AWAY-NIGHT Macau Banyan Tree

Banyan Tree Macau, Pool Villa

Think Phuket countryside plonked in Vegas. I look across my pool and a semi-private river to – the glaring day-glo yellow and scarlet signs of Grand Waldo Casino Hotel…  But back to the beginning. A charming, diplomat-like Filipino, Jonathan, holds my name prominently as I exit the Hong Kong jetfoil.  The Mercedes takes 18 minutes to the giant Galaxy complex, a pair of parallel 32-floor, golden glass and cream concrete towers, each topped by 3 helicopter-sized lattice balls (24ct gold, no less). One tower is the Galaxy hotel. The other, vertically split, is an Okura and the 256r Banyan Tree. Between towers, a 200m-wide area holds the 2 floor-high casino. Above this is Asia’s largest wave pool (150m sandy beach), plus separate pools for the 3 hotels.  Architects are Chhada Siembieda, Simon Kwan and, for Banyan Tree, Architrave.


Jonathan and escorts take me to this upper-level ‘outside’. I decline the buggy, and walk past lush tropical gardens and Banyan Tree’s 30m pool, flanked by Capri double loungers and 4 fully-air-conditioned solid-structure cabanas • Villa 506 is one of 10 ‘exclusives’.  The outer brass-wood door door in the 3m-high security wall, opened by pressure pad, requires a solid push. Inside a 4m walkway, between stone statues and low palms and decorative water, leads to the main door, which again requires pressure-pad entry. I am straight into the living area, with golden, cloud-patterned carpet atop honey marble flooring, fret and golden-floral papered walls, and a wooden cathedral ceiling rising to a skylight. A quartet of concave-sided beaded chandeliers breaks the height, as does a palm tree.  I look out, to my 15 x 10m blue-tiled pool with inset, raised, glass-walled really-hot hot tub: either side of the swim area are stones-base decorative pools that join, at the end, the shared ‘river’ that runs past all the villas. I have 4 terrace loungers and a covered sala, with 4-seat dining.   Inside, I have 8-seat dining, a big desk with instant Wifi, an iPad, mobile phone and masses of sockets. The 110cm Samsung television looks across at the hospitality bar, with FrancisFrancis espresso, 6 china-capped own-filled water bottles with today’s date (in Banyan Tree’s distinctive black and white fabric pouches).  The glass-fronted minibar has Veuve Clicquot, Red Bull and Sunraysia drinks, and hotel-boxed almond cookies and Phoenix egg rolls.  A gold-labelled holder explains that for today, Sunday, the burning oil is Pine, with a Bergamot joss stick.


Villa 506 has a 2nd (twin-bed) bedroom and a double spa suite. The master bedroom is dominated by a centrally-set raised platform with silk bolsters either end – and a trouser press. A satin-lined black fabric box holds 5 tiny (6 x 3cm) pillows, clearly marked medium soft, hard foam, neck foam, double-curved foam and non-allergenic fibre ball. The main bathroom, totally honey marble, has pool-facing door, and clear-glass shower and toilet walls. I have a sauna, a central, circular Jacuzzi tub, and a honey-damask sofa. The long malachite stand holds 2 raised, circular basins (above, 3m wide mirror with inset television). Fret double-doors cover storage areas, with golden silk and black-white cotton robes (and slippers), and a dark green umbrella.  The safe is closest to the Japanese wash-let convenience, which causes potential door inconvenience • I see personalized stationery. The Guide to Services and other items stand upright in one of 2 holders, the other for Chinese versions.  I head up to the 31st floor Technogym – I am the only human, save for 2 track-suited attendants. There is just time for a quick swim in my villa pool.


Dinner is in Belon, the rooftop dining complex that stretches forever.  You glide elegantly down 21 dark blue glass steps into a fashion-show area that is white, bright and fun. At the mixologist’s nest, Gabriele makes signature champagne-caviar cocktails, Perrier-Joüet with 8 caper-sized liquor-filled blue balls – start drinking when they rise to the surface.  The all-white wall behind has rows of champagne glasses holding bright coloured liquids, their level rising-lowering in melodic fashion. Pass the busily-manned oyster-shucking table, then a grand piano, and to the 82-seat dining area, divided lengthwise (identical smoking, and non-smoking, sides) by a triumphant avenue of what looks like 5m-high vertical wishbones. You can see, beyond, the main cooking area, topped with dozens of $350 Ruffoni saucepans. Behind is the wine store, where flights of Latour and Screaming Eagle are about to be stored. We tour the cigar room, with its Monte Cristo-filled humidor and Macau’s best trolley of Caribbean rums.


