As my Thailand visa expired on August 1st I was forced to leave the country, although I could come back as early as the same day! Previously I had taken road trips to Cambodia and back, but was fed up with that and thought that a better idea would be to take a couple of days vacation to somewhere that I could fly quickly, cheaply and directly from Bangkok.
I decided to visit Macau for a couple of nights. I'd already visited there 6 months ago but had done nothing that involved being outside of a casino. My plan this time was to spend the first evening playing poker then spend the rest of my time discovering the non-gambling related things to do and see there, if in fact there were any.
I checked into The Lisboa, the oldest hotel in Macau. It is connected to the The Grand Lisboa where the PokerStars Macau poker room can be found on the top floor.
The first thing I did was to hit the shops. The last time I was in Macau I was eating up all the Dark Chocolate Snickers that were imported from the USA. They are delicious and unfortunately the only place in the world I've found them for sale outside of the states is Hong Kong and Macau. So I was a man on a mission. I walked straight in to Watsons, and up to the 3rd floor where I located my target, and proceeded to wipe out the entire shelve.
At that point I thought my mission to be complete, but as I was taking the above photo an undercover agent from Watsons approached me to ask me what I was doing. "I am shopping, what are you doing?" I asked her. She just stood beside me saying nothing. I walked a few steps, turned around and she was stuck to me like glue. I asked her "Can I help you?" and she said "I want to know what you are doing". I told her to "keep following me and you'll find out". I walked up to the counter and paid for my basket full of dark chocolatey goodness. I turned round to the woman and said "you've just witnessed my dark side", and casually walked out. She must have been thinking "WTF?", but it's better that I leave her bemused than have her know the truth - that Dark Chocolate Snickers hold a mysterious power and that I was planning to smuggle them out of China.
At night I went to play a small MTT at PokerStars Macau. There is a regular game every day of the week there except for Tuesdays. The buyins range from $500HKD - $2000HKD, with regular festivals such as the Macau Poker Cup offering bigger buyins up to $50,000HKD. It's worth checking out their tournament schedule in advance if you are planning a trip to Macau.
It is very convenient because you can buy directly into the events from your PokerStars account in $USD and also be paid out winnings back into your account. If that wasn't enough, you even earn VPPs and FPPs on the tournament fees. Great to see the awesome PokerStars VIP Club being extended to these live tournaments at PokerStars Macau.
I played the Monday night $500HKD Bounty tournament. We started with 2000 chips, at BB50, with 25 minute levels and played 10 handed.
There were 3 tables but eventually over 40 people entered as there were many alternates that would take the seat of a bustout, even several levels in where they were starting super short stacked. I counted how many hands we got in per level and it was 11 - 12.
The standard of play was very, very poor as you'd expect for a nightly tourney in Macau. I had a fun player on my right who was "talking strategy" non stop despite nobody having any interest in what he was saying. At BB50 he opened to 275 UTG, everyone folded and he slammed his pocket cowboys down onto the felt like he was the man. Several hands later he flatted a big raise preflop with K3 and shoved for 4x the pot on a K86r board. He happened to get called by QQ, and spent about 5 minutes talking about how his "opponent doesn't know how to play poker with strategy". Fun times.
The English guy across the table asked me if there was a bounty on me. I held up the bounty chip that each of us were given and said "yes, there is a bounty on me". He asked, no "is there a special bounty?", at which point I was wishing that I had at least one Bounty bar in my bag full of Dark Chocolate Snickers.
The English dude was quite a nice guy but not very poker savvy. He also made me laugh later, when he pointed to the 3 bounty chips that a player had collected and asked "so if someone busts you out will they get all of your bounty chips". It should be pretty obvious to anyone who thinks logically why that wouldn't be the case. In that scenario the winner of the whole tournament collects all the bounty chips. Nice bounty tournament! Some of the stuff he was saying reminded me of the home games I used to run years ago where one of the guys had a stand up argument with me about how many outs he had because "you never really know how many outs you have because some of them could be in other peoples hands or in the burn cards".
It was a fast structure and I won a total of zero hands. With a massive stack of 1600 chips at BB300 I jammed Q7 from the HJ. Got 3 quick folds, then the English guy in the BB sighs and says "I think I'm going to have to go with this one", looks at his cards again, says "ok, lets do it". I turned over my cards first and stood up, he looked at my hand, and THEN he turned over QQ. Dirty slowroll, just like the last time I visited Macau, although this time I actually think it was a nitroll, believe it or not.
