Ryan Rudnansky | May 07, 2015 1:10 PM ET
Macau Felt Like Home: An American's Take
My first trip to Macau—and Asia, for that matter—was supposed to be completely foreign, completely earth-shattering and, well, completely uncomfortable.
The more you travel internationally, the more you come to accept that you will probably exhibit some symptoms of uneasiness or awkwardness in a foreign country (you know, loud nervous talking, wary eyes and sweaty palms). That’s part of travel, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing because stretching your limits can help you learn and grow.
That being said, my trip to Cotai—a reclaimed piece of land between the Taipa and Coloane islands in Macau—didn’t seem that foreign at all, come to think of it.
Sure, it wasn’t exactly California, where I was coming from. The language is different. The culture is different. And the streets are different.
But, then again, the people you are with and the people you meet can change that.
For my first trip to Asia, I was lucky enough to be hosted by Sheraton Macao Hotel, Cotai Central and its fantastic PR team. I was also lucky enough to be part of a diverse media group that had its fair share of characters.
During the press trip, I saw “The House of Dancing Water” water show at the City of Dreams entertainment complex, courtesy of famous director Franco Dragone (known for creating the “Mystere” and “O” Cirque de Soleil shows in Las Vegas, among other things). I received a tour of Macau City, Taipa Village and Coloane. I walked along the top of the Macau Tower, and played drums on it (yes, drums, up in the sky).
I was introduced to a variety of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including St. Domingos Church, Santa Casa de Misericordia, the Ruins of St. Paul’s (perhaps the most impressive, a façade featuring biblical figures, mythological figures, Chinese lions and more), Camoes Garden (a lovely garden/park that includes a stone path that gives you a good foot massage) and Mount Fortress (scaling an ancient fortress with old cannons can only be awesome; it’s a fact).
I also dined at XIN Restaurant (my first taste of the Asian hot pot concept) and Albergue 1601 (a great Mediterranean restaurant situated in a quaint little spot underneath winding camphor trees).
I even had “Shrekfast” at Sheraton Macao Hotel with DreamWorks characters.
On top of that, I was part of a competition in which teams bought food from a provided list at Macau City’s Red Market and then were judged as we cooked dinner with the help of a professional chef at Portuguese restaurant Pousada de Coloane.
So, it’s not like any of this was something I had experienced before. There were certainly a lot of unique and unfamiliar sights and attractions during my trip to Macau.
But it’s one thing to experience Macau; it’s quite another to do so with a lending hand from hotel staff members and an assortment of folks who are just as excited about the destination as you are. It felt oddly, dare I say, comfortable.
We enjoyed “The House of Dancing Water” theatrics together. We shared our thoughts of—and reactions to—the local streets, culture and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We ate distinct styles of cooking together. We cooked together. We took pictures with Shrek together. And, yes, some of the media members may have partied a bit together, too.
As a millennial, I will admit that I fit a lot of stereotypes being thrown around out there. I seek authenticity. I love adventure. I want my trips to not only inspire interesting stories, but also be meaningful to me personally.
And this is all fine and dandy.
But I also realized during this trip that you can be too gung ho about authentic travel. In some previous trips to foreign countries, I was more interested in either experiencing it with just locals (including some who didn’t know English) or diving into it solo (traveling alone can be jarring, but also personally rewarding) than experiencing it with fellow Americans. I didn’t see as much value in experiencing it with other Americans because I was more interested in how people from the actual destination thought and felt.
Indeed, these can be ways to capture the feel of a place authentically. But I realized in Macau that these aren’t the only ways.
You can still truly capture authentic destinations and interact with locals meaningfully with people that share your own culture. In fact, during this trip, it actually made it more rewarding in that I felt more comfortable in a foreign land from the start and that made it easier to dive into the destination and open up.
This column was supposed to be about the differences between Macau and the United States, or the similarities between the Cotai Strip and the Las Vegas Strip; at least, that was what I originally planned.
Instead, it became about how the PR team at Sheraton Macao, my media group and some of the locals in Macau made me feel at home.
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