The Single Dude's Guide to Macau

MacauWe’ve been absolutely dying to visit Macau for years, especially ever since we heard that Macau overtook Vegas as the number one gambling destination back in 2007. Being that Macau is only a short, cheap ($20 USD) one hour jet boat ride from Hong Kong, which is a favorite destination of ours, there is really no excuse that it took us so long to visit.

Right off the bat we’ve gotta say, it was a big let down. Granted we were only there on a week day and it could have been an “off night” but still, given all the hype it was pretty lame. Macau may rake in more gambling revenue than Vegas but Vegas it is not! I’d even say Atlantic City is more fun than Macau.

We decided to start off our evening with some Portuguese food. In case you didn’t know, up until 1999, Macau was a Portuguese colony. A friend of Charlie’s that used to live in Macau recommended Fernando’s, a Portuguese restaurant which is apparently one of the famous mainstays of Macau that’s been there forever. It’s very casual place with red and white checked table clothes where you can eat a shitload of food for a fairly reasonable price. The specialties are sangria and roast suckling pig. It’s damn tasty but also very, very greasy. It’s also kind of out of the way, a 15 to 20 minute cab ride at least from the strip. I’d say it’s worth a visit but not sure I would go back next time I visit.

Full of greasy Portuguese food and sangria we decided to head out to the casinos and try our luck since it was too early to party. I really love craps because it’s such a fast paced and boisterous game where all the players can really get into it plus it has some of the best odds in the house next to blackjack. Maybe the reason Macau rakes in so much cash is because the Chinese people don’t really party that much, they just sit around, smoke and play weird, boring Chinese card games and lose lots of money. The first big let down turned out to be that often the games we wanted to play, especially craps, were either missing entirely or there were only one or two tables in most casinos. Acres of smokey gaming floors, mostly full of weird games you’ve never seen before and tons of Chinese people that look like they’re having a miserable time – that’s how I would sum up the gambling scene in Macau.

Disappointed by the lack of action on the gaming floors, we went in search of a party but we never really found it other than some outrageously drunk backpacker kids stumbling around one of the major downtown streets where it like a ghost town already by only 1 am or so. They were so wasted they couldn’t give us a coherent explanation of where they came from or where we should go so we continued on in search of a party on our own. We didn’t find much at all short of a bar advertising “ladies night” with “free drinks for ladies” which turned out to be a small, upstairs gogo bar full of Eastern European hookers of varying degrees from the highly questionable up to decently hot. The drinks were over priced from about $10 USD up to the sky’s the limit. The most offensively priced thing was the $100 USD lap dances though. This was not to take a girl home, just a lap dance and who knows if it would even be topless or nude! A bad deal all around, a boring scene, mostly empty and the girls weren’t even topless.

Sorely disappointed by our “ladies night” clubbing experience we headed over to the original Hotel Lisboa (not to be confused with the newer and more glamorous Grand Lisboa right across the street from it) for an experience that we were certain couldn’t possibly disappoint, the Basement Restaurant Hooker Parade. The same friend of Charlie’s told us about Fernando’s told us if there was one thing not to miss it was surely The Basement Restaurant Hooker Parade. While you can’t watch it forever, it is definitely at least two or three beers worth of entertainment. The Hotel Lisboa is one of the older casinos in town and it’s definitely a little seedy and long in the tooth. The part of the building with the gaming floors and the Basement Restaurant Hooker Parade is kind of a round building. Go down to basement 1 and you will find something like the Chinese equivalent of a classic US greasy spoon. It’s obviously a 24 hour restaurant, the food looks questionable but it does have ~$4 USD Tsing Tao beers which was a huge improvement from the over-priced gogo bar. So you hang out in this Chinese greasy spoon drinking $4 beers and look out through the windows facing out and watch The Basement Restaurant Hooker Parade. There are easily 50 to 100 girls in the parade and they just prance back and forth in their too high heels and too short skirts for hours.

On this particular night there seemed to be hardly any customers but the girls kept going and going as if in a trance. One thing we noticed is that they sure don’t like photos. Even when we tried to take photos of ourselves with just a hint of the parade in the background the whole thing came to a grinding halt and some girls came into the restaurant and scolded us “No picture! No picture!”. Obviously, I don’t take orders from Chinese casino basement restaurant hookers parade or no parade and these poor girls unwittingly made the new goal of our evening to take as many pictures and video as possible. It was at least another two beers of entertainment starting and stopping the parade over and over with our camera phones. The whole scene is just really weird and surreal and it keep reminding me of a similar, but obviously less futuristic, version of the Asian restaurant in Cloud Atlas (if you haven’t seen it you won’t understand but if you have you will understand immediately). Sadly, even the Basement Restaurant Hooker Parade wears thin after a while but is definitely a must visit attraction in Macau. Apparently it’s been there for years.

