Cruising from Hong Kong to Macao via Turbojet is just like getting a seat in an aircraft. You go through customs, get a little printed piece of paper for your passport, and off you go. The journey takes less than an hour, and cabin crew offer duty free goods if you want them. Nobody bothered to fasten their seat belts, so we didn’t either. By the way, Stanley Ho (he with the wife and three very good friends) owns Turbojet.
We’d caught an early boat, so we kicked our heels at the arrival terminal for a while before our lift to the hotel arrived. Macao obviously gets large Asian tour groups. Once again, we round-eyes were in the distinct minority.
I was surprised that Macao’s atmosphere was as smoggy as Hong Kong’s. It’s a much smaller place, with a population of around 650,000. Compare Singapore’s 697 sq km to Macao’s 28 sq km. (source) But I suppose some of that smog had drifted over from China, which here is just across the Pearl River.
Our driver took us to the Grand Emperor, close to the old town, and we checked in. Jacky Chan owns the place. It has a kind of British vibe, with two coaches standing outside on the pavement, and two pretend Grenadier guards standing at the entrance with guns Pete assured me were plastic. A not very good portrait of Queenie hangs in the lobby, along with a portrait of George III. Why he’s there I have no idea. The hotel has a Windsor Lounge and a Royal Kitchen restaurant. It also has five floors of casino, and eighty-eight gold bars with auspicious serial numbers set into glass niches in the floor of the lobby, each surrounded by cut jewels. Each 1kg ingot is real, but the jewels are not diamonds.
We had a deluxe room (ie standard), well-appointed with a number of unusual free features. The room had a mobile phone for guest use, which could be used to call overseas free of charge. It also had access to maps and tourist information. The phone won’t work if it’s stolen, and there are charges if it’s broken. We could get free drinks at the Windsor Lounge on the 21st floor – we did go up for one drink after dinner, but it’s a disco that didn’t open until 8pm. Maybe forty years ago…
Although the room was generally fine, the bathroom was simply badly designed. The shower was over the bath and there was no way you could shower without water going everywhere it wasn’t supposed to. Dinner in the Royal Kitchen was excellent, if not cheap. We partook of a seafood buffet – prawns hot or cold, crab, fish, pippies, mussels, soup, lobster (which I would have called yabbies) cooked in one of three ways, and the usual accompaniments of veg, salad and the like. And sweets. Mustn’t forget sweets.
We wandered around the casino just to look. It’s a mug’s game, although we’ve been known to put a few dollars in the slot machines at home. There were some machines on one level, but most of the people were playing black jack, roulette – and dominoes. I don’t think I saw a single Caucasian player. And the Asians were playing for keeps. One fellow was feeding HK$1,000 notes into a machine at a black jack table. Note after note after note. The tables advertised minimum stakes – HK$300 per chip, or HK$500 per chip. That’s ONE chip. Wow. No photos I’m afraid. You weren’t allowed to take knives, guns, or cameras into the casino. Needless to say, there were security staff everywhere.
Tomorrow we were going out on our day tour of Macao. I’ll tell you all about it, promise.