Macau, Asia's casino capital

When we think of Macau, we always picture its most iconic landmark – that of a single wall perched on a hillock, the only structure left of a once grand Catholic cathedral known as the Ruins of St Paul’s.

Brightly lit building facades in Macau by night
But when I read the news on May 26 that reported the passing of Stanley Ho Hung Sun, the Hong Kong-Macau billionaire businessman and philanthropist, my thoughts flashed to Macau, the casino capital of Asia.

For 75 years, Ho held a government granted monopoly for the Macau gambling industry which inevitably earned him the nickname as the King of Gambling even though he did not indulge in the gaming habit.

I read that Ho, the founder and chairman of SJM Holdings, owned 19 casinos in Macau and these included the Grand Lisboa.

Facade of the Grand Lisboa casino hotel
The name of this landmark casino hotel evoked a night view of its fascinating façade which I saw in a night drive through Macau aimed at allowing visitors (like me!) to admire the glittering and gaudy, lighted buildings by night.

I was then a guest of the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) on a visit to Macau with a group who were treated to an eventful tour, from its casinos to well-preserved heritage sites.

Among other exciting sights, it was fun to discover how the casinos were linked underground and overhead by a network of air-conditioned shopping arcades and bridges.

If the buildings were situated further apart, there was a regular shuttle service for guests to ply among the buildings in comfort and with convenience.

During the “free” time from the organized itinerary, I explored the underground shopping arcades to discover a host of branded merchandise and accessories, along with international and local brands for food and beverage.

A live performance at this musical fountain
I was careful to read the signs to get my bearings and navigate my way in the maze of underground corridors and arcades because one could easily get distracted by the beautifully decorated merchandise…and got lost!

At intervals along these indoor shopping arcades, there were interesting art installations and musical fountains.

I happened to arrive just on time to witness a fancy display by one that was electronically controlled to “move” in a schedule of performances, and this show was complete with smoke effects and live dancers, dressed in flowing garments to resemble butterflies.

The San Luca canal flowed through The Venetian in Macau
One of the must-see destinations in Macau (for me!) was The Venetian, the largest casino in the world and the largest single structure hotel building in Asia.

Inside the building, I was transported to Italy.

I admired the European architectural designs and watched the San Luca canal that flowed through – complete with gondolas – and even gondoliers who could serenade as they rowed along the canal!

The design within the building included sunny, blue skies dotted with clouds above which gave the impression of being outdoors while we were still enjoying air-conditioned comfort.

A highly recommended live spectacular water extravaganza!
Among the items on our itinerary was a visit to the City of Dreams to experience The House of Dancing Water, a spectacular live show presented on a stage which was in fact, a 26-feet deep pool of water!

Seated at the edge of my seat, I was enthralled from the start to the end as I watched acrobatic high dives into the water and marveled at how the stage rose up or sank into the water in a totally mesmerizing and powerful water extravaganza.

I have always enjoyed live theatre shows but The House of Dancing Water was clearly in a league of its own, one live show that I would recommend to all visitors in Macau.

View of The Venetian at twilight
I don’t gamble but a visit to Macau was not complete without at least a walk through the casino and that was what I did, just for the experience, and to observe the action at the gaming tables and slot machines.

While touring Macau, I noticed that road names used Portuguese spelling and were named after historic figures or places in Macau or Portugal while road signs used two languages: Portuguese and traditional Chinese.

In 1998, Ho was honoured to be the first Chinese person to have a road in Macau, Dr Stanley Ho Avenue, named after him.

For his philanthropic contributions to the community, his name is on some 12 museums, hospitals, and sports centres in Hong Kong and Macau.

The Macau skyline with the distinct outline of the Grand Lisboa casino hotel
Ho had influenced Macau’s gaming industry for decades and due to his contributions, Macau has now surpassed Las Vegas.

Although he has left us, his legacy in the gaming industry lives on in Macau.

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