Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Vegas v Macau...uh, there is NO comparison!

One of the new adventures we embarked on when Kari was here was a trip to Macau.

Macau is an island. At one time it was a Portuguese settlement. It also is known for its clothes manufacturing (Quick...go check some of your sweater labels…I’ll wait…and I will bet that somewhere in your house there is a “made in macau” label on something you own.)

However, what Macau is BEST known for right now…is Casinos. In the true sense of “if you build it they will come” mentality, Macau has been a hot spot of casino building and boy oh boy, are these places impressive.

The easiest way to get to Macau is by Ferry. There is no shortage of Ferry’s heading to Macau. You can take them from either Hong Kong Island or Kowloon. We opted for “Deluxe” class, not knowing what “not deluxe” would be like. We sat upstairs, in assigned seats, and were served a light dinner with a drink. We did not have to pay for this…it was “included”. The ride was smooth, uneventful and perfectly on time. It was great. “Deluxe” class was pretty empty for a Friday night.

We also opted to have a car from the hotel meet us at the ferry terminal. Never having been before, we were not sure what to expect, our timing to the hotel, or what immigration would be like. We were met like clockwork with the dutiful hotel employee holding up “MAHJOUBIAN” right at the exit from immigration.

OH…immigration? Yep. Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) like Hong Kong is an SAR…but even though they have the same designation, they are completely different places and we needed our pass ports to get in (and out) Kari liked it b/c it meant yet ANOTHER stamp in her brand new passport.

We booked in at the Venetian Hotel. It was a fifteen minute drive from the terminal and even in the fading light was something to see.

As I said, Macau is building Casino complex after casino complex. The Venetian Macau boasts the largest casino floor in the world…not the most rooms, but the largest casino floor.

The newest complex to be built in Macau is the Galaxy. It opened May 15 to much fanfare. We tried to get a reservation, but they were 100% booked. It is three different hotels. The opening was so grand and touted, that the Galaxy bought every inch of advertising space in our MTR station for AN ENTIRE MONTH!

Walking into the Venetian was breathtaking. If you have seen the Venetian in Vegas, this looks pretty much the same.

We checked in quickly and efficiently. Corey was only propositioned once on our way to the room, but hey, it was early on in the evening and we were pretty sure the working girls were not out yet. We would see plenty more of them working the floor later.

All of the rooms at the Venetian are suites and ours was beautiful. Our view was of the Power Plant…but I am used to that type of view. In Las Vegas we normally get the parking garage view. Hey, if you care about your view, you are in Vegas (or Macau) for the wrong reasons.

Friday night and we were ready to get some dinner and drinks and hit the tables. Kari wanted to freshen up…so, WELL over an hour later, we hit the floor.

Let’s just say that the paint job, the rooms and the shops of the Venetian is pretty much where the similarity to Las Vegas ENDS.

There is obvious security everywhere (maybe to help deter the not so subtle working girls?). Someone is standing at every entrance to the Casino floor, and there is someone at the entrance of each wing of the hotel to make sure only key holders go upstairs.

Next, come the games. I was looking around for a simple black jack table, but there weren’t many of those to be found. Those that I did find had some pretty high stakes. Baccarat is one of the most popular games, along with Roulette and Sic Bo (a triple dice game that allows you to bet on what the total number of the dice will be OR bet on what the three numbers will come up to be…crazy, but boy oh boy were people standing in line to play and bet).

So, the rooms were like the Venetian in Vegas, the paint job was like the Venetian in Vegas, and some of the games were like Vegas. But the next thing we noticed literally almost stopped us in our tracks.

For those of you who have been to Las Vegas, besides the games, the noise and the cigarette smoke, what is the one thing you notice about to see on the casino? Cocktail waitresses of course, with endless trays of drinks for the players. Some players order water, but most are taking advantage of the free flowing alcohol. In fact, I have always thought that the Casinos were eager to provide the drinks so people would play loose and free with their money.

This is not the case in Macau. In fact, the only thing you see going by on trays are tiny water bottles…hundreds of them. There are so many water bottles that there are carts full of them staged all over the casino floor. Macau has NOT gotten the memo about plastics and bottles. I hope these are being recycled, but I am not holding my breath.

From what we understand, the Casinos were built to appeal to the Mainland Chinese gambler. For them, it is all about the play not about the entertainment.

Kari and I went to a Cirque du Soleil show on Saturday night. It was called ZAIA. I thought it was about the beginning of man(the clowns kept running around with an egg). Come to find out it was about a young girls’ perception of the stars and the universe (um ok) It was a good show. We enjoyed it. However, the theater was 40% full. When in Vegas could you ever get a 4th row seat to a show on a Saturday night two days before the show? NEVER!

Even the stores had very few customers. In TST on a Sunday shoppers line up to get into the high end stores…not in Macau!

Again, it is all about the gambling, and not about the other possible entertainments. As we left we found out that the Venetian had 93% occupancy last year. That is CRAZY for a hotel…but not there!

I hate to admit this in writing, but quite honestly, I found relatively sober Macau pretty darn dull! The only action in the form of yells and screams was to be found at a Craps table, and the party leading the screams was a group of Americans. Kari and I played slots and roulette. Corey played some poker (where he was taught to say $300 in Cantonese)…but I just did not feel the “buzz” (and NO not b/c of a lack of alcohol).It is also still strange to me that I am not able to strike up a conversation with the people next to me. Sigh.

Macau has all the wrappings and trappings of Las Vegas, but little of the excitement…

I really think Kari put it best. “A dry casino is like a dry frat…what’s the point?”


  1. Shoulda had more free drinks in Deluxe! ;-)

  2. NO kidding! Who knew? But I will be prepared for the next trip :)