We’re instructed to take our shoes off and walk across a pebbly path that meanders below the banyan trees in Camoes Garden. It’s a path made for reflexology, and it’s just what the doctor ordered after a day of walking the hills and braving the heat for an iPad tour through Macau’s historic center. It’s also one in a list of mindful attributes that would come to characterize Macau and our stay with Sheraton Macao Hotel.
Positioned in the heart of Macau’s energized Cotai Strip, the 3,896-room hotel was largely inspired by China’s fabled Silk Road. To this extent, well-thought-out cultural design elements are spread throughout interiors, guest rooms and the hotel’s two towers, Sky and Earth. The Silk Road theme also plays out in practical ways. All meeting spaces are located on the fourth and fifth floors, creating a central gathering spot for the international groups who gather here and the sharing of ideas.
Planners have access to over 150,000 sf of state-of-the-art meeting space, the largest being the Kashgar Grand Ballroom. Large-scale events for 12 to 5,000 take place here and throughout six junior ballrooms and six meeting rooms, all conveniently located on the fourth and fifth floors. Ms. Lei, a freelance teacher hired by the hotel for the afternoon, gave us a tai chi/Chinese fan dancing lesson in one of the Pamirs junior ballrooms. The cultural design aesthetics of the room combined with music and the group’s collective fluid movements were both energizing and meditative.
Every meeting and function at the Sheraton Macao Hotel is assigned to an event manager and event concierge, which acts as the single point of contact for planners. We experienced their creative flair and flawless execution firsthand during an on-site themed dinner that featured a Chinese cultural performance. The candlelit table was elegantly donned and positioned directly in front of a stage where dramatic acrobatics, musical performances and dancing opened the door for conversation. The combined 129,000 sf of deck space at Sala, Jaya and Tiki pools offer fresh alternative options for meetings and events. Poolside cabanas boast inviting day beds and cooling ceiling fans. Tiki is reserved exclusively for private events and is a popular choice for sunset cocktails due to its clear vantage point of the Cotai Strip.
Sheraton Macao offers a number of locally-infused f&b programs—from Portuguese cooking classes to dynamic encounters with popular movie characters. Xin, one of the hotel’s three signature restaurants, offers groups an exciting tailor-made dining experience. After selecting a broth base, individual hotpots are placed in front of everyone at the table along with a basket of fresh ingredients such as seafood, meat varieties, garden-fresh veggies and a variety of noodles. The dining experience makes a chef out of everyone at the table without anyone actually having to do any of the grunt work. The consensus within the group is that this sort of hands-on dining offers a tangible, hyperlocal quality that injects meaning into the meal. Waitstaff are eager to serve up signature dim sum and offer hotpot pairing advice. Under their guidance, the Asian soups were sensational. For a creative spin on high tea, be sure to book the tropical-themed Palms restaurant. A tea sommelier is on hand to personalize the experience, whether through a first-time concoction or giving groups a fresh spin on a signature drink. The local DreamWorks gang offers a fun and lively Shrekfast breakfast at the hotel that includes close encounters with Shrek, Toothless, from “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Kung Fu Panda’s” Po and other popular characters. Kicking the day off with Shrek’s donkey pop cakes and dragon eggs is sure to get the creative juices flowing in your group.
Macau Tower not only offers sweeping panoramic views, but the most extreme bungee jump from over 60 stories in the air. The majority of our group strapped on harnesses and walked around the outside of the glass-walled observation lounge for a SkyWalk. The 360 degree views of Macau Peninsula, Taipa, Coloane, Hengqin Island and Pearl River Delta, combined with the adrenaline rush that came from the stunts we were instructed to perform by our guide, made for an unforgettable teambuilding exercise. Along with high-octane adventure, Macau Tower also contains a convention and exhibition center; highlights include a 3D movie theatre seating 500, an outdoor plaza and three large-capacity halls. Half-day tours into the Historic Center of Macau can be arranged by the hotel. We hooked up with local DMC smallWorld Experience for an iPad tour. Broken into teams, the groups were sent on a virtual scavengar hunt with a local guide. To everyone’s delight, the teambuilding exercise ended at the iconic ruins of St. Paul after winding through the city for some of the most iconic attractions.
At a local temple, the group cast sticks for a fortune teller, and lit incense to honor the gods. One of the biggest cultural highlights was Camoes Garden and Grotto, a vast urban landscape with over 200,000 sf of greenery. The garden is festooned with locals who gather to socialize, play Chinese chess and hang their bird cages in the trees like the original owner of the grotto once did. We’re told that the pavilions and buildings in the compound once looked like nests from the distance due to the owner’s affinity for pigeons. In a space carved out by wispy trees, monuments and park benches, we were given a traditional Chinese fan dancing lesson. The clattering sounds of the fans opening and closing drew a crowd of locals who smiled and clapped at our artistry and oftentimes, folly.
A visit to the taoist A-Ma Temple on Macau Peninsula was another highlight. The temple honors the goddess of seafarers and fisherman. As such, locals come to pray and tourists come to climb the winding stairs that overlook colorful temples, hanging a prayer card adorned with a red gem on the central tree as they leave. Macau also offers the world’s largest water-based show, “The House of Dancing Water,” blending Chinese and European cultures with water aerobics, aerial arts and stunts. On-site group options include a harmonizing Feng Shui-aligned Shine Spa session with wood, fire, earth, metal and water treatments. Group rates are available and an iPad application matches essential oils and elements to individual needs.