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Oriental adventure

Bungee jumping, walking on air and a theatrical stunt show make this Chinese outpost such a unique tourist spot

“So what if you don’t want to go bungee jumping — just partake in the thrills that the Macao Tower offers,” suggests our host Jenny Kou as we step into the lift that soon zooms its way up to a height of 338m (1,109 feet). And you really go ‘wow’ as the glass walls of the lift show the world getting reduced to — as Gulliver would say — pygmy size; and it’s only a matter of seconds when the doors slide open and some refreshingly cool winds welcome you aboard the 61st floor of the Macao Tower.

Located in the New Reclamation Area of Macao West Bay, this highest sightseeing steel edifice in Southeast Asia has become one of the most sought-after, must-do destinations in Macao. To get back to the sport that Jenny is talking about, we move towards the deck that prepares those interested for the highest commercial bungee jump in the world.

Well, it’s not for the faint-hearted, I concede, as I stand watching some of the intrepid souls lining up for the 233m-high leap from the tower’s outer rim. “There’s no reason to worry,” smiles an instructor who, seeing my interest, stops by for a quick chat. “You’re tied securely for a free-fall experience till just about 30 metres from the ground and then in the few seconds that you float between heaven and earth, the experience is akin to that of a bird flying.”

As loud music plays in the background with motivational peppy songs like You can do it, I admire those who are ready to take the plunge. And soon shift my attention to the group of friends getting ready for the Skywalk X.

While some of them are laughing nervously, others are hellbent on enjoying the experience of walking on the glass-bottomed outer rim of the tower, just 1.8m wide, that has no handrail for support. The ‘guide’ accompanying them ensures they have fun along the way as he makes them flirt with fear by sitting down on the rim’s edge with their feet dangling and posing with one arm and leg outstretched for his camera. Their adrenaline rush sure is infectious but I remain content to just walk on the glass floor in the observation lounge to get a feeling of walking on air.

From the time the Portuguese set sail towards this part of the world and made it their colony in the 16th century, Macao has come a long way — with many knowing it just as the swanky ‘Las Vegas of the East’, a must-do destination for those who enjoy rolling the dice. But there’s more to it than casinos and that’s what we’re determined to explore.

Admiring the stunningly mod
ern yet artistic buildings, hotels and skyscrapers like the Grand Lisboa besides the Venetian, City of Dreams and the Studio City, we move towards the quaint Coloane Village that was once believed to have been a pirates’ den.

So, after having a dekko at the monument dedicated to the fight against the sea robbers and the pretty Chapel of St Francis, we walk past quaint Portuguese-style houses towards the serene Avenida de Cinco de Outubro. This area also offers splendid views of the Hengqin Island in China. And then it’s time for a bite of what, we’re told, has become Macao’s edible icon — egg tarts.

As we stand in front of Lord Stow’s Bakery, Jenny tells us that it was an Englishman, Andrew Stow, who created these egg tarts as he attempted to replicate the popular Portuguese Pastel de Nata in Macao. His efforts paid off, for the result was the peculiarly Macanese delicacy that has since been sold like hot cake. After just a bite into this hybrid creation with its caramelised top and flaky pastry-cup, we can well understand why.

A word here for the foodies — you’re sure to be spoilt for choice for, almost every other restaurant in Macao seems to be Michelin-starred. And what they offer are ‘Instagrammable’ works of art. Stop by at the buzzing Rua do Cunha in the neighboring Taipa area that many refer to as the food-street of Macao. From Castico to the Macao Creations Shop and the Pasteleria Fong Kei, a 100-year-old patisserie that is famous for its almond cakes, cookies and phoenix egg rolls, the varieties available here are, as a shopkeeper tells us, perfect food souvenirs to take back home.

Our Lady of Carmel Church is a must-visit for devotees. The tree-lined Avenida da Praia offers the Taipa Houses-Museum comprising five pastel green Portuguese houses dating back to the early 20th century. A visit to the Santo Antonio area is a treat as one of the most treasured architectural delights of Macao — the Ruins of St Paul’s Church — stands proudly here. Once called the ‘The Vatican of the Far East’, its original wooden structure got burnt in 1835, leaving only the granite façade and a grand staircase.

Walking around in its vicinity, past its pretty lanes towards the marketplace selling stuff from branded wear to dragon crockery, coins and picture postcards, offers an unforgettable experience, especially in the evenings when the city turns into a glittering spectacle.

And then, of course, is the visit to the A-Ma Temple that was built in 1488 and is dedicated to the Chinese sea-goddess Mazu. Admiring its old-world architecture, we find ourselves part of an enthusiastic group of people crowding around what seems like a big bronze vessel full of water. And await our turn to rub our palms on its two handles to create bubbles on the water surface that in turn are believed to attract blessings into your life.

The Mandarin House with its interesting mix of western influences and traditional Chinese architecture that once belonged to the family of the Chinese reformist Zheng Guanying is next on our itinerary and soon we’re all set for a ‘rock and electric-shock’ show at the Studio City. Called Elekron, this is the world’s first all-electric indoor theatrical stunt show featuring dramatic dare-devilry, parkour acrobatics with wild fire and pyrotechnics to keep you on the edge of your seat. There’s even a flying biplane of wing-walkers; thrilling sequences involving cars, bikes and buggies, all for a date with the Future — the year 2088.

Sure enough, when you leave Macao, you’re sure to treasure not just this experience of travelling ahead in time but also your journey back a few centuries through its oriental legacy and colonial past.