Like many people, I can do the Vegas strip for about 24 hours before I start getting that queasy sense something very very wrong lurks there.
Even so, I was curious how Macau would present herself. Would there be the same glitzy hotels, crazy stunts, and patrons with blood shot eyes? Or would she offer something special?
It turns out, a little of both.
Macau has adopted typical Vegas incarnations like water lights shows and erupting volcanoes. There are even exact replicas of hotels like the Wynn and the Venetian right down to the light fixtures in restrooms. Strangely inside those casinos, I felt like I was in a space time warp, transported back to the States. Then I walked outside and was brought back immediately to China.
However, I was excited that Macau does offer more than gambling and all you can eat buffets. Everywhere are reminders of its Portuguese colonial past in the street signs, the cuisine, and people’s faces. It was fun to see the melding of cultures in the architecture of the buildings, the pubic congregation areas, and squares built around churches.
Though I was not lucky at gambling or the weather (it rained, altering a few of my plans), I did come away with fun memories. These are my top Macau experiences:
1. Museum of Macau: This unique museum sits atop the 17th century Mount Fortress and houses the most interesting exhibits. Did you know there was such a thing as cricket fighting in the past? Forget about Tyson or de la Hoya, Macau citizens placed their bets on robust insects.
2. Historic Macau: I loved browsing through all the winding side streets of Senado Square with food vendors and curio shops. The popular street food of choice? Beef and pork jerky sold in flat sheets.
3. Strange grandiose public art: To differentiate themselves, the casinos host rare and unusual art pieces. I observed the most intricately carved ivory sculptures (my favorite was a boat load of monkeys playing musical instruments) and an emerald the size of my ipod. My hotel boasted a very fakey collection of clothing items worn by celebrities. On display was a dress they “claimed” belonged to Princess Diana, inside which 3 Diana’s could have fit. Didn’t they know she had an eating disorder? There was also Michael Jackson’s famous white moonwalk glove… um yeah.
4. The Sofitel Hotel at Pointe 16: I used trip advisor reviews to choose this hotel and I can’t rave about it more. I’m a sucker and upgraded for a fee to enjoy executive benefits, but it turned out to be a great deal. For about $25 US per day, I got a fabulous breakfast with a view and a cocktail hour with unlimited drinks and hor’ doevres which I utilized as my dinner (because I’m frugal that way). The best part was chatting with staff who offered insights into their culture and lifestyles.
5.Observing people and they in turn, observing me. Some funny things happened, which I’ll write about eventually, if I work up the nerve. Let’s just say, they had to do with my push-up bra and leave it at that.
One final interesting observation about Macau is that though the casinos modeled Vegas in appearance, there were a few differences in spirit. They didn’t have all the same games, craps and black jack being less common while Chinese games took center stage. Also, the casinos did not offer free alcoholic drinks served by sexy bar girls. Instead, there were older scowling women pushing around carts with pitchers of tea, and if you were hungry, you could take a slice of white bread.
Do you enjoy Vegas? How long does it take you to reach your limit? Most importantly, do you really think Michael Jackson’s moonwalk glove would be at a hotel in Macau? Okay, scratch that. I just found an article that confirms it is…