Live well, travel better in Macau

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Wellness tourism, one of the fastest growing tourism segments pre-Covid, is expected to flourish even more in the wake of the pandemic as people place more importance on safety and prioritise their personal health and well-being as a priority when they travel after months of limbo and uncertainty.

With travellers likely to slow down their pace and explore destinations in greater depth at their own pace, Macau, brimming with immersive and sustainable offerings, will make an ideal post-Covid wellness destination.

There are myriad ways that travel agents can plan and design a Macau itinerary towards health and well-being so that clients can look forward to a balanced mix of cultural immersion and restorative attractions in the dynamic city. Here’s a guide to a refreshing and revitalising experience in Macau.

1.    Conscious dining with Macanese flavours

With a culinary legacy dating back more than 400 years, Macau is often regarded as the birthplace of fusion food and was designated a Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO. Its rich culinary scene is now ushering in a growing health movement that places equal emphasis on fresh produce and sustainable practices, as well as pandemic-related hygienic measures such as temperature checks and ubiquitous provision of hand sanitisers.

Sum Yuen, nestled in the Pou Tai Sin Un Buddhist Monastery, elevates vegetarian dining to new heights with its creative takes of humble dishes like mushroom, avocado and eggplant. Sightsee around the ornate prayer hall and sculptures-dotted pavilions at this picturesque temple, which is one of Macau’s biggest and oldest, while monks tend the vegetable plots that supply the fresh produce to the onsite vegetarian restaurant.

For vegan and health-conscious clients, agents should steer them to The Blissful Carrot, a bohemian-style outlet tucked amid the quaint lanes of Taipa Village. This small joint offers an eclectic array of tempting plant-based menu, spanning acai bowl, gluten-free pancakes as well as its much-raved Kombucha – all served in environmentally friendly tableware.

As the old Chinese saying goes, good medicine tastes bitter, the nourishing concoctions dispensed by Herbal Treasures at Studio City are anything but. Teaming up with the Chinese Medicine Association of Macau, the teahouse at Studio City serves up wellness-focused meals that harness the holistic healing power of food – think Chinese herbal jellies, herbal tonic teas, double-boiled soups and wholesome desserts.

IFTM Educational Restaurant’s commitment to sustainable gastronomy has led to its inaugural Michelin Green Star – the first for Macau. The much-loved institution not only devotes itself to training the next generation of hospitality and culinary students, it also employs practices such as turning food waste into fertiliser and growing its own greens.

2.    Holistic fun for all ages

Macau brims with offerings and activities that will guarantee wholesome fun for travellers of all types and ages. Parents – or in fact, anyone – can rest easy when visiting attractions, hotels and integrated resorts across Macau, as places of interest as well as public areas continue abiding by strict standards of cleanliness and sanitisation.

Aqua World at The Parisian Macao, with its abundance of water features, wading pool, pirate ship, water slides and more, will be a great pitstop for families to relax, recharge and bond over splashing fun. Inside Parisian Macao also sits the 1,900sqm Qube Kingdom which is a playground paradise for children and adults who love adventure.

Another strong pick for families – or curious minds – will be the Macau Science Center, a striking cone-shaped building the work of influential Chinese-American architect IM Pei. As much as an architectural masterpiece as it is an educational stop, the museum has over 20,000sqm of space devoted to exploring everything from robotics to space travel to extreme weather conditions across 12 permanent galleries, exhibits and a planetarium.

Nourish minds and bellies at Mighty Greens, Macau’s first and only urban farm nestled on a beautiful rooftop in Old Taipa. Here, visitors keen on conscious living and food education will get a hands-on opportunity on microgreen planting, while gaining more awareness of the environmental impacts of their food choices.

What’s a trip without some souvenirs and mementoes? In Taipa, O-Moon is a lifestyle souvenir shop that sells creative yet practical products that take inspiration from Macanese culture and way of life. Many items in this shop come artfully decorated with Azulejo patterns – painted tin-glazed ceramic tilework that can be seen adorning the walls of heritage buildings in Macau.

The Macau government has since last year launched the Distinctive Shops programme, which aims at supporting small establishments with unique characteristics to the public and visitors. Travel agents should pencil in Rua 5 de Outubro in the itinerary for clients, as this heritage area has 50 local stores recognised for their uniqueness, including traditional teahouse Tai Long Fong, vegetarian café Vega Vega as well as Chinese wedding dress retailer Quinquilharia 168.

3.    Putting bodies and minds at ease

From partaking in cutting-edge spa treatments to destressing amid green enclaves tucked within the city, there are many ways travellers to Macau can soothe their minds and bodies during a visit to the destination.

At MGM Cotai, which was again named a five-star hotel by Forbes Travel Guide in 2021, Tria Spa’s tree-inspired art installations and tiny glass leaves dangling from the ceiling will soothe away any stress and kinks of travelling. The two-storey, forest-like wonderland features special offerings such as a sound therapy lounge, vitality pool and personalised therapies that span from Himalayan healing rituals to hot stone massages.

Spread over 6,000sqm on levels 15 and 16 of the Altira Macau complex, the award-winning Altira Spa – ranked five stars by Forbes Travel Guide for more than a decade – will quickly put your clients at ease with its expansive and luxurious set-up. The tranquil haven provides a multi-sensory therapeutic experience through its wet spa facilities, including crystal steam rooms, vitality pools and experience showers, accompanied by panoramic views of the Macau peninsula and South China Sea.

Senses – and views – are literally elevated at Iridium Spa, the sophisticated sanctuary perched 38 stories atop The St. Regis Macao. The city’s highest spa pampers guests by channeling the healing properties of gemstones into its signature treatments while also infusing reinvigorating scents into moisturising massage oils to offer pampering treatments customised to individual preferences.

Opportunities to relax and recharge can also be found among Macau’s untouched pockets of greenery and urban trails, with the 90m-high Guia Hill being one of the most accessible yet lesser explored spot among visitors. The park’s walking trails weave past a floral garden and lake in the lower area, a network of pre-war anti-air raid shelters and fitness training stations, plus up-close encounters with birds, spiders and other animal species that call this area home. At the summit, a fortress, lighthouse and bird’s eye view of the surroundings await.

While Coloane Village may be more frequented for its historic churches and established restaurants such as Lord Stow’s Bakery (birthplace of Macau’s egg tarts), anyone with an interest in ecosystem conservation should head to the Ecological Trail Garden of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants and South China Medicinal Plants Garden tucked within the Seac Pai Van Park. Here, visitors can walk through canopied footpaths at their own pace to discover native species (think sweet Osmanthus, ivy tree and Chinese chrysanthemum) as well as their therapeutic effects and health benefits.

As the pandemic situation remains stable in Macau – in fact, the city has to date recorded Covid-19 cases in just double digits – it has reopened doors to travellers from mainland China and is gradually relaxing restrictions for foreigners entering the territory for business, studies or essential work purposes. Macau, with its strict epidemic prevention and control measures, remains a safe and welcome destination for all visitors.