Oh well, busting out early meant that I was free to go enjoy a nice dinner and an even nicer massage.
The next morning I was up bright and early for a 6 hour tour of Macau. I was picked up from my hotel and the first stop was the Golden Lotus Flower which was given by China in 1999 to mark the hand-over of Macau from Portugal to China.
From there we went to see the facade of St Paul's Church, which is all that remains of a 16th century church that was later destroyed by fire. It's now a world heritage site. It looks beautiful from the front, and from the back you can climb up and look through the windows.
Next to the church is the Macau Museum which is built into a 16th century fort. The museum is interesting enough but the best thing about visiting it is that as you exit from the 3rd floor you are led onto the roof of the fort and have some stunning views of Macau.
Next up on the itinerary was a visit to Fisherman's Wharf which is a kind of theme park with a man-made volcano, Colosseum, Aladdin's fort, underground video game arcade and 150 shops and restaurants. The buildings represent the style of many of the world's famous ports.
We stopped off for lunch in one of the restaurants and were free to wander around for half an hour after that. Of course, I spent all that time in the video game arcade.
The best views of Macau come from the top of the 338 m (1,109 ft) Macau Tower. There is a shopping arcade at the bottom and sick panoramic views at the top, as well as adventure activities such as a sky walk and the world's highest bungee jump.
From there we headed to the oldest temple in Macau, A-Ma Temple.
We were then lead to a cookie shop where they sell all the local made cookies, and there were tons of free samples. I looked at the prices; $88HKD per box on average which is such a rip off. No doubt the tour guide was getting a cut from everything the mug tourists she brought to the shop spends. The locals in Macau are fairly poor and they are not spending $88HKD on boxes of local made cookies. You can go into the old city and pick up this stuff at a fraction of the price.
Anyway I tasted all of the free samples, which were at least 20, then got them to give me a free drink of water and then I walked out. Cheers for the free snack.
That was the end of a quite enjoyable tour around Macau in glorious weather. It was 34 degrees C with a nice breeze. The tour guide remarked on how high the humidity was but it seemed low to me compared to Thailand.
In the evening I visited the Venetian to eat and watch the Cirque Du Soleil show ZAIA. A good tip for anyone that wants to travel for free around Macau is this; All the big casino/hotels have a free shuttle bus to and from the ferry port and airport. So I got a free trip by taking the Grand Lisboa bus to the ferry port, then the Venetian bus from the ferry port to the Venetian. Easy game.
If you do ever take a taxi in Macau don't stand for the scumbags that wait outside the hotels and try to charge you 2-3 times the meter price. Taxis are everywhere so just walk a few meters and hail one down on the street.
The Venetian Macau, which is over double the size of the Venetian in Las Vegas, is hugely impressive. It's the largest hotel in Asia, the 6th biggest building in the world (by area), and the biggest casino in the world. I took a wander round the shopping arcade which has an indoor blue sky and opera singers singing from windows. Macau is a duty-free country so shopping is relatively inexpensive and there are hundreds of shops in the Venetian. I bought a nice polo shirt in one of the shops for a reasonable price.
I then went in search of food. With the show starting in 30 minutes I didn't have enough time to go eat at a restaurant so went to the big food court. I walked all around it and every stall was Asian food that I didn't know what it was, and most menu signs were written in Chinese. I had almost walked the full circle of stalls when I seen a sign "FATBURGER", oh yes, that will do nicely!
After filling my belly I headed off to the ZAIA Arena and took my seat bang in the middle of the 4th row, just a few minutes before the Cirque Du Soleil show started. It was a great seat for watching all the action that happened on stage but at several points I would have to turn around or look above as the action moved into the arena itself.
The show was 90 minutes of fantastic entertainment and some stunning acrobatic performances. I got covered in foam, streamers and balloons at various points of the show, not to mention having popcorn thrown in my face by one of the clowns at the start. lol clownaments.
ZAIA was a great way to end my short vacation.
I stayed over another night and leisurely took a 2pm flight back to Bangkok the next day. Immigration officials took a look at the 3 previous "tourist" entries to Thailand this year, stamped my passport and welcomed me home :-)