The essential oil guide to Macau’s magic

By Lin Qi, China Daily.

Above: Senado Square, with its black-and-white cobbled streets, has been the centre of Macau for centuries.

My love affair with Macau started with an aroma.

As I lay on the massage table my Filipina therapist gently unfolded her hands in front of my nose for a few seconds. As an essential oil enthusiast, I detected lavender and ylang-ylang. Then her agile fingers started to play on my back. I gazed at the moth orchid floating in a bowl of water on the floor below my face, my mind went blank and my body melted.

A few hours previously, upon my arrival in the gambling centre of Asia, a travelling companion had opined that, “Macau is heaven for men but not for women”, explaining the shopping malls and streets of neighbouring Hong Kong as a distraction that was missing in Macau.

My therapeutic essential oil experience of one hour and 20 minutes, however, suggests that if its escape from the hustle and bustle of crowds, Macau offers seclusion and tranquillity. The spa treatment I received at Mandarin Oriental, Macau exemplifies the hotel’s low-key grandeur, combined with comfort.

Spa experience at Mandarin Oriental, Macau.

Nestled at the crossroads of Avenue Dr Sun Yat-sen and Avenue de Sagres, Mandarin Oriental is said to be the only five-star hotel in Macau that doesn’t have casinos. Instead, it boasts a panoramic view of Macau Tower, Nam Van Lakes and Taipa Island.

Macau is temperate. Winters are warm and pleasant, and people on the streets in suits and down coats wear them more for comfort and style than to keep out the cold.

Before you wander toward the historic city centre, take a picture standing on the One Impression of Macau, a 120-metre-long painting that has a three-dimensional effect. Created by Beijing-based artist Qi Xinghua, the anamorphic work blends the city’s most famous scenic spots, along with a grand sea view. It has been ratified by Guinness World Records as the longest picture of its kind. It’s exhibited outdoors at the shopping centre One Central Macau as a Christmas attraction.

The old street area has also taken on a festive appearance, decorated with a giant Christmas tree and dazzling lights. Take your time and stop at any snack store for an egg custard tart or a pork chop bun.

Many tourists will set off for the Ruins of St. Paul’s for their sightseeing but miss the beauty of nearby St. Dominic’s Church.

Dating from the 17th century, the church has a facade of cream-coloured stone, white stucco moldings and green shutter windows – all of which gives it a fairyland feel.

Inside, there is an exquisitely carved statue of the Virgin and Child on the baroque altar. Walk up the wooden stairs to the second and third floors, where there are displays of antique paintings, ivory sculptures and liturgical ornaments, telling the history of the Roman Catholic church.

To conclude your day tour, locals strongly recommend Restaurante Litoral, which serves some of the city’s best Portuguese and Macanese dishes. The two-story restaurant provides great ambience, with a rustic, colonial-Portuguese style interior, dark wood ceilings and soft lights.

My favorites dishes were bacalhau (dried and salted codfish) stir-fried with vegetables and garlic, and Portuguese seafood porridge. The portions are large – a Macanese tradition.

Photos: Macau Government Tourist Office, Mandarin Oriental. [Article link]