If you are laughing a little bit at the title of this post because you know that I am loosely referencing the Brainwashing scene in Zoolander we are likely really good friends. If you haven’t seen Zoolander I am not certain that you are going to enjoy the clip or even get it. You might even judge me … negatively. Zoolander is one of my favorite movies and when I tell people that I tend to get some very strange looks.
Hong Kong & Macau have separate visa requirements
This was something that I didn’t know until we were looking at visiting both of these. In fact when Hong Kong first came up in conversation we both thought that because Hong Kong was a part of China and we didn’t have our visas to visit China we’d be SOL. Turns out because Hong Kong is a SAR (Special Administrative Region) of the Republic of China it has different visa entry and exit requirements. Macau island is also a SAR with it’s own set of visa regulations. Both regulations gave us plenty of time on just our passport so getting into and out of each of these areas was really quick and simple.
Almost everyone takes a ferry to Macau from Hong Kong island. There are flights from Hong Kong and other international destinations but my understanding is that it won’t save you a ton of time and will set you back a pretty penny. Perhaps not an issue for a lot of the wealthy Chinese gamblers, but for a couple of gringos on a budget we unfortunately were not going to be able to take the private helicopter from Hong Kong to Macau. The ferry was a great alternative. One way ticket is $25 USD per person and the trip takes about an hour. From the ferry terminal there are buses representing all of the major hotel and casino properties waiting to take any guest to their hotel for no charge. We used this to get downtown and then walked to some of the old parts of Macau.
Macau is not like Vegas
I love Las Vegas. The gambling. The drinking. The dancing. The shows. The food. The lights. The music. The pools. I love it all. I’ve been hearing facts like “Macau is the Las Vegas of Asia” and “Macau is 7x larger than Las Vegas” and “Macau is home to the worlds largest casino’ for a few years now. I have always been intrigued and wanted to check this place out. How could something be 7x bigger than Vegas? And would that mean that I would like it 7x more? If so that would be incredible.
Well I hate to the bearer of bad news but these comparisons are just not fair. Macau is boring, capital B boring. After having been there I really can’t imagine a scenario where I would ever recommend someone going. Let me explain.
- Gambling is strictly business – The #1 game here is baccarat. A game that isn’t very popular in Las Vegas. Just about everyone on the casino floor is either sitting or hovered around a baccarat table. It’s very serious. There is not the ringing out the slot machines, no cheering – really almost no joy or entertainment factor. Everyone is taking their gambling very, very seriously.
- No free drinks – No wonder all of the publicly traded gaming companies are racing to build the biggest and the best gambling floors in Macau – all they have to do is collect money. Everyone is dead-sober on the floor. We didn’t even see a bar at the Hard Rock casino and the ONLY bar in the worlds LARGEST casino, The Venetian Macau, was not open in the afternoon while we were there.
- The table minimums are extremely high – I was not in the mood to learn a new game like Baccarat without a few Bacardi and diets in me so my next mission was to find my familiar friend, the blackjack dealer. Problem was there were not many of them. A few. Maybe five in total and we visited 4 casinos. The minimum at the cheapest table? 300 HKD, or at the time of writing this just over $38 USD per hand. We didn’t gamble.
- No entertainment – The Venetian Macau has one regular show called The House of Dancing Water. Supposedly when all the casinos opened they had your typical Cirque de Soleil and what not but nobody was attending the shows. Because they are all at the baccarat table. Gambling lots of money. Very seriously.
- It’s really expensive – Part of what makes Vegas great is the fact that once you are there you don’t have to – if you can’t or don’t want to – spend a ton of money. Cheap buffets, comped drinks, reasonably priced rooms off the strip and table and slot minimums that fit any budget. Not so much in Macau. The Holiday Inn was over $150 USD per night for a random weekday in the beginning of December.
- It’s really spread out – The casinos are not located by each other. Some are grouped together in little hotel/casino villages on the coasts of Macau island. Some of bundled up in what could be considered the “downtown” and others are being built still in other parts of the island. We went from the downtown area (where the Wynn is located) to the hotel cluster where the Hard Rock and Venetian are and it was a 25 minute cab ride. It’s not walkable.
My conclusion is that if you like Las Vegas you will almost certainly not like Macau. End of story.
Macau isn’t all bad
If for one reason or another you find yourself in Macau here is the best Macau has to offer. Not a terrible way to spend a day all things considered, but it’s just simply not fair to compare Las Vegas to Macau — way way too different.
Hong Kong is cool
At one point while we were planning out our stay in Hong Kong I was looking traveling straight to Macau and spending two nights there and then traveling to Hong Kong island for a few nights. Lindsay saved us some money, time and disappointment by steering us into 4 nights and just taking the ferry for a day trip to Macau. We ended up staying all of our nights in Kowloon – a part of Hong Kong that has a really good share of authentic Hong Kong lifestyle and within walking or train to most of the popular tourists spots. We both liked Hong Kong and were glad we spent the time there.