The first time I was drunk, it was in Macau.
It was me and a group of 6 other friends. We were 16. We all bought some Tsing Tao’s, had some drinking games, and were testing our limits. Needless to say, since we’ve never knew what it was like to be drunk before, I remembered that night my world was spinning like crazy, as if you were on a roller coaster that spun you around 360 degrees over and over again. I remembered feeling really bad and wished that I was a better son to my mom, and that I was going to die.
Another really early time I indulged in Macau was when, fortunate with some family friend’s help, we were treated to Grand Lisboa suite, two of them. Back then, Grand Lisboa was the shit – nothing existed in Taipa just yet. Imagine you’re 18 or less and you have television screens with your name on it when you walk in the room overlooking the Macau bridge – you felt you were the shit. I remembered we were walking at Lisboa (not Grand Lisboa) and there were all these prostitutes just asking us whether we wanted to go up, and how we were allowed to gamble since the gambling age back then was 18 (now it is 21).
That was my first taste of Macau in its “adventure” sense. Other things I’ve done in Macau include go kart, walking around at the top of the Macau Tower (my sister actually did the bungee jump 😮 ), dining at 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo and Robuchon au Dome, Macau (credits to my friends), grabbing those salted beef egg sandwiches just before boarding the Macau ferry back to Hong Kong at An Lei, Hed Kandi parties at Venetian, listening to married women confessing their unhappiness in their relationship, watching the USA Basketball team practice in Venetian, having a private secret gigantic karaoke room in Galaxy ;), partied at pool parties where I soaked and destroyed my phone. Something I missed out was that my sister and my dad got to taste red wine that was worth couple of millions of dollars once.
Macau was also our go-to place on Sunday nights for me and my banking friends. A few years back, me and a group of colleagues loved playing poker, but our night shifts forced us to wake up at 1pm and sleep at 5am. That meant that we weren’t able to enjoy our Friday nights, but we were alive on Sunday nights. So what did we do on Sundays? We used to take the ferry at 10pm, get there by 11pm and started playing poker until 5am, get breakfast, and take the ferry 6am to go to sleep then back to work on Monday. Those were gooooood times.
What I’m trying to make is that, it sounds like Macau was supposed to be the Las Vegas of Asia – there was supposed to be an allure, an exoticism, a mysterious atmosphere that it was supposed to happen. Yet, my dashing dreams of wishing Macau to be an entertainment hub like Las Vegas slowly and gradually evaporated, especially on my last trip to Macau.
You see, Macau used to be a former colony of the Portuguese empire, hence the prevalence of Portuguese language, food, architecture, and culture everywhere you go in Macau. Of course, just like Hong Kong, Macau is a special administrative region under China and will remain a SAR until Dec. 2049. I won’t go into too much history, as you can find it all on Wikipedia.
Now for those of you who don’t know, Macau depends hugely on its gambling industry. Its gambling industry is fueled by tourists, and a huge majority of these tourists come from – you guessed it – China! Perhaps its the way they approach these gambling places, but when they come to gamble, they bring luggages of cash and gamble. I’ve seen guys wearing your normal Giordano clothings who were sitting not at the VIP section, but just at the normal section, and betting USD 5,000 per hand. When they come to gamble, they come to purely gamble. In Las Vegas, the gambling aspect is part of the entertainment aspect, and people are there to have fun and try out their luck. In Macau, luck determines how much fun they have. The seriousness in gambling in Macau is far more extreme than Vegas.
I love Macau employees as compared to Vegas. Macau employees were so jaded and professional that they were able to clean my decks and do the maths really quickly, whereas because Vegas has an atmosphere of leisure to it, they do it more casually. I used to play all the hands on Blackjack (I had the basic strategy memorised, including adjusting to the playing system of casinos for example some casinos allow you to split Aces more than twice or allowed you to surrender etc., Galaxy back then had the worst player odds due to their system). It was fast and thrilling, I knew exactly what to do with a pair 7’s against a 3 or 6 or 10.
How times have changed. Macau people speak Cantonese primarily, yet in my most recent trip, the casino AND hotel employees don’t even understand a word of Cantonese – they all speak Mandarin. Casinos have adjusted to take out games that weren’t as profitable or popular (Poker, Blackjack, I don’t even see much Craps) in preference for extremely popular Chinese game Baccarat (hate this game, pure luck, players always bend the cards so it’s a waste of cost to reprint cards and environmental damage). A few years back, ferries and casinos were packed to the max. Now? It’s been relatively more quiet, despite the new casinos coming up.
By the way, the new casinos that have been built over in Taipa, such as Wynn Palace, The Parisian Macao, MGM Cotai, St. Regis, Morpheus, Studio City… they are all eye dropping. They are stunning. I love places like those – I also really like Marina Bay Sands in Singapore as well (yes so I’m a big fan of Wynn and Sands designs). Hope more entertainment can be done with these new hotels / casinos, because they have outstanding interior design.
I hope it doesn’t become a waste. I know Vegas had rough times too until they began marketing it as a family vacation spot, then a fun spot (what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas), and I hope the same becomes of Macau.
This time I stayed at the Galaxy Macau. The Galaxy complex also encompasses Hotel Okura, Ritz Carlton, Broadway Macau, JW Marriott, Banyan Tree. They also have an amazing “water playground”, with fake beaches, and waves to ride on.
Restaurants and Entertainment
House of Dancing Water (website)
Second time I’ve watched it, and I still love it! Amazing stunts, but confusing storyline. Cool show. I would still watch it again.
A Lorcha (website)
A very famous Portuguese restaurant, you have to come try! It’s better than the next one which I’m going to introduce after (not part of most recent trip):
Est. de Comida Portuguesa “Porto” (Openrice)
Supposedly the number one most popular restaurant in Macau on Openrice, this Portuguese restaurant failed to live up to its expectations in all ways – service (just normal), food (just OK), and ambience / atmosphere / design (outside we thought wait is this the restaurant we booked?)
San Hou Lei
I only had the stomach to have two egg tarts by that time. One was Portuguese egg tart, one was the bird’s nest egg tart. Both were really delicious.
Curry place in Macau
Sei Kee Cafe
Pretty much in many places in Macau due to its popularity. Some are just takeaways though. Here we ordered milk tea, salted beef egg sandwich, and something else (can’t remember at the moment 🙁 )
Restaurante Litoral Taipa
Didn’t try, just passed by.
Lots to eat along these streets.
The Macallan Whisky Bar & Lounge | Galaxy Macau (website)
Beautiful whisky bar in Galaxy, a breath of fresh air from the over-indulgence of gold in Galaxy. Live music at nights. Feels like a speakeasy (wonder if there is actually a secret room?) Very affordable drinks. 10/10 would come back.