Monday, May 19, 2008

Gambling in Macau

Macau. Known to many as "Las Vegas of Asia". One of the few places in Asia where gambling is legal, and they do it in Macau big time. From arrival in Macau to the gambling casinos, high rollers are pampered and treated well in this small city which is a Special Administrative Region in China. Okay, we went to Macau not to gamble but to explore the city. We tried a few rounds of slots and card games but we didn't spend that much. Unfortunately my eldest brother didn't join us in this trip because of work.

For this family trip last April 2007, we tried out a budget airline. Travel fanatics in the Philippines and in the region knows Clark (Diosdado Macapagal International Airport) is considered the "budget terminal" of the Philippines, especially for passengers that are Manila-bound. Operating here are different budget airlines, one of which is Tiger Airways, a Singapore-based low cost airline. Our ticket from Clark to Macau costed us 5,200++ PHP each. Because the airport terminal is in Clark, which is in Pampanga province outside Manila, travellers would need to take 1.5 - 2 hours travel from Manila to Clark. There are bus services running Manila - Clark (DMIA) routes for 300 PHP from Philtranco. Other mode of transportation can be found here.


Upon arrival in Macau International Airport, I was amazed to see the airport runway and facilities right beside a body of water in Taipa island.


Clumsy me, I left my camera battery and charger plugged in at home. The pictures above were taken going back to Philippines. After exiting the airport we took a TCM bus for about 4 MOP fare each going to our hotel. It was about a 30-minute ride with a lot of stops but it came to be a nice tour around the city for us.

On top of my head when we arrived was to look for a camera battery. I was lucky to see a store selling one for a reasonable price late at night (9pm). The night lights of casinos in Macau are beautiful! We stayed in Casino Lisboa Hotel. It is a known landmark in Macau and back then, Grand Lisboa (which is just across the street) and Venetian Macao were still under construction. The rooms, though classified as ordinary and of standard class, were majestic, with facilities like LCD TV, free wired internet and free refreshments in the ref (refilled everyday).


Right across the street is Grand Lisboa. Only the casino is open to public during this time because it was still under construction. At night the structure is like a big video display of colorful lights and even swimming fishes.


We walked around the city the next morning. We saw a number of western casino brands including Sands, Wynn, etc. According to local folks Stanley Ho was the only operator of the casinos in the city until recently when western operators came because the government finally allowed them to operate.


Looking for something to eat, we found a chinese restaurant serving noodles and dimsum. I forgot the name of the restaurant but we liked what we ate. The noodles were great but we were dismayed to know that dimsum is not serve during breakfast time.


After breakfast, we went back to the hotel to catch a free shuttle to the ferry terminal. From there, we booked a city tour of about 5-6 hours for around less than 100 MOP each. First stop was the Kum Iam Statue.


Driving around the city, I took a shot of these casinos - Grand Lisboa(dragon-like structure on the left), Casino Lisboa (middle) and Wynn (right).


We also passed by the old residence of Portuguese Governors during their reign here in Macau as a colony.


We had a stop-over in this spot along a body of water where I took a shot of the Macau Tower from afar.


We then went to Macau Museum. The museum houses some relics, religious articles and historical artifacts that helped shaped Macau to what it is now.


On top of the museum, you can see that because of its small size, there seems to be a housing problem in the city. I was told later that workers do not pay tax here because the casino and tourism industry itself brings in a lot of revenue for the government. In fact, a lot of mainlanders and those from Hong Kong that are undergraduates transfer to Macau to work for either industry which adds up to having the city more populated.


On the way down, we passed by the nearby ruins of St. Paul Cathedral. Interesting to see that only the facade stands still today of a once considered the biggest Catholic church cathedral in Asia. In picture is our family.


We later had late lunch in Restaurante Platao. It was a well-recommended restaurant by our tourist guide so we gave it a try. It is located in one of those alleys near Senado Square. This is where we sample our first Macanese-Portuguese food and delicacies. For me it's a 4 out of 5 and if you are going, I suggest that the al fresco dining experience be a must.


Later on we explored around Senado Square while waiting for our tour group's meeting time.


From Senado Square, we went to A-Ma Temple, considered one of the oldest temples in Macau and is dedicated to Matsu, goddess of seafarers and fishermen.


We also went to Macau Tower where we went up to see a bird's eye view of the islands and the city.


Inside the Macau Tower Center is a huge Warner Bros. Studio Store. I had a small time to browse around but I should say if you're a WB cartoon fanatic, it's definitely worth the time exploring.


When we went up the Macau Tower, I was excited (and scared) to see glass floors. It was scary walking through those see-through glasses and bad things ran on my mind.


After we went down, my sister went into this stall of Jelly Belly where there is a large selection of varieties of jelly beans.


From the tower, our group went to Taipa House Museum. This is the last leg of our tour. In there is a park overlooking Venetian Macao which was still under construction. Beautiful houses surrounded the park which previously served as the residences of known royalties and powerful personalities in Macau.


At the end of the tour, we were dropped back in the ferry terminal, which is a few minutes walk from Fisherman's Wharf. The wharf is actually like a theme park full of beautiful buildings, rides, and foreign city-inspired structures like the Roman Ampitheatre.



On the way back to the ferry terminal we passed by Casino Macau Palace, a floating restaurant and casino similar to Jumbo Palace Restaurant in Hong Kong.


Since our trip fell during holy week days, we visited several churches in Macau. This includes St. Dominic's Church in Senado Square.


Going around Macau and looking for a flash for my camera, I chanced upon the Portuguese House.


One thing about Senado Square and the shops nearby, expect that there will be lots of shoppers and window shoppers lurking around just like you.


One time during lunch, we tried out Safari Restaurante, right across Senado Square which serves European-Macanese style of food. I'd give it a 3 out of 5.


An interesting discovery for us is Pastelaria Koi Kei. It is a food store selling pastries, baked products, beef jerkies, preserved meats and a whole lot more. Things you may want to try here are their beef jerkies and egg tarts. I prefer their egg tarts over Lord Stow's Bakery which is also famous in Macau and nearby countries.


If you are planning to go to Macau here are some of the activities I can suggest:
1. Go to Macau Tower. If you are looking for more adventure, try Skyjump, the world's highest bungee jumping or for something more subtle, the Skywalk.
2. Try out the pastries and delicacies in Pastelaria Koi Kei.
3. If you have time, look for bargains and shop in Senado Square.
4. Seasonal, go there around November and witness the Grand Prix!
5. Go around, explore the city and taste the local culture.
and of course, GAMBLE!

More pictures are available in multiply. Just add me as a friend to view them.

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