AsiaMacau

Macau Extravaganza

Macau Travel Blog

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At the Casino Lisboa, arguably the best known frame from Macau

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.

Ape at the Wynn Macau
Macau already rakes in more cash than Vegas, so go figure. With more mega resorts and casinos on their way, the city will also attract international acts, sporting events, clubs and other nightlife. I hope that development will be put in motion soon, because at the moment there's not much to do in Macau at night - except for gambling of course.

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.

Foutainshow at the Wynn
It also means you can hear everything, music, talking, snoring, people barging up the stairs. It's really charming though, and I'm happy I'm staying here. It kinda reminds me of Leonardo DiCaprio's Bangkok hostel in the Beach. How can you not like that? I can recommend the hostel; it's cheap as chips and charming. You might get woken up once or twice by the noises, but then, you're in Macau, you shouldn't be sleeping anyways.

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.

Macau madness
I'll see more of that in Macau. Heavy smoking, very loud, excitedly shouting at each other, the dice, the cards and their chips. What an atmosphere! You can see entire families gambling, a sizable portion of them undoubtly for the first and last time of their lives. The flickering lights, the tingling bells and the surrounding wealth have them in their grip. The hope is there, the magic is working. They're the casinos now.

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.

Banish the night, light 'm up!
Without having seen the Bellagio show live, it's Macau counterpart I find a bit disappointing, nowhere near the scale of the Vegas one. I win big at the Wynn playing blackjack and joke around with some Chinese at the table who have no clue of what I'm saying, and neither do I understand them. But I have a heap of fun. Bring it on, Macau!

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.

Largo de Senado
Although most mega casinos on the Strip haven't opened yet, the ones that are open blast so much light in the sky that the dark night sky is completely lit up. I walk around the casino in the sticky night, enjoying the canals, scenery and the classical music playing softly. After a while I seek refuge in the casino's air conditioned halls and proceed to lose, then decide to quit the gambling - for today. I stroll along the deserted Venetian canals, high end shops and restaurants. Everything's closed however, as it's three at night by now. I go back to the main area and ride the curved escalators - five times, just for the sake of riding a curved escalator. It earns me some annoyed look of the cleaner on the top floor at first, but after the third time he starts laughing and returning my well meant Nihao's everytime I come past.
..with a chinese twist!
Strolling around, waitresses offering me drinks, bellboys opening doors for me and taxidrivers running to serve me: I am the King of Macau.

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.

Portugese roots
Decorate your new place in a fancy Chinese way, but also make sure you have some western dishes of your menu to attract the rich westeners. There you go, free advice from Ape. Now you're all set. Good luck and remember, you heard it here first.

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.

Little Amsterdam at the Babylon Casino Macau
Even if you're just walking in a shopping street, the icy blasts from the open shops confuse your body. It's exhausting. I'm a happy man though. Obeservations I made:

  1. It's true what they say: there are a lot of Chinese. Like more than you thought there would be. Seriously.
  2. And they all love baccarat.
  3. 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.

samio says:
I'm from Macau,born and raised but left my hometown three years ago. I have never been to any single one of those casinos. As a local, seeing all these buildings makes me sad, to me it doesn't look like home anymore. Maybe I shouldn't have said this to tourists (because that's what makes Macau fun for a lot of you guys,and makes us rich too!), but I hope that if you go there next time, try walking the whole city and see the other (non-touristic) side of it. I haven't been home for so long I can't remember what places aren't transformed into casinos anymore. But a place we call "Sai Wan" is my favorite. Also, Coloane (Lou Wan) is a cool place if you like old Portuguese buildings.
Posted on: Jul 26, 2008
Ape says:
Hi Carlota, I'm afraid I can't help you with that question. I got to the Venetian in the middle of the night, and there were no boatrides going on anymore. I reckon slippers would be fine though, if you're only going to do the boats. I could see how the casino wouldn't let you in on slippers, but the boats should be fine.
Nicander
Posted on: May 21, 2008
mikevirgo0824 says:
Tell me about it!
My phone has a 5MP camera.
I gave it to my brother.
We're donating it to a museum! :-D

I'm so happy with my new Canon iXus 970. It's like a third the size of that first sony digicam i bought six years ago! haha
Posted on: May 18, 2008
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At the Casino Lisboa, arguably the…
At the Casino Lisboa, arguably th…
Ape at the Wynn Macau
Ape at the Wynn Macau
Foutainshow at the Wynn
Foutainshow at the Wynn
Macau madness
Macau madness
Banish the night, light m up!
Banish the night, light 'm up!
Largo de Senado
Largo de Senado
..with a chinese twist!
..with a chinese twist!
Portugese roots
Portugese roots
Little Amsterdam at the Babylon Ca…
Little Amsterdam at the Babylon C…
The Wynn at night
The Wynn at night
Lights, lights, everywhere!
Lights, lights, everywhere!
Casino Lisboa at night
Casino Lisboa at night
Lisboa Hotel
Lisboa Hotel
The Wynn Macau
The Wynn Macau
Ape at the Grand Lisboa, shaped li…
Ape at the Grand Lisboa, shaped l…
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Largo de Senado
Largo de Senado
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Largo de Senado
Largo de Senado
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MGM Grand Macau
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Lisboa Fort
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Little Amsterdam in Macau!