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Tag Archives: macau

Big casino hotels appear in clusters in Macau.  There is a cluster at the Outer harbor (新口岸) anchored by the Grand Lisboa at one end, the Mandarin Oriental at the other, and with the Wynn, MGM Grand, L’Arc, and Star World scattered in the middle.  Another cluster of hotels is located at the Cotai strip where we were staying.

Bank of China, Hotel Lisboa and Grand Lisboa (picture above from left to right) – one can walk from the bank to the casinos easily – how convenient ! The fountain in front of the Wynn can be synchronized to music and performs much like the Bellagio does in Vegas.

Further down the street, looking back at the Grand Lisboa (picture below).

The Grand Lisboa looks a bit like a monstrous sprig of cauliflower during the day, but at night with the flashing and synchronized patterns of light, it looks spectacular. The reflection of Grand Emperor’s giant neon sign makes its even more dazzling.

The Grand Emperor neon sign is about 10 floors high.

Neon-lit casino hotel jungle.

The pawn shops located conveniently at the street corner are just as brightly lit by neon as the casinos.

This is the view out of our hotel room window (16th floor) day and night – Hard Rock, Crown and Grand Hyatt – the City of Dreams – all on the Cotai Strip – the reclaimed land located between the islands of Taipa and Coloane.  The pool belongs to our neighboring hotel complex – the Venetian.  The facades of the four hotel buildings across the Strip act as a giant message board where big Chinese or English characters scroll from one building to the other.

Every hotel in Macau has some attractions at the reception area.  One of the entrance of the City of Dreams casino hotel complex is a bigger than life mermaid swimming au naturel in an imaginary waterscape.

As you can see, as a scale – the lady with the mop shows how big the projection surface is.  The mermaid is about 6-foot tall in 20-foot deep water while the jellyfish is about 2.5-foot tall.

The Wynn casino hotels has two buildings, an entrance to Wynn Encore is much more subdue than the main, but behind the reception is a wall of 100’s of fluorescent jellyfish, gracefully swaying, rising and falling against a wall of metallic tiles.

They are interestingly not animated.  I have seen such a display before in a zoo-aquarium under natural light. Wonder what the ultraviolet light will do to them, mutant jellyfish ?  But the whole thing is ever so mesmerizing to watch – wish I made a video of this wall of jellyfish.

We had drinks at Vida Rica while watching the Chinese New Year fireworks.  This bar is right next to the Louis Vuitton Maison VIP salon we visited earlier during the day (see earlier post here.) One side of the bar has triple height floor-to-ceiling glass windows facing the waterfront – essentially front row seats we had.  The fireworks were not as spectacular as others I have seen in New York … but unlike those shows which went on for 15 – 20 minutes, this one lasted for more than 2 hours; it slowed down after a while and started up again … on and on – which created a lively backdrop for our entire time there.

The fireworks exploded right next to bridge.  It must be spectacular up there, but a bit distracting and dangerous for the drivers.

 The interior of Vida Rica is very elaborate, rich in styles – but it is very difficult to describe as it does not fit into any particular period, geo-ethnic theme, or ~isms.  First, it has these high-tech, jewel-studded lighting systems that could have been used as props for a baroque space opera – not techie like Star Wars but more like Dune (if you remember it).

Then, the walls are installed with these back-lit glass/ceramic flower-like glossy/matt objects, which are suspended over richly-patterned relief tiles – there is definitely an indo-asiatic feel here.

Near the entrance is this mannequin+dress sculpture made with broken blue-white ceramic bowls and plates.

The barman was very helpful in suggesting cocktails.  They had a new year special drinks menu – I cannot remembered what I ordered, sounded good on the menu, but did not taste that good.  Should have sticked to the classics.

Metallic-mirrored bamboo room divider.

This is the restaurant next door – again the ceiling lights are really interesting looking – a intimate, almost traditional Japanese ambience made with modern materials.

I think Mandarin-Oriental has created a unique house style here – definitely want to explore this place on my next trip.

We seldom visit a LV as they sell more or less the same lines of goods, but are curious to know what this luxury brand is doing to keep justifying charging those premium prices. So we wandered into this flagship “maison” which was holding an exhibition of LV’s history and craftsmanship.  I took this picture above from a spectacularly-decorated bar – Vida Rica – in the Mandarin Oriental next door where we watched the Chinese New Year’s eve fireworks – see later post.  This is the entrance of Vida Rica.

The LV exhibition was quite interesting as it shows how rich people in olden days used to bring their entire household in LV trunks to far flung places.  This video showcases a book that included some of what we saw there.

We did not buy a thing there but somehow their “clienteling manager” chose us for a tour of their VIP salon and patio. We were led out of the showroom through an innocuous looking door into a salon – a luxuriously decorated living room with a patio overlooking the street below and the Nam Wan lake.  Pampering your client and making them feel special is one way to make them want to pay that extra $$$s.

