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The Breakdown: Macau

Exchange Rate: $1 Canadian = 8 MOP

What we did: We spent 2 nights at the Venetian Macau, located on the Cotai strip. We spent our first 24 hours window shopping through the Grand Canal shops, eating egg tarts at Lord Stow’s Bakery and Portugese chicken in the food court. We spent about 1 hour wandering aimlessly around the casino, mostly because we didn’t understand how the whole gambling thing worked. We finally placed a few bets, lost our agreed upon limit within 10 minutes and stopped gambling.

After a good night’s sleep, we took advantage of the Venetian’s 18 hole mini-golf course and swimming pools. Fortified, we took a taxi to the oldest and most populated part of Macau, the Macau Peninsula. We explored Senado Square and the Peninsula by foot, before finally settling in a Macanese restaurant to dine on African Chicken and try Macau Beer. Our full bellies necessitated a long walk to the Wynn Macau to see the water fountain show. A quick cab ride back to the Cotai strip to see the Bubble show at City of Dreams and our time in Macau was up!

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Food: In Macau, you can get it all. Italian, Korean, Taiwanese…you name it, you can find it. The Venetian has a 1000 seat food court that caters to all tastes and is easy on the wallet too. A shared dish of Portugese chicken and 2 drinks filled our bellies, was delicious and cost just 100 MOP.

Macanese cuisine is a fusion of Portugese and Chinese flavours, cooking techniques and ingredients. We tried Galinha a Africana, or African Chicken at O Porto Interior on the Inner Harbour. Chicken baked with chillies, garlic and coconut milk, it was super hearty and satisfyingly spicy.

You can’t leave Macau without trying an egg tart from Lord Stow’s. We tried one at the location inside the Venetian, and also at a random Chinese street stall. Truthfully, they were identical. I couldn’t taste any difference at all, and at only 8 MOP a pop, it’s easy to indulge.

Wish we would’ve known: The Cotai Strip was specifically developed as a casino and tourism project, separate from the “real” Macau. There’s no need to leave the hotel at all, but if you do, the only options within walking distance are other casino/hotel complexes. Though everything we needed could be found inside the Venetian, from restaurants to entertainment to shopping to coffee shops, the whole area felt artificial and contrived. Most people are at the Venetian to gamble, so the rest is just icing on the cake. Hence, the mini-golf course, swimming pools and kids zone were mostly empty, most of the time. The casino? Full all day and all night.

We definitely preferred the vibe of the Macau Peninsula. This is where most of the population is working, living, shopping and eating, so it’s also where we were able to get a real feel for the region. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to get there; a taxi ride to Senado Square only cost us 50 MOP.

Travel Tip: If you’re flying into Hong Kong International Airport, definitely take the Turbojet direct to Macau and clear customs there. You’ll save time and money.

Attraction Tip: You can see the Bubble Show for free if you’re staying at a hotel within the City of Dreams, or if you have a 100 MOP receipt from any store in the complex. With lots of restaurant and shopping options available, it’s easy to do. Otherwise, it’s 30 MOP per person.

Be prepared: for high minimums at the Macau casinos. At the Venetian, we couldn’t find a single blackjack table with a buy in less than 300 MOP. At that rate, $100 disappears rather too quickly. Just ask The Bear. 😦

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