Travel Diary: Overnight In Macau
Macau is a strange place.
My husband said it best when he described the stretch of gaudy hotels and casinos as the Las Vegas of Las Vegas. Everything is bigger, brighter and even more soulless than Sin City.
Unsurprisingly, the Cotai Strip, which is the area of Macau with connected, massive hotels, was the red-headed dream child of Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. He built The Venetian Macao in 2007, and opened the Parisian just this year. In between,a Shangri-La, Sheraton, St. Regis, Four Seasons, City of Dreams, MGM Cotai, Grand Hyatt, Conrad Macao and basically any other hotel chain you can imagine cropped up and claimed its spot.
But Macau has not been the thriving money-maker it was imagined to become. Macau’s economy shrunk by 20 percent last year, tourists who did show up didn’t spend much money outside of gambling, and the casino industry was hit by China’s anti-corruption campaign and slow growth.
When we arrived at Steve Wynn’s new baby, the Wynn Palace, we were greeted by a water-fountain show and what feels like big hotels’ requisite Jeff Koons sculpture in the lobby. But the area didn’t feel crowded — there were few tourists in the hallways and even fewer out on the streets walking among the hotels. The whole place felt so new but also old and forgotten, like people abandoned the idea of being there before anything ever really started.
After checking in, we were upgraded from a standard room to a 1-bedroom, 1.5 bath Palace Suite — I’m guessing because the hotel is new and therefore not at full capacity, though it’s hard to imagine any of these giant monstrosities full with hotel guests. Macau has some 30,000 hotel rooms with that number expected to grow as more properties move into town.
Though we only had one tiny suitcase for our overnight stay, a bellman insisted on showing us to our room — and now I know why. When he opened the door, the room was pitch black. He flipped a switch and lights blinked on, automatic curtains drew open to reveal a wall of windows and “Be Our Guest” fromBeauty and The Beast began playing from every TV.
Again, Macau is a strange place. I’m glad we visited for a day, though I’m not sure we’ll return. If you do go, here’s how to find your way:
From Hong Kong, book yourself a round-trip ferry ticket on Cotai Water Jet. We traveled between Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal and Macau Taipa Ferry Terminal. You have to pick up your ferry tickets at least 45 minutes in advance of your trip. Once you get off the ferry, shuttles from every hotel imaginable are lined up to take you directly to the strip.
Where to Stay
There’s no shortage of hotels in Macau. There are two areas to stay — the Cotai Strip, or the area across the bridge to the north. I recommend staying on Cotai.
Where to Eat
Because of the area’s history as a Portuguese colony, there’s some good Portuguese food worth checking out. Book a table for dinner at Antonio’s in Taipa village, and be sure to have some Portuguese egg tarts before. There’s also a popular Durian ice cream stand, if you’re brave enough to try.
What to Do
Gamble: Minimum bets at a blackjack table in Macau are expensive but vary by casino. Head to the Venetian for minimum bets that are less than $75.
Enjoy a day at your hotel’s pool or spa: Just be prepared to spend typical hotel prices on food and drinks.
See a show: We saw The House Of Dancing Water at City of Dreams, which is a Franco Dragone production that cost a cool $250 million to create because why not.
BYOB to enjoy in your room or by the pool and avoid paying $18 for subpar beer. Water in the hotels are supposedly filtered, so we used it to brush our teeth but drank bottled water the rest of the time.