Asia,  China,  Macau,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Macau (China) – the Las Vegas of the East

Macau/Macao has always been on my to do list, for one simple reason: I fell in love with Macau while watching a Korean series. And I’m not the only one, because after the broadcast of this series, Macau became one of the top destinations for Koreans. I remember, the heroine was visiting The Venetian Hotel, where there was a fake Venice canal with a fake blue sky. My goal in coming to Macau: to visit this hotel, and incidentally to celebrate my birthday with dignity

Excerpt from the series in question (the big part where the heroine discovers the hotel lobby is missing)

There is a one-hour ferry from Hong Kong to Macau for 177HK$/person/one way. This ferry stops either at Macau Outer Harbour (on the island where the historic district is located – one boat per day, early in the morning) or Macau Taipa (where the luxury Las Vegas style hotels are located – one boat every 15 minutes)

We choose to stay one night on the historic island and one night on Taipa Island. For this 3-day trip to Macau, we made several mistakes that made our first day less magical, but nothing serious. We will talk about it at the end of the article

Part 1: Travel Diary

Day 1: The old town

Circumstances dictate that we had breakfast at the MGM just after our arrival in Macau. It’s a very classy casino with a super stylish lobby with a huge aquarium in the middle


The restaurant, at a rather affordable price (breakfast at 58MOP, MOP = Macau dollars), is right next to the casino. With our backpacks, we make such a stain that the security guards had to escort us for the crossing of the casino to the restaurant ahahha (whereas if we had just one suitcase, we could have passed without being noticed)

We then leave our luggage at our Airbnb before taking the bus to visit the ruins of Saint Paul, the famous door of a burnt down church in Sino-Indonesian-European style


Sincerely, it is less beautiful, less big than I imagined, but the staircase and the paved path leading to the small shopping streets from the church are worth the visit



There are pasteis de nata (succulent), beef jerky (not bad but not for Europeans I think), cosmetics stores (ahhhhhhrrgggghh)

All this leads to Senado Square which is a mix of Portuguese architecture and Chinese kitsch bling garlands. If you see so many umbrellas, it’s because it was raining a lot (good because we couldn’t stand the heat)



The impression we have of Macau, finally, tourist places even in the city center, is that it’s too clean, too Disneyland, with signs written in two languages (Chinese and Portuguese) while nobody here speaks Portuguese lol. Macau was a Portuguese colony until 1999. The names, the signs in Portuguese remained

We then spend long moments contemplating the ostentatious jewels of the jewelry stores. They even sell gold ingots, in the traditional form (rectangle) or in the Chinese form (like a boat), and even in Winnie the Pooh. It’s so cute!


The temple of Ama, very small, is very pretty with its prayers written on a sheet of paper, its enormous incense in the shape of a bell or a stick. Great moment of zenitude


In the evening, we go around the casinos to visit and play a little. We give 50MOP to the cashier to get some money for the machine and there, the whole cashier team looks at us with round eyes. We will learn later that (1) the machines accept cash (2) they only take Hong Kong dollars (3) people come here to play with astronomical sums, and not to gamble 50 poor dollars (or 5€ hehe)

Our first attempt at the machines doesn’t bring us anything, but we have a lot of fun and we get back our initial bet (10HK$ or 1€). The cheapest slots have 5 cents bets, so with 50 dollars, we have time to have fun. Of all the casinos on Macau Island, MGM remains my favorite for its classy decor and lobby. JB prefers Wynn. At 8:45 pm, we see a very pretty fireworks but we do not know where that comes from

In any case, everything is exaggeration, flashy, gigantism… Hotel lobbies compete to be as loaded as possible, as rich as possible, as woooow as possible. For subtlety, you’ll have to go elsewhere. All that, for the happiness of the lambda visitor who comes to spend his money here (a lot)

Day 2 : The Las Vegas of the Orient

We are on our way to our Sheraton hotel that JB booked for my birthday. On Sunday, the rates are lower so we allowed ourselves a mini madness during our world tour. Having specified the reason of our visit to the hotel (my birthday!), we were offered a box of madeleines (delicious), a late check out as well as a room with a beautiful view

While waiting, the Check in is done only at 13h, we spend a long time at the hotel The Venetian (about which I spoke earlier). The false canal of Venice looks too much like the one of Doha. Unfortunately I’ve never been to Venice so I can’t compare, but I think it’s super well done, super big. The entrance of the hotel and the entrance to the casino are really eye-catching. On Taipa Island, it’s my favorite casino




