the Eiffel Tower at The Parisian Macao has over 6,600 LEDs covering the façade and observation decks on Level 7 and 37. Tickets at the Eiffel Tower Souvenir Shop; INR 950 for adults; INR 770 for kids under 12.
The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile (at Forecourt-Marquee): At 30 metres, the Arc de Triomphe marquee is an exact representation of the original neoclassical design by architect Jean Chalgrin.
Fontaine des Mers, Place de la Concorde (main lobby): Built in the centre of the lobby, it is one of the most photographed spots in the property and is made of 20 tonnes of clay.
Shoppes at Parisian: From Avenue Montaigne to Avenue des Champs-Elysees—enjoy immersive Parisian retail therapy across 150 luxury boutiques.
Windmill (Level 6, Hotel Pool): Montmartre in Paris’s 18th arrondissement is marked by a signature red windmill. At The Parisian Macao, the windmill stands at nine metres.
The Parisian Theatre: The 1,200-seat Parisian Theatre brings international entertainment from around the world to Macao. Think music concerts, Broadway shows, etc.
The Venetian Macao
Gondola Rides: There are gondola rides available through the indoor canals stretching along the Shoppes at Venetian, with singing gondoliers.
Shoppes at Venetian: The indoor mall houses 350 stores that host luxury brands and boutique labels from New York, Paris, London, and Milan.
The Venetian Theatre: The 1,800-seat theatre is one of the most luxurious in Greater China, and hosts top Chinese and international acts.
Cotai Arena: The 15,000-seat arena was host to the IIFA Awards, and has witnessed shows from the likes of Rihanna, The Rolling Stones, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Beyonce.