I found this incredibly detailed tour of the maison online, and this is an excerpt about the salon.

The jewel of this gallery level is the VIP Suite and Patio designed by Yabu Pushelberg. Measuring 140 square-meters, the VIP Suite commands unobstructed lake and Macau Tower views in a modern, elegant, and luxury setting. An art wall with the Suite hosts a mother-of-pearl inserts, library, sliding screens of glass reeds and linear gilt work to conceal displays and fitting room. Hand-tufted wool and silk carpets, platinum-finish linens and fine dark leather are deployed for an intimate, residential atmosphere. An exclusive elevator transport top clientele from the Ground Floor to the Suite boasting its own washroom and pantry.

The two pictures of the shop below were borrowed from their web site.  The salon is at the corner.

The patio is located to the left next to the signage on the third floor.

One thing you cannot avoid in these Macau hotels is the shopping arcade, each with the same ubiquitous luxury brands – some more exclusive than the others – all expensive but boring – and they were mostly empty when we were visiting.  The masses had not yet descended on these hotels and shopping centers as it was before New Year day.

The public areas of the Venetian are built around indoor canals with Venetian-style facades and a painted ceiling of the outdoor sky. There was a long line of people waiting to take a gondola ride with a singing gondolier. Yes, I saw a woman holding a little flag taking a group of tourists around the place.

This is a shopping mall, faking the ambience of Venezia, but selling genuine branded goods to tourists mostly from China, a country that knows quite a bit about fakes.  Vrai et/ou faux ?Access to the Venetian’s hotel rooms are also located near the canals so it completes the illusion of “being there.”   We were so glad that we did not stay there –  for one – you have to walk miles to get out of the hotel, and the worst part I imagine is the feeling that you are staying in a mall designed for shopping and not a hotel for pampering.

The Four Season’s shopping arcade is constructed to look like the arcade of yesteryears – think Burlington Arcade of London or Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel of Milano.  Its ceiling is so high and the entrance so tall that the names of the shops are scaled-up accordingly.  The labels are really in your face and bigger than life.

David Yurman, Brioni, and Canali in a mall ?  Only in Macau.

I liked these light fixtures suspended from the ceiling with a skylight.  They are massive yet give such soft relaxing light.

Möet & Chandon’s own bubbles bar at the Shoppes at Four Seasons.

We had dinner at MGM’s Rossio, some of the tables spilled into the atrium of the hotel.  The atrium was fantastically decorated, almost to the point of being garish.  But it was an immense space, as a result, the large number of fake trees with lights were not claustrophobic but it was a bit overdone.  In case you are wondering, we did not stay here.

Among all the razzmatazz, off to one side of the atrium is this pinkish romantic-looking bar.

More fake flowers, kiddie bridge and green rabbits – I imagine some 3-year old will love it.

In Vegas, one of MGM Grand’s attraction is a lion habitiat. That may explain the number of lions used in Chinese lion dance placed around the hotel, including ones that move automatically as you walk past them.

What was also interesting was the facade of the fake palace inside the atrium – images were projected onto it to create a even more dazzling sight. More lions on the balcony.

Below is a video of a lion attack that happened last year in the MGM Grand in Vegas:

By the way, that is what the atrium looks like normally (photo borrowed from MGM’s web site).

This restaurant Rossio (盛事) is located inside the MGM Grand just beyond the gambling floor.  I am not sure what cuisine it serves normally.  They were offering seafood buffet the night we went (Chinese New Year’s eve) – on offer were unlimited sushi, oysters, snow crab legs, shark’s fin soup, a wide selection of international dishes, US and continental, and even raclette ! …. The quality was very decent despite the all-you-can-eat setting.  We went quite late so the food were not piled high but there were still plenty.

oysters, snow crab legs, razor clams and shrimps

It looks a bit like Möevenpick marche, doesn’ it ?

We were not that hungry (you may ask why go to a buffet ? –  most places were fully booked), hence the small portions.

Except the US Louisville-style BBQ ribs, the rest are all from Asia – yakitori, chinese roast duck, chicken tandoori, lamb curry, fish curry, etc.

Interesting decorative jars of something, are they infusing their oils with herbs ?

Overall, I liked the restaurant – comfortably efficient. I think this is the main place where breakfasts are served.  It is a bit too informal for dinner, however.

We walked from A-Ma Temple via Calçada da Barra and was looking for a way to get up to the Church of our lady of Penha  (Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Penha, 澳門主教山小堂). And we wandered into Largo do Lilau (Lilau Square or 亞婆井前地) which is a part of the UNESCO recognized “Historic Centre of Macau”.

We really liked the ambience, perhaps we were thirsty and a bit tired, the square felt really relaxing in late afternoon. Quiet, slight breeze, diffused shadows, friendly storekeeper, canned iced coffee.  At first, the atmosphere felt a bit artificial as it seemed so perfect or staged.  But then some old ladies gathered around the fountain to chat, and a dog owner walked around with a watering can, pouring water at places where her dog pee’ed and at other corners where her dog did not.  What a neighborhood.