Especially since I won 80HK$ hihihi by playing dice (you have to guess the results of rolling 3 dice). As a small player, I can only play in front of a machine, the real tables being reserved for players with a minimum bet of 100HK$ (i.e. 10€), while I bet a maximum of 1€ each time. Other more ostentatious tables or casinos require a minimum bet of 3000HK$ ($300). The flagship game is baccarat. Despite long minutes of observation, we did not understand the rules

Contrary to the rather creepy French casinos where we see little grannies standing for hours in front of the 5 cents machines spending their pension, here, nobody touches it (except us). People throw monstrous amounts of money on the table, and lose, of course
I find that the machines here are very well made to create suspense and the atmosphere is much more festive than the casinos I visited in France. I understand better why the average Chinese would pay a fortune to come to Macau (people from Hong Kong and Macau call them “mainlanders”, to refer with contempt to the Chinese from mainland China – in their eyes, they are basic Chinese, no matter how thick their wallets are)

All the casino codes are there: no clock and no daylight so you can’t see the time go by. Whether you are there at 4am or 7pm, you will have the same light, the same temperature, the same sounds, … Everything is done to make you stay as long as possible

Everything is also done to make us feel good (unlimited tea and water, smiling and helpful staff, mini games and free shows in some casinos…) JB and I take care never to exceed a certain limit when we play and we always manage to get our stake back at worst, at best to make a small profit (beginner’s luck!). The hardest thing is to go to the cashier to get money back. We recover such ridiculous amounts that we are a little ashamed of it ahahha the others recover hundreds of euros (they probably lost thousands) while JB queues to recover 1€ to 5€ 🙂

Well, back to my birthday at the Sheraton. The hotel gave us a beautiful room with a view on the Eiffel Tower: the one of the hotel The Parisian just opposite, which will be inaugurated 1 day after our departure (damned!), with Sophie Marceau as muse. Seen from the outside, this hotel is a mix of the Eiffel Tower, the Paris Opera, the Arc de Triomphe, the Tuileries garden, the Intercontinental of Marseille, Moulin Rouge and the Invalides. This fake Eiffel Tower flashes even in the evening, but in a more kitsch and bling bling way (of course!) than the original. This hotel cost 3 billion dollars to build. We could see the promotional spots, the pitch is basically “Paris is the most beautiful city in the world but it’s too far away. Come to the Parisian in Macau to live like a Parisian”. The spot is decorated with all the clichés about Paris: it’s magical in fact Paris! Why did we leave?


The room itself is synonymous with luxury, frankly for 120€ a night I didn’t expect such luxury. We are entitled to a small apartment of 60m2 (bigger than our old apartment!) with living room, bedroom and a huge bathroom where a huge bathtub is enthroned in the middle. With a King size bed. American style

The Sheraton Hotel is connected to a shopping mall, a food court and a footbridge leading to the Venetian. It’s really nice to be able to just take the elevator to go eat on the 3rd floor (for cheap, it’s a food court), and take the air-conditioned footbridge to go to the different casinos of different hotels of the Sands group. It’s like a small town within a small town

To top it all off, my birthday is being celebrated with a spectacular water show The House of Dancing Water at the City of Dreams (which uses a volume of water equivalent to 8 Olympic-sized pools for each show). I show you here the official pictures because during the show, I was busy watching, mouth wide open. A small house, a huge boat, motorcyclists… and enough depth for 10m dives appear out of nowhere. The show is at the height of Macau’s excessiveness, clearly!




As if we hadn’t seen enough of it yet, at the end of the show, we notice the Wynn hotel across the street which has its own cable car … just to go around the hotel 🙂 In the lobby of the Galaxy hotel, 2km away, you can watch the water and light show every 15 minutes


img_3666.jpgDay 3 :

For this last day, direction Studio City to test the Golden Reel for free (thanks to our tickets The House of the Dancing Water). It’s a big 8, which looks like two holes left by two meteorites, in the middle of the facade of this big hotel. The attraction is rather “peace and love”, it’s simply a big wheel, but in the shape of an 8. No looping or anything. The view is rather nice but nothing more because the main attraction is the view on the huge swimming pools of the hotel

1446762106905 img_3692.jpg


We return then to Hong Kong, very happy of our small stay in Macau. We pass the immigration, and Hong Kong gives us back an entry permit valid 3 months, completely ignoring the entry permit that we had a few days ago

Part 2: Practical Tips

I was talking earlier about different mistakes we made in Macau. I’m going to list them here, maybe it will help you for your stay in Macau

Internet, 3G and Wifi

Wifi is free in all casinos and hotels. It is also available and free in all tourist places, that’s why we chose not to buy a SIM card for Macau. Big mistake! The problem is precisely when we need it the most that the free Wifi is far, very far away (we got lost at one point because there were problems with the buses). And nobody speaks English here

