Over a period of twenty years, Macau has turned into China‘s gambling paradise with huge casinos easily matching if not surpassing Las Vegas.
In New Zealand, a couple from Hong Kong told us about “The Venetian”, named after its older sister in Las Vegas, that only had opened in 2007. So we made our way to Taipo Island not knowing what to expect. What we saw blew our mind, literally. The Venetian is a replica of the very city and what is most amazing, not badly done! The dimensions are mind-boggling: the second largest air-conditioned building in the world with 37 restaurants / bar / cafes, a whole lot of designer shops, gambling floors too big to see the other end and a hotel that provides shelter for the weary gambler in its 3.000 suites, which start at 2.300 HK Dollars. One employee we asked explained in perfect English that 90 Jumbo Jets (Boeing 747-400) could fit in the area.
Once we stepped onto “St. Marcus Square”, we froze, for a moment we truly thought that the ugly overcast weather had finally changed. We gazed at a light blue sky with a few scattered clouds moving slowly across. Nearby, a gondola floated along Canale Grande, one of the three (!!!) Canale Grande, with a female Gondolieri singing ”O sole mio”. We gawked like children being taken to the zoo for the first time.
Neither having the money, nor being interested in gambling, we watched devoted Chinese placing bets at a tremendous tempo and losing money even faster! Some tables asked for a minimum bet of 200 HK Dollars (18 Euros). At six o’clock the place was very, very busy.
Many employees are not Chinese, like all the Gondolieri and the many assistants who just appear exactly when you need them and who answer in flawless English bending over backwards to make you feel content. Free non-alcoholic drinks and free shuttles are additional nice gestures. The American owner of this magic place is in the process of creating the “Cotai Strip”. The many construction sites are impossible to ignore: 30 more hotels and casinos that eventually will line these 100.000 square metres of reclaimed land.
We passed other casinos with famous names like the MGM or Sands, like the Gran Lisboa, an incredible building shaped like a flower.
After a great dinner at “Carlos”, a so-called Portuguese restaurant, we made a fatal assumption. We thought we would have a drink in the casino right next to our modest hotel, the East Asia Hotel, and enjoy a Saturday night out, something we had not done for a month. This casino was very different to the Venetian to put it mildly. The small gambling floor was packed with chain-smoking gamblers who stared at us, the only Westerners in this place. The one and only (!) bar was closed. So we decided to go somewhere else, but there was nothing, nada! We discovered that nightlife in Macau is restricted to a few areas in town and the real big casinos. At our hotel the receptionist, with the help of some guests, managed to explain that “it is too late for going out” and “there is hot water available in the hotel”.