We were pretty excited to see Macau. There are some famous movies highlighting Macau. The most memorable and recent one for us was the James Bond movie Skyfall. We planned to just do a full day trip exploring Macau because the hotel/Airbnb rooms were beyond our budget. We made it to the ferry terminal around 9:30 AM and found out that the economy seats on the Macau ferries sell out pretty fast. Even though ferries leave every 15 minutes, the next available economy seat ferry wasn’t until 11:30 AM. Since we wanted to be back in Hong Kong by sunset we decided to buy a premium seat on turbo jet ferry at 9:45 AM so we would have enough time in Macau. It was a little concerning going through security because the lines were long and we were cutting it close on catching the 9:45 ferry. We asked security if we would make our ferry but the security guard didn’t seem concerned with the time on our ticket and said “no problem.” We didn’t get through security until 10 AM and we showed our tickets to the ferry workers and they rushed us on to a ferry getting ready to leave. I’m not sure if the ferries run late or if we just caught the 10 AM ferry but we left around 10 AM and were on our way to Macau. The upgraded seats come with a small meal, bigger seats, and were located on the upper deck of the ferry. Once upstairs and in our seats we soon found out that even though we bought upgraded seats, there were two levels of upgraded seats above us. The next level up from us sat in the same section and had the same quality of seats as us but got a better meal and all the servers kept checking on them and ignored the rest of us. The highest level was the VIP level and they 2 dedicated rooms for the VIPs that just had two white level seats in each. I didn’t see anyone in those rooms so I couldn’t tell how good the service is.
The ferry ride lasts about an hour and when we arrived at ferry stop of Macau, we took a shuttle to one of the casinos (Wynn, next to the Grand Lisboa) on the Macau Island so that we could walk through old town of Macau. Macau was established as Portuguese colony in the 16th century and sovereignty over Macau wasn’t transferred to China until 1999. Due to this, you still see heavy European influence in ways that you generally won’t find anywhere else in Asia. There are still many Portuguese signs, restaurants and shops around Macau. Like Hong Kong, Macau is a Special Administrative Region of China. So it’s China, but it really isn’t. Macau has its own currency, which is pegged to the Hong Kong dollar, so we didn’t need to exchange money since Hong Kong money was accepted everywhere.
From the shuttle drop off, we walked down through Largo do Senado Square, and some streets lined with shops and filled with people. A lot of the shops sold many different types of beef jerky and were handing out free samples so we got a nice snack along the way. We went along Rua de São Paulo and up some flights of stairs to Macau’s most famous landmark – the ruins of the 17th-century Church of St. Paul. Only the five-tiered facade is still standing, richly decorated with stone carvings of the Holy Virgin atop a dragon, Chinese lions and the infant Jesus. Just east of the ruins, is the Macau Museum, which captures the rich history of the colony, comparing and contrasting the cultures and achievements of China and Portugal through the centuries. The museum was pretty nice and had interesting exhibits. It was also air conditioned so it was a nice break from the heat and humidity outside.
We took another shuttle to the Studio City casino on Taipa Island. On Taipa, we headed to a spot for lunch in one of the local shopping strips. The place was famous for crab congee, but it turned out to be pretty dirty (saw a couple of cockroaches walking around) and the food wasn’t that good. We decided to try our luck at one of the casinos and picked the Galaxy which is across from the Venetian. I was hoping to find a single-deck blackjack table but had no such luck. There were only like 4 blackjack tables in the whole massive casino. As usual, things started off well but soon imploded. It was getting close to our departure time so we took another shuttle from the casino to the ferry station for our ride back. We caught the ferry back around 5:30 PM so that we would arrive in Hong Kong around sunset. We rode economy class on the ferry ride back which wasn’t that much different than the upgraded class.
Macau is billed as the Las Vegas of China. When the Chinese government assumed formal sovereignty over Macau in 1999, they began to turn it into the gambling destination that it is today. While it’s very hot and has a number of large and beautiful casinos, including mirror images of Vegas casinos (Wynn and the Venetian), to us, Macau didn’t compare to Vegas. First, there’s no main strip of casinos. Some are on the Macau and some are on the Taipa. Even though there were free shuttles to the different casinos on both islands, it wasn’t as convenient as Las Vegas. Second, and what we found most depressing, is that there isn’t readily available free booze in the casinos. We actually only saw the staff handing out water and they didn’t come by very often. I’ve heard that some of the American Casinos do give you free drinks, but instead of like Vegas where the waitresses will go around asking if you’d like a drink, in Macau you either have to ask the pit boss, dealer, or else try to find a waitress on your own. Third, the minimums are much higher in Macau than in Vegas. We went on a weekday during the day and the lowest blackjack table we could find was a single 300 MOP (~$40 USD) table. Most other tables were 500 MOP or higher. Also there were very few blackjack, roulette and craps tables. Instead there were rows and rows of baccarat, pai gow, and other Asian games. Unless you really want to gamble and spend a lot of money, I would say that the trip to Macau isn’t worth it. In retrospect, I would have rather spent an extra day in Hong Kong than go to Macau but if you’ve never been to Macau, it’s still good to see and experience.
See the full gallery here: Macau.