Macau Travel Blog› entry 32 of 52 › view all entries
Welcome to Macau, the former Portugese colony that's under contruction to become an almost exact copy of Las Vegas. Macau is - just like Hong Kong - a Special Administrive Region (SAR) in the People's Republic of China, meaning they enjoy quite some freedom to make and practice their own laws. It's the only place in China where you can legally own and operate a casino, and with an enormous Chinese middle class coming up with money to burn, guess where all the big players want to be?
An hour away from Hong Kong by ferry, Macau is always busy building newer, bigger and better casinos. Some are new concepts (The Babylon, Ponte 16), some are identical twins of their Las Vegas brothers and sisters (the Wynn, the Venetian). It's estimated that the amount of beds available will triple over the coming years, and with it Macau's revenue.
I arrive in Macau in the afternoon and go hostel hunting. After getting lost in the old quarter I find myself in the San Va Hospederia, a basic (baaaasic) but charming hostel not far from Largo de Senado and it's historic buildings. And if I say basic (baaaasic) I'm not exaggerating: my double room consists of four palets acting as walls and there's no roof. If I would climb one of the paperthin 'walls' I could directly look into the other rooms.
I drop off my bags and start Mission:Macau: to play in every single one of the big casino's. The Grand Lisboa is first on the list. It's a massive tower shaped like a... Ah nevermind, I don't know what it's shaped like. Although it's four in the afternoon, every table is full with Chinese trying their luck. They're playing en masse at the baccarat tables, which seems to their favorite game.
After breaking even at the Grand Lisboa, I'm heading to the Wynn. In front of the Wynn is a sizable pont with a foutainshow every now and then, Vegas Bellagio style. At first I thought Steve Wynn cunningly nicked it for his Macau resort, but later I find out that he actually owned the Bellagio at some point, so then it's okay, I guess.
At the MGM Grand I quickly lose my Wynn winnings, make up an excuse to myself about the vibe lacking in this casino and leave again. I'm playing like a backpacker, only small stakes and although I'm now up just 25E, I'm as happy as I could be. I'm a child in a toy and candy shop! The Galaxy is up next, then I hop in a cab to Venice, to beat the Venetian. The Venetian is an exact copy of it's Las Vegas counterpart, located at the Cotai Strip, the future heavywight in the Macau gambling industry.
After a very short sleep I set out to see old Macau. Visiting Macau and only seeing the new Macau wouldn't be fair. Via the old quarter I walk to the fort and the remains of St. Pauls cathedral, which are hugely disappointing. It's just the front facade standing there, nothing else to see. The little square at the base of the steps is charming though, but no restaurant, let alone bar seized that opportunity yet. Fancy becoming a multi-miller? Head to Macau's St. Pauls ruins, buy some houses (won't coast you an arm or a leg) and train your staff english. Tres importante, as almost noone speaks english here, so make yourself stand out.
To complete my mission, I carry on to visit Ponte 16 (a new kid on the block), The Sands (massive), the Babylon (worth checking out just for the shopping mall alone: architecture and styles from all over the world, little Amsterdam, Miami, Trinidad, Athens and Cape Town among others) and finally the Lisboa (sucks). I head back to the ferry terminal completely drained of all energy. The flashy lights, tingling bells, bright colours and screaming advertisements, everything is in constant need of your attention. That, and the icy airco's mess up your system.
- It's true what they say: there are a lot of Chinese. Like more than you thought there would be. Seriously.
- And they all love baccarat.
- And the Black Eyes Peas. Maybe there is some hidden, subconscious message in their music that makes you want to spent money, but every single casino plays them. Every single one! And mainly Elephunk, their first album that's tres old by now, not even the new one.
To do before I die: gambling in Macau: check!
After thirty hours I've had my fix of casinos, glitter and glamour. Mission accomplished. Time to go back to the sanity of Hong Kong and it's millions of people. Macau keeps going strong though. Macau doesn't stop. It goes on and on, ever building, ever tingling, ever flashing and screaming for your attention - and money.