We have lost count on the times we’ve been to Las Vegas, but this July we finally made it to Macau. Often referred to with names like The Vegas of East, we knew Macau has become a luxurious gambling destination within a decade.
Some friends who had been to Macau before us gave us a pretty comprehensive description of what to expect. However, everyone has their own way of experiencing places and interpreting the cultural codes. In our case, our friends had never been to Las Vegas and for that reason we really were exited to dive into this Chinese gaming city where the Portuguese heritage goes hand in hand with the ancient Chinese traditions. How does the glizzy casino boom fit this picture?
You have ridicilously over the top surroundings in Las Vegas, the exited “winner, winner chicken dinner” spirit at the casinos, an endless variety of entertainment, shopping possibilities beyond reality and a magnificent food scene, could Macau do it better? Do these cities have anything in common? Can you even compare them?
First, read about our thoughts and then, check out the cool and extremely educational infographic by the gaming enthusiasts & bloggers of Casinosites that gives you tools for comparison of Las Vegas and Macau in numbers.
In Macau, there are older casinos on the Penisula and the new mega establishments can be found on Cotai, the land area connecting the islands of Taipa and Coloane. Our hotel was also on Cotai Strip and we hiked through all casinos during our stay.
The casinos are definitely beautiful and detailed inside out (we enjoy touring casinos for the visual fun) and just like in Vegas, each establishment had come up with weird, surprising, crazy and stunning decorative ideas. Unfortunately the security guards at casinos floors will not appreciate you taking photos – just like in Vegas.
Baccarat, the game even James Bond played here, is the most popular game in Macau and the slot variety is far from Las Vegas. As most visitors come from China, most of the slots have Chinese themes as well. You’ll see a lot red and gold, auspicious symbols and signs, lucky items and zodiac animals. A slot called Fu Dao Le (that can be found in Las Vegas as well) seemed to be most popular at many casinos. One casino even boasted having the highest number of this same slot in Macau.
It is no secret that gaming in Macau is taken very seriously. Many people we talked to explained that gambling is like a religion here. And well, casinos in Macau are not really party spots. In Las Vegas you hear laugh, bubbly talking, exited shouts and cheering. If you enjoy the quiet sound of chips and non-talkative fellow players, Macau is your place.
Another huge difference you’ll notice when you try to find a bar to chill out in. There are bars at the Casinos in Sin City and it’s fun sitting, playing some video poker and having a conversation with the bartender. We remember finding only a handfull of bars at the Macau casinos, non of them really encouraging you to sit down and enjoy. We saw cocktails being served at table games at some casinos, but this is definitely not a place to let your party animal out. It’s more like game, eat, sleep, repeat. Or even game, eat, repeat. Some serious gamers don’t even use their comped, luxurious suites, we were told.
When ever we are in Las Vegas, we try to catch a couple of shows and enjoy the wide variety of nightly entertainment around the city. There is something for everyone, the only problem is choosing where to go. You’ve got world famous names from Britney Spears to Elton John and from Toby Keith to Lady Gaga (who just announced her new 2-year residency in Sin City). You’ve got numerous Cirque Du Soleil productions, magic shows, stand up, theatre, dance and crazy good dueling pianos at different casinos.
At Macau casinos the variety for entertainment is not as impressive as in Vegas – gaming comes first. However, if you do some detective work, you will find fun for every night inside the casino complexes. One night we booked tickets to the show Monkey King that was a combination of theatre, circus and musical telling the well known story of the legendary Monkey King and his adventures. Monkey King played inside Sands casino.
One night we went to see the exellent magic show by Franz Horary, House of Magic, inside Studio City casino. Studio City is also the home for a Batman flight-simulation show, that was fun as well. To get the Macau teddy bear for the Hard Rock Cafe collection we headed to HRC and as it was evening time, a live band started playing classic rock covers. We were also given a warm recommendation for the House of Dancing Waters in City of Dreams, it’s produced by Franco Dragone, the former director of Cirque du Soleil.
There are not good enough superlatives to tell about the shopping possibilities in Macau. We have never seen anything like the shopping centers with literally endless luxury brand stores. Bring your money and good shoes if you plan to shop. Just the good shoes if you just window shop. This is one crazy shopping destination. Period.
You’re not likely to find fast food easily. At some casino corners you may find a place selling stuff like noodles, rice and roasted duck for the hungry, busy gamblers. But mostly the restaurants are more or less high-end establishments. You know, white table clothes and an army of staff. We did enjoy good meals at a variety of restaurants, both Eastern and Western style places. You’ll find celebrity chefs and their cool foodie heavens here, Macau has such a long and rich international history that the food scene has absorbed rich flavors and ideas from all over.