There used to be a spring here which was a main source of fresh water for early residents of  Macau.  I wonder if that little fountain above is a remnant of the water source.  This area corresponds to the first Portuguese residential quarters in Macau (1500’s).

On our way to Largo do Lilau, we passed the Moorish Barracks, now the Maritime Administration (Capitania do Portos) – built in 1874, this building was to accommodate an Indian regiment from Goa appointed to reinforce Macau’s police force.  There must have been lots of tourists wondering into it as they have a sign out front stating entry is for official business only.

This spiraling structure must be a recent addition.

On the same day we went to the A-Ma Temple, we went to lunch at – Restaurante Litoral 海灣餐廳 at 261A Rua do Almirante Sérgio, in the inner port area.  They serve traditional Macanese dishes – a fusion of Portugal, Chinese and African flavors.  Macau has more than 500 years of history (compared to HK’s 150 years) – being a busy port serving traders between Europe and Asia by way of Africa.

This restaurant has been mentioned by Fodors and Frommers, and my verdict is recommendable – I think I could be more enthusiastic if I had order the right dishes.  We had African chicken, duck cooked in blood, and a bacalhau-based fried rice dish.  We should have ordered the clams (as the table next to us did).

The A-Ma temple (Barra Temple, 媽閣廟) was one of our first sightseeing stops.  Macau has more history than HK.  And this temple apparently already existed before the city of Macau came into being.  According to Wikipedia:

Built in 1488, the temple is dedicated to Matsu, the goddess of seafarers and fishermen.

The name Macau is thought to be derived from the name of the temple. It is said that when the Portuguese sailors landed at the coast just outside the temple and asked the name of the place, the natives replied “媽閣” (pronounced “Maa1 Gok3”). The Portuguese then named the peninsula “Macao”. … It is also one of the first scenes photographed in China.

The temple was quite busy as it was near the New Year.  A teenage girl was asking her fortunes by shaking a little cup with the bamboo sticks, each with a fortune. Obviously, she does not know how to do it and scattered the entire cup of sticks on the floor.  We saw a few men came into the temple with a roasted suckling pig, burned a bunch of incense each, said their prayers in front of the statue, and let off a hugh bundle of firecrackers.

Roasted suckling pig on the alter.

The temple consists of several pavillions linked by steps.  These men must be seafarers as they were hardcore with their ceremonies.  They carried the suckling pig from the bottom entrance all the way up to the top pavilion, bought more incense and solemnly made their wishes and asked for blessings in front of another set of statues.  The ladies selling incense were doing brisk business.

Giant lotus candles costing HK$888 and $1388 (about US$110 and $180).

“Quiet, solemn, retreat”, “Dirty matters – do not approach”

Zi Yat Heen 紫逸軒 is a Michelin 2-star Chinese restaurant located within our hotel.  It was impossible to book a table so we ended up crashing in for dim sum at almost 2pm.  The ambience was top-notch and so was the food.  Their menu listed at least 12 different shark’s fin soups – different grades and preparations – not for dim sum.

The stir-fried vegetable was done superbly as was the shark’s fin soup dumplings.

Their shanghai soup buns were ok but I really liked the way these little buns are individually served.

They have their interpretation of a couple of dishes – the beef cube appetizer (taste so so, although the texture of the jelly fish and the beef cube matched).

The sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves was done just right – not too dry or salty.

We ordered Osmanthus Jelly 桂花糕 for dessert and they gave us two additional types.

We did not order wine but there appears to be plenty of choices.

Not having the time to try their main menu, we could not fully enjoy or explore whatever they can do that earned them the 2 stars.  But the whole experience is solidly top grade.

Our itinerary in Hong Kong included a four-day trip to Macau.  We left Hong Kong from one of Ocean Terminal’s pier on a Cotaijet 金光飛航 – a high-speed catamaran which made the crossing of Pearl River to Macau in an hour.

In this picture taken from the departure lounge, the tall gray building on the left is Hong Kong’s International Commerce Center, 4th tallest building in the world. The other buildings with curved facades and the arch are luxury residential apartment buildings.  They all sit on top of – Elements – one of the newer malls in HK – where the restaurant Nahm is located.

Macau Tower 澳門旅遊塔 Torre Panorâmica – its bungee jump height (233 m) is only second to that of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas.

Macau is connected with its two islands – Coloane 路環 and Taipa 氹仔 – by several bridges – recently a landfill was created bridging the two islands.  The landfill is now known as the Cotai Strip 路氹 – an imitation of the Vegas Strip.  Our hotel is on the Cotai Strip.

Looking back towards Macau’s downtown – the building with the irregular outline is the Grand Lisboa casino hotel – it is spectacular (or garish) at night.

This is the massive Venetian Macau which is next to our hotel and all the hotels/shopping arcades/casinos are connected.Same view at night. It looks just like Vegas.