Last month was the inaugural Asia Championship of Poker (ACOP) in the casino-haven of Macau. The event was a great success, with a huge amount of well-known poker pros flying in to play in the HKD $100,000 Main Event – the largest buy-in Main Event that Asia has ever seen. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Macau with PokerNews four times, and this trip really impressed me. So much so that it reversed the conclusion I had made last year, that Macau “wasn’t my cup of tea“.
Macau is divided into two islands, Coloane and Taipai. Coloane is the place to be for a true cultural experience, which holds a large Portuguese influence. Laced throughout the winding streets are randomly-placed, glitzy casinos that tower over shack-like apartment buildings. It’s a bizarre contrast.
The Grand World of Lisboa
Grand Lisboa had been the APPT destination for three years. It’s an extravagant complex with some of the most technologically-advanced, five-star rooms I’ve ever seen (when the toilet blow-dries my toosh, I know I’m in a fancy place), however the casino has a vibe that quite tickle my fancy. When I picture grand casinos, I expect to see hundreds of vacationing tourists walking around in awe with cocktails or shopping bags in hand. Instead, Grand Lisboa tends to attract the serious baccarat guys, who don’t really appear to be having a good time.
Last year I stayed at Hotel Lisboa, which is across the street from the Grand Lisboa, and across the planet in terms of hotel experience. Each day I had to share my elevator with a couple. Not your ordinary couple though. A purchased relationship that began on the ground floor, also known as the “race track”, and happily ended on the sixth floor of my hotel, 30-minutes later.
While I love walking the streets and pushing my way through the bustling madness to discover unique attractions like the Ruins of St Paul, and the vibrant tropical garden in the middle of town, most of my experience had been pretty isolated to the “grand” world of the Lisboa.
Enter: Galaxy Macau
Oh boy, did my experience change this year. Taipai Island is more of the Las Vegas mirror image, and this year, PokerStars Macau returned to their original home of Grand Waldo for the launch of ACOP. The huge difference this time around, in comparison to the earlier years, is that an extraordinary complex, known as Galaxy Macau, now towers over Grand Waldo with three luxurious hotels and a plentiful selection of dining, shopping and entertainment. No longer is Grand Waldo a dark and lonely hotel and casino on the outskirts of the Cotai Strip. Here is a quick visual:
I would describe Galaxy as a combination of Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace and Mandalay Bay, thanks to my favourite feature – the manmade beach and wave pool. Angel and I were lucky enough to stay at Galaxy Hotel, and even had a couple of nights at the incredible Okura Hotel, both thanks to some last-minute, generous help from one of the kindest people in the world, Bryan Huang. Both hotels are within the Galaxy Macau complex, along with a Banyan Tree – the epitome of luxury.
Terrazza Italian at Galaxy Macau
Galaxy Macau has a wide selection of restaurants that will blow you away. I had one evening to myself early in my trip so I brought my book to Terrazza Italian and enjoyed a glass of wine (OK, two) and a feast in the peaceful atmosphere. My meal was incredible – complete with personalised service from the chef who had come out to visit each guest. When I told him I didn’t eat meat, he put together a mouth-watering ravioli dish that wasn’t on the menu – which went perfectly with my vegetable soup . Even my simple green salad was turned into an event with the waiter wheeling over a ginormous half-barrel of parmesan cheese, inside which he not only freshly-grated out the topping, but he put together the entire salad, tossing it all in there in front of me. I certainly appreciated that starter more than I would have if just a plate of greens had been placed on my table. It’s amazing how presentation can lift a meal ten-fold. The table-settings even had tiny clay pots of freshly growing herbs. It was a great experience.
Banyan Tree Spa
One morning before work began (many thanks to the late starts each day), Angel and I had a beautiful experience at the Banyan Tree Spa. Every second of our time in there was blissful. The staff were so warm and welcoming, the facilities were immaculate and impressively designed, and my facial was beyond amazing. Our treatment began with a gentle foot soak and massage while we sipped on ginger tea and ate fresh fruit in our bamboo-lined room. It was heaven!
Back to Work…
Once I had fallen into a serious zen at Banyan Tree Spa, it was time to snap back to life and head to work… While we were covering the ACOP, Donnie Peters challenged me to the iPad SnG in the PokerStars Mobile Lounge where they were giving away iPads, so I simply had to document my feat on video. Whether it turned out a feat for me or not, you’ll have to watch to find out. Hint: I’m not writing this on an iPad.
That’s it from me for now; if you are contemplating a trip to Macau, I highly recommend staying at one of Galaxy’s incredible hotels. Or at the very least, stay on Taipai island, but be sure spend a day or two on Coloane for sightseeing.