“We’re going to Macau for four days,” was my reply to anyone who asked me if we were going away over the Xmas period. Responses varied hugely. From my Hong Kong friends the responses ranged from “Very nice”, “Where are you staying?” and “What on earth are you going to find to do in Macau for all that time?”
On the other side of the world, the main response from London was, “Where or what is Macau?!” Fair enough I guess. Call me unworldly but I hadn’t really heard of it until we came to Hong Kong. And if I had heard of it, it wasn’t more than a name to me, I didn’t know anything about it, nor would I be able to place it on a map. My response to the Londoners was simply, “It’s the Las Vegas of Asia.” That’s what I’d heard at least. There are casinos everywhere. There’s a ‘strip’. There are many of the big name hotels that are in Vegas. There are shows, pop concerts etc etc.
The other day I read in the paper that in 2013, Macau took over US$40 billion in revenue compared to Las Vegas that took about US$5 billion. Wow. Macau the Las Vegas of Asia? Clearly it is the other way around. If I had seen these figures before our trip I would have thought maybe there was a misprint but after having witnessed the amount of money that many visitors to Macau have to spend, it is definitely not a misprint.
If we thought Hong Kong had more branches of the top designer brand shops than could possibly be required, each one bigger than any I have seen in London, this is nothing compared to Macau. Every hotel has their own branch of Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, Prada, Gucci, Cartier etc. Heaven forbid you should want to spend a gazillion dollars on something and have to travel more than a few paces to do that. Many of the shops are very close to the casinos so if you win big, out of the corner of your eye the diamonds are flashing, the handbags beckoning and you can offload your cash as quickly as you obtained it.
I can’t remember exactly how this compares to Vegas. I have been to Vegas once and feel sure that the retail opportunities are a bit more mainstream alongside the top end brands. However, at the time I was 17. Seventeen is really not the age a person wants to be taken to Las Vegas. One of my main memories is being ushered into the ‘kids room’ whilst my parents had a quick spiel. Being underage, we were barely allowed to even look in the direction of the casinos, let alone stand next to our parents watching them on the slot machines or whatever they did!
Anyway, back to Macau. Macau is a region of China, like Hong Kong. It takes about an hour by hydrofoil to get there. We stayed at the Venetian hotel. It was amazing. Like Venice surprisingly! St Mark’s Square, canals, bridges, fake blue cloudy sky, gondola rides. Cheesy but magical. We were there the weekend before Christmas so if the place wasn’t blingy and wow enough on its own, the Christmas touch certainly ensured it was! Our room was heaven for the kids – bunk beds, bean bags, a wii, kiddy toiletries, slippers & robes in 4 sizes, DVDs, ocean decor on the walls at their end, their own TV, kiddy table and chairs with colouring books etc all provided. They didn’t want to leave the room!!
The stand-out highlight of the weekend was the House of Dancing Water Show (http://thehouseofdancingwater.com/en/). There is no way I can describe it to do it the justice it deserves. Suffice to say that Dan, myself and my inlaws all declared it the best show any of us have ever seen anywhere in the world. It is almost all water based, there’s a vague lovey dovey story line but that is really just there to link all the amazing effects, acrobatics and scenery. You don’t go to see the show for the storyline. Joshua was on the edge of his seat the whole time. Eden had her fingers in her ears for the duration but loved it all. The rest of us were just oohing and ahhing and pointing here there and everywhere as we each spotted something different and wanted to make sure everyone else had seen it! At a cost of over £150 million, with the arena being custom built, I don’t think this is the kind of show that will travel the world like West End and Broadway shows do, otherwise I would tell the world to look out for it! Therefore within days we had booked tickets again to make sure my parents see it on their next visit here.
After the show, we met up with one of Joshua’s friends from his class at school, his parents and his grandparents who were visiting from London. They were also in Macau that weekend and had just seen the show too. So we all met up for a Hard Rock Cafe dinner afterwards. What made this gathering extra special was that we were all Soloway’s. The whole lot of us. Not related, that’s been checked, but a happy coincidence nonetheless! For Joshua to have another Soloway in his class is bizarre enough but to be having dinner in Macau with 3 generations of both families was a bit off the scale of bizarre!
The rest of the weekend continued with jam-packed activities including the Dreamworks Ice World Show (http://www.venetianmacao.com/macau-shows/macau-events/ice-world/) which was held in one of the exhibition halls in our hotel. Maybe we were still buzzing from the show the night before but we found this exhibition too short and a bit disappointing. Not to criticize the skill and time involved to create this exhibition of course, I obviously couldn’t do it myself! The kids loved the massive coats we all got given to keep us warm, the icy slide and the goody bags they got when we left but they didn’t seem that wowed by the exhibits themselves! Never mind.
Away from the hotel and the ‘strip’ we also visited the Macau Science Museum and the Grand Prix Museum. Josh could have spent all day at the Grand Prix Museum and both kids were amused for hours at the Science Museum – much more modern and less stuffy than the Hong Kong or London equivalents, in a state of the art newly built building.
And we didn’t even have time to explore the old Portuguese areas of Macau, although the inlaws attempted to for a couple of hours. We’ll have to do it next time.
For those who couldn’t imagine what we would find to do for 4 days in Macau, I’m really not sure what they meant! Maybe on their next visit they need to actually leave their hotel?!
I’m still reeling from the financial statistics really, especially given how established Las Vegas and the ‘strip’ there is, compared to Macau where the big hotels on the ‘strip’ are still relatively new and many more are still being built. I guess the gulf between the two will only mind-bogglingly widen in the future then. It’s like another world, a parallel universe.