Thursday, May 15, 2008
The 13 square mile enclave a few miles off Hong Kong was once a Portuguese colony. Macau is now part of China (Special Administrative Region) after the handover on December 20, 1999. A few weeks before this trip I "Googled" about the tiny colony. We took the newly launched Philippine Airlines destination which began its maiden voyage to this tiny island in May 2008.
For those that intend to travel to Macau, these are my personal observations:
1. It is useless to travel on business class from Manila to Macau (and vice-versa). It's such a short trip and the plane is not a full one. You can swing to the back seat and enjoy the luxury of the economy class if you lift the seat handles. Besides, the fare is a lot cheaper. USD$830 on business class to USD$220 for economy flights.
2. The airport is tiny. But nice. The queue at the immigration is shorter than the queue you would expect at the NAIA 2 (or Centennial Airport).
3. We stayed at the Venetian Macau. Tauted to be a grand hotel (with rooms that are actually all suites), a resort (with a golfing range, spa, swimming pool, gym) on the fifth floor, a shopping mecca (with 3 Gondola rivers spanning over 350 stores and food shops) on the third floor, and of course a Casino to boot - all I can say is that the hotel is a grand one and the shopping an experience. The Venetian Macau can be described in one word - palatial.
I am not a gambler so I spent HKD$100 (about P545 or USD$12.50) in the slot machine. Of course, I lost it all. I would give the hotel a rating of 9 out of 10 when it comes to accommodation. With respect to service, I'd give the front desk a 3 out of 10. Alright, so Macau is a tourist destination for the Chinese from Mainland China who are on an expedition to a gambling city (casinos are illegal in China). I believe that the hotel should not have people in the front desk who cannot speak English or who have a hard time communicating. Even the security guards at the hotel could not speak English. You had to do sign language and they were stoic. If you got killed in the hotel, your body would probably be transported to China. In short, NO HOTEL that opens its doors to tourism should have front desk personnel who DO NOT speak nor understand English.
I hate saying it, but the Chinese tourists from mainland China looked like they got out of the zoo. Their manners were uncouth - they spat on the sidewalks, smoked anywhere they wanted to in the hotel, they coughed on their hands and then held the escalators (which we held on to as well), did not know how to fall in line and there was no use arguing with them. They spoke no English. Sure they had money, but they had no manners at all! They were Chinese! (I could foresee what the foreigners would think of China when it opens its doors to the Beijing Olympics this August 2008). It was good that the hotel hired Filipinos. A lot of the Filipinos worked as bellboys, doormen, waiters, waitresses and it was pleasant to see the smiling faces of our OFWs who, in spite of their work, had the enchanting Filipino sunny smile to make our day. It was so unlike the Macanese people whom I thought had the same attitude as the HongKong Chinese - rude.
4. We had dinner at Lei Garden the first night at the Venetian Macau. Pricey, but excellent Cantonese feed. On the second night we had dinner at the Wynn Macau Hotel's Okada Restaurant. Excellent and pricey. The sea bass was excellent as well as the other Japanese dishes, where we deviated from the usual Tempura or Maki or Sashimi, which you could find in the Philippines. The dancing fountain at the Wynn Macau was a fantastic display of water and music and looked like the Las Vegas Bellagio's fountain display. It danced to two different musical numbers every 30 minutes. I also found the Wynn Macau to be more pleasant than the Venetian Macau. While the Venetian carried regular branded shops, the Wynn Macau had high end shops on the ground floor. It was home for Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Bulgari, Ferrari, Vertu, Christian Dior, to name a few. And what I loved with the Wynn Macau was the over-all interior of the hotel. It looked like a hotel! Unlike the Venetian which looked like a casino from the get go, the Wynn sparkled of ambience from the hotel lobby alone. The casino was conspicuously hidden at the back of the hotel, unlike the Venetian where you had to traverse the whole nine yards of the casino to get into the elevator floors, on the way to your room.
5. Going around Macau could be accomplished within a half day. There really isn't much to see and I beg to disagree with critics that this is the new Las Vegas. It will never ever compare to Las Vegas. It is a far cry from Las Vegas in Nevada, USA. There is no other tourist spot in Macau. Some of my friends told me that there are places to visit - the ruins, the churches, the Shun Tak tower, Senado Square, museums, alleys, whatever! They weren't worth the tour and it was a waste of time. I could take you around Intramuros in Manila and you'd get a better deal going around here than in Macau. Enough said.
6. Buy everything you need in the city before going to the airport. You'll regret what you missed to buy, if you wanted to get something in Macau. There is nothing at the duty free stores in the airport. I told you, the airport is small. So is the departure area. Don't expect anything at the airport. Change your Macau Patacas back to your local currency when you get to the airport BEFORE you check-in. Don't wait until you get through immigration. Their money change shop clerk is usually out and the Patacas is worthless in your final destination.
Macau is overrated. The stay, however, is much cheaper than HongKong. You can always book a stay in Macau and take the Cotaijet to HongKong when you plan to go to HongKong. The food is excellent in Macau, and what you buy are tax free. Water by the bottle (on demand) is also abundant in Macau (which you will need to buy by the horde to survive thirst in HongKong).
The Venetian Macau will be bringing in Le Cirque du Soleil come August 2008 (with a soft opening in July). Le Cirque is probably worth the watch if you plan to go to Macau these coming months. But that's it folks! At present, Macau isn't worth the buck for all the hype it has. Perhaps in the next 2-3 years when Macau is more developed as the gambling capital of Asia. In the meantime, the Power Plant Mall or the Mall of Asia offers more bang for your bucks. Enough said. It was an experience. End of story.