Our table (non-smoking) is in an alcove bordered by a metre-high white wall that, again as a melody, gently curves, ebbs and flows. It is set with grey linens, grey metallic-look ceramics and Narumi, a small lighted candle, no salt and peppers – your choice of salt is grated, over unsalted butter.  Heavy leather-covered menus open to reveal LCD-backlit pages, offering steakhouse-meets-El Bulli (chef Matias Martinez is Catalan).  The oyster selection comes mountain-high on ice, with finger bowls and plates changed with every empty shell. US prime steaks arrive simply, on slates, with sides on hot pads – choose your favourite handle from a box of 6 Laguiole knives. The sommelier suggests Quinto de Carno 2005. The finale is an irresistible lemon ‘mess’, lemon cream, almond tart and lemon ice cream, on slate.


I hear how  Francis Lui, wine-loving vice chairman of K Wah Group, whose hotels include Hong Kong Grand Stanford InterCon and Stanford-owned big brands across the USA, cleverly procured one of the oh-so-few Macau gaming licences, which he partly sold on to, for instance, MGM.  Galaxy opened early 2011, sees 40,000-70,000 visitors daily and already it controls 25% of Macau’s gaming. Phase One includes the 3 hotels – Okura has 25% premium over Galaxy’s room rate, and Banyan Tree is a further 25% up. Add 50 restaurants, and 9 screening rooms and, to come, Phase 2, 2 more hotels • Macau SAR’s government is reluctant to give work visas and yet unemployment is 2.4% – is it true some job-seekers come as consultants, and somehow stay?  Banyan Tree gm Rudy Oretti operates his total 227 keys – smallest, 100 sq m, with circular wood soaking tub plus a 2x2m filled ‘relaxation’ pool – with a team of 380, though 480 are budgeted.  He anticipated 65% occupancy, 3-night average, but he gets 90% at 1.4nights (30%-80% casino-hosted), which puts increased pressure on services.


Villa 506’s tub is surrounded by burgundy rose petals and lit nightlights. The sleeping platform is now a bed, with finest, silk-feel linens and my requested pillows. A green turtle (fabric) sits on a card signed by Banyan Tree chairman Ho Kwon Ping explaining that $2 is added to my bill for his (real) turtle-saving Green Imperative Fund, guest initiative to have it removed. I sleep immediately. My 0445 personalised wakeup precedes an 0500 Skype.  Later, return to the gym, still empty, and shower, and have 2 eureka thoughts. Why do I increasingly dislike ceramic push-pump toiletries? Also, why do I increasingly use pool towels rather than bathroom-specific ‘fluffy towels’ (they dry better)?


I am warned that Saffron, the all-day Thai restaurant that looks like a 15m-squared wood cube, is packed, mostly with multigenerational PRCs (mainland Chinese). Wood tables bear orange fabric mats, white napkins and Narumi, WMF cutlery. This is one of the best cups of breakfast coffee in months – Illy beans, WMF machine. A waiter offers test-tubes of Bellinis, each held upright in a black rubber base. I help myself to well-labelled fresh juices, eschew the 2 sparklings. An adjacent room holds the buffets and show kitchen. I luxuriate with fresh berries (strawberries already halved) and a prune-filled Ferme des Peupliers yoghurt. Hotel home-made seed-filled rye bread is toasted (medium or well?), and brought with 30g Beurre Echiré, in a cocotte • I head to the spa, like a Phuket haven (where, among the full-size bamboos and 3m-high circular arches and water galore, are the monks?): the black ceiling is a back-lit collage of white birds. Sangzhi, one of 21 treatment rooms, has bamboo, grey stone and soft green walls, and one real living wall. I am given proper ‘disposable underwear’ (a knitted tube briefly joined centre of the base). Orothai, one of 17 Thai therapists, asks if I want my ginger tea with or without honey.  It comes with jackfruit and voghurt, and a deep wai. There are more wais as I am popped into my departing car.

from The Gostelow Report - article exclusive online to CPP-LUXURY.COM

Mary Gostelow