Then we bought a SIM card with data, but the saleswoman couldn’t help us to install the card correctly, and despite the instructions we followed, we lost 1 hour to put the 4G in, to no avail

Lesson of the day : Buy a SIM card as soon as you arrive in Macau, at the port, because the salesmen will be able to help and speak in English

Public transportation

The bus is the most used transport in Macau. There is no subway, and the bus isn’t very expensive (between 3.2MOP and 6.3MOP). However, bus fares vary depending on the bus and the station where you get on. Basically, when you get on the bus, you have to pay either in cash or with a prepaid card. If you pay cash, you have to pay the amount displayed on the bus because the machine does not give change. So, it was a huge stress for us to have enough small change on us, all the time. In the end, we were fed up and paid in 10MOP bills, even if we had to pay more

Lesson of the day : Buy the Macau Pass instead, at 140MOP/person. You will lose money for sure (for a weekend in Macau, the bus is so cheap that you won’t spend as much), but you will gain serenity

What is polished in France isn’t necessarily polished in Macau

Another small problem with the bus in Macau. At one point, the bus was so armored with 20 people wanting to get out of the bus. We did like in France: get off the bus to let people get out. Well mistake! Already we had too much difficulty to go back up in the bus because of the driver who leaves at the quarter of turn, and moreover people looked at us like cheaters, going up by the back door not to pay. The driver spoke to us like shit, calling us thieves, whereas we explained the situation to him (dear sir, we paid you 10 dollars, much more than it was necessary because we did not have any change! moreover there is no proof because we put money in a small funnel which does not deliver a receipt)

Yes, the basic Chinese spits, speaks loudly, walks around with his stomach in the air, looks at the girls without embarrassment (from head to toe), does not stand in line, but respects the rules on the bus. If ever the circumstance prevents him from paying for the bus when he gets on, he will crush everyone, will go up to the driver to be able to slip his small coins or badge his pass. So seeing two tourists “cheating”, OMG, is so shocking for him

Lesson of the day : Every man for himself, let’s crush everyone, let’s behave like the only child, let’s abandon what remains of our civilized spirit (as a Parisian, we already don’t have much left…). If people can’t get out, too bad for them

Get off at Macau Taipa

I was telling you, we took the only boat that went down to Macau Outer Transport to be closer to our Airbnb. This only boat left at 7:15 (sniff). With the retrospect, that was useless, we should have gone down to Taipa like everyone else and to sleep a little more. Yes, the boats which stop in Taipa leave every 15 minutes from Hong Kong. So why getting up at 5am?

Especially since there are plenty of free shuttles that lead from Taipa to Macau Island: hotel shuttles. You can go there to play at the casino so no one will ask for a proof of reservation. For Taipa Island: City of dreams, The Venetian, Sands, Sheraton, Holiday Inn… have their own shuttle. For our island (Macau Island), MGM, Hotel Lisboa… also have their own shuttle

Lesson of the day: Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal -> Macau Taipa Ferry Terminal, that’s all there is to remember


On Saturdays, the hotels were so expensive that we preferred to book an Airbnb room, at the last minute at least… and without paying attention to the languages spoken by the owner. Result: we came across an owner speaking only Chinese who, moreover, made us wait for 2 hours in a casino, because the room was not yet available. We had to communicate with her via Google Translate, which works surprisingly well by the way

Lesson of the day: we got it all wrong with Airbnb, next time we’ll try to be more organized. Booking Airbnb the night before is looking for problems


Casinos only accept Hong Kong dollars, so come with your dollars, without changing money

Apart from casinos, Hong Kong dollars are accepted in hotels and stores to pay for food, cab… but at a less advantageous rate: 1HK$ = 1MOP while normally 1HK$ = 1.03MOP, roughly you lose 3% each time you decide to pay in HK dollars. Having said that, still exchange money at the ferry terminal, because buses (again!) are boring and only want MOPs, and so do small traders. Personally, 500MOPs were enough to cover a few meals, buses and cabs


In order to pay as little as possible, avoid weekends (Friday night, Saturday night). For Sheraton, we were able to get 50% off by staying there on a Sunday night

To get from one hotel to another, you can either walk or take free shuttles to the ferry, and from the ferry, take the shuttle of the hotel you want to go to. Or take a cab, it costs max 70MOP to go from one island to another. The shuttle City of Dreams -> Studio City is free and leaves every 15 minutes. The shuttle for the Sands hotels leaves from the Sheraton hotel to the ferry, every 15 minutes, for free. The shuttle for the MGM serves MGM for free from the ferry, but the MGM -> ferry isn’t free (not cool!).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *