Most people who have been to Hong Kong have heard of Macau (also spelt Macao), the former Portugese Colony and fellow current Special Administrative Region of China that sits just 60km away. In the early 2000s Macau was transformed into the gambling capital of Asia, and it’s seen as a must see place for many tourists who want a Vegas-like experience. It’s also very convenient if you need to exit the Hong Kong border to get a residents visa in your passport! And so it came to be that we took a family trip to Macau this past weekend.
Before I launch into the specifics of our weekend I have to say that our overall experience wasn’t great, but that’s us. We are big food/culture/history people when we travel and while we do like to stay in the odd luxury resort and do a bit (or a lot) of shopping it’s not really what we look for in a holiday. But stay with me – there were some great things about the weekend!
SO. We booked our ferry ride to Macau on Cotai Jet for 8.30am on Saturday morning. Step one, be slightly more organised. We left here at 7.55 and were meant to be checked in and boarding by 8am. Cue lots of running through the ferry terminal screaming “HURRY UP” at one or the other child. But we made it. The ferry was really nice and comfortable and arrived on time at 9.30am, and the journey was pretty relaxing as we decided to let the kids play on our phones. We earned that in the terminal.
Our accommodation was booked at the Venetian, and when we arrived at the Taipa ferry terminal there was a shuttle bus from the hotel waiting out the front. This was super convenient and easy and the journey from there to the hotel took about 10 minutes.
The Venetian is pretty impressive looking both outside and in, as anyone who has been there or seen pics will tell you. It really does look like a mini Venice inside, with canals where you can take Gondola rides and be sung to by a real live pretend Gondolier. It is HUGE with over 3,000 rooms and 26,000 staff (Justus and I took guesses as to the number all weekend but found out the figure on the ferry ride back). There are about a gazillion shops, everything from Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Chanel to Camper, 7 Jeans and Nike. There is every restaurant you can imagine – even two of some. We loved the Godiva chocolate shop that served Godiva ice cream!
The hotel has a kids play area inside (Qube, which we didn’t use) and four pools, although you can only use one with the kids. It also has an outdoor playground. The kids pool had a blow up water slide thing set up next to it, apparently for the whole summer, which looked really fun and kept loads of kids entertained despite ours being too little/scared to use it.
Our room was big, a suite, but didn’t have a dividing wall at all so we were all bunked in together, which can be annoying if you want to watch TV or anything while the kids are sleeping. The room decor was also pretty old fashioned and our room on the 25th floor (south side) was quite dark.
So, essential info aside, we really hated the Venetian! The experience of going in and walking around was cool but I would never choose to stay there knowing what it’s like. Justus and I actually got lost at one point and I nearly started crying, joking that I felt like I was in The Shining.
My overall experience was this: The air conditioning is running way too cold. It feels like it’s daytime all the time because there is a fake sky. There are people everywhere falling over each other and they are all taking photos of your kids because they are blond(ish). It is materialism on crack. The casino is quiet and soulless and no one is even drinking alcohol, which in my view is the only fun part of gambling. The pool is nice but the Galaxy next door basically has a water park inside. We didn’t even get to go for a Gondola ride because it was a 30 minute wait and our kids are not the kind who wait patiently for 30 minutes unless essential.
There was also a Dreamworks experience on in the Cotai Sands Hotels, of which the Venetian is one, so we’d booked a lunch on the Sunday to take the kids to. BUT on the Saturday we saw a parade of Dreamworks characters (Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Penguins of Madagascar etc) and Walter completely freaked out, then Heike was being so cheeky on the Sunday morning (probably due to spending 24 hours in a weird artificial Venice and eating nothing but fries) that we cancelled it. Massive fail.
That said, we fled the hotel on Sunday morning and headed into Macau centre. This was an absolutely unexpected change of pace. SUCH a beautiful city and despite an insane amount of Chinese tourists, quite chilled out. We didn’t actually know the history of Macau until we got there, and it is so interesting – it was colonised by the Portugese in the 1500s, so it feels very European and is full of lovely old buildings. Our favourite was the ruins of St Paul, a church that was built in the early 1600s and then partially burnt down about 200 years ago.
Sadly we didn’t get any photos of the city itself as all our devices were flat, but it was quite nice wandering around, discovering things, not knowing what time it was and not feeling the need to capture everything on camera. Of course it did also mean that we almost missed our ferry again.
So, Macau. Definitely worth the visit and I’m sure we’ll be back, just not staying where we did. Not to say you shouldn’t, if that’s your thing. But any weekend away that leaves your daughter asking “Is that the real sky Mum?” when you get back raises some serious questions!