Danny Defleur says:

There are plenty of places to party in Macau, but as my dear friends found out, the scene is not right out in the open, and it is more fragmented then one might like. As a city that changes faster than even regular visitors can keep up with, the very best thing to do in Macau is to start your night by finding some locals and asking their opinions.

There are a few notable demographic groups in Macau, and each will have different vibes:

  • Mainlanders: We all know these guys are there to gamble and shop. They often don’t speak great English and probably won’t know much about the city, but they most likely could point you towards the Chinese-popular (loud music, VSOP, etc.) clubs, such as those in NAPE. On the plus side, these hordes of tacky nouveau riche mainlander guys are bringing their tiny-home-town beauty queen mistresses with them and boring them stiff with their gambling.
  • Local Portuguese and Macanese: sadly dwindling, the Portuguese are a fun, laid-back bunch who know all the main spots, hidden spots and parties going on. If you are lucky enough to run into one or a group, be sure to say hi, pick their brains, and maybe find out a little something your guidebook can’t or won’t tell you about Macau!
  • French: There is a sizable French alliance in Macau, and they like to go out and drink and smoke and speak zee French while offending Charlie with their hipsterism. There are a few great French restaurants, on side streets or upstairs, that often stay open very late, with a few clientele and the chef or bartender all sitting around working on their savoir-faire. The French girls are very often single, and very often looking for a change.
  • Macau locals: Usually Cantonese families, recent or long-settled in Macau. They don’t often speak great English (or even Mandarin) but are very friendly and cool. Unlike their cousins in Hong Kong, there is no over sophisticated veneer and the Macau people are always willing to chat or give you a bit of their time. They will certainly know some majors clubs of whatever type you are looking for. Karaoke is very popular, and very often they go in big mixed groups just begging for some handsome interesting Westerner to come make their night interesting.
  • Filipinos: There are a lot of Southeast Asians working in Macau, usually for a pittance, so it’s rare to find a Filipino who knows the bar or club scene very well. They like to hang out in public squares, drinking and dancing, so if the weather is nice, head over to Senado Square, grab some 7-11 beers, and just hang for cheap. The female to male ratio of Filipinos is something like, oh, there are 6,000 women for every man? They’re fun and low-inhibition.

Here is a short list of spots to start or enjoy your night in Macau:

  • Macau island: NAPE area is full of bars and clubs with music or live bands. Usually open tables and couches and good for meeting people. Some of the bars here have pool tables or foosball. A few NAPE bars (in my memory) are Club MP3 and Casablanca. Check out these streets: Rua de Madrid, Rua de Londres, Avenida Xian Xing Hai. This is the NAPE area.
  • Senado Square and surroundings: The square is a favorite hang among locals and visitors alike, and you can get convenience or grocery store beers and enjoy in this picturesque area. There is (or was) a good bar by the Ruins of Sao Paolo. Be sure to head to Bon Heur if you want to find some French people.
  • The back streets: In the back-streets across from Senado Square, there are many hidden bars.
  • Karaoke: As mentioned above, there are a lot karaoke bars on Macau side, but I think they are spread about. Best to ask.
  • Taipa: Taipa village has a small drinking strip that is popular with Macau locals and expats. Check out Old Taipa Tavern or Irish Bar. The casinos on Cotai are big and don’t offer a huge party scene, but are all stocked with bars that do pretty good business. Check out the flame bar at Hard Rock Casino. Crown Casino has some great bars.
  • Coloane: Fernando’s should not be underestimated, especially as a place to start the night. In addition to the suckling pig and messy garlic prawns, don’t miss out on their home-grown tomato salads, and the delicious steak with garlic sauce . It’s a great place to meet people who will know the Macau scene, and if not, just ask the owner for some advice, he is practically a pillar of the community there! There is a Portuguese bar across from Fernandos at Hac-Sa Beach which is a good place to watch soccer. More hidden in Coloane is La Gondola Pizzeria which offers al fresco sea-side dining, at Cheoc Van beach. They have Macau beer on tap, and it’s very fresh. The pizzas are delicious and cheap. You will most likely find some locals hanging out here having dinner or drinks.

Charlie adds:

Well, it looks like it’s up me to provide some actual actionable suggestions for how to meet chicks in Macao. For me it’s a no-brainer: one should go for the girls working at the big mega hotels and casinos. Macao is big time in the gambling and thus the hospitality business so there’s plenty of young smart ambitious girls working at the big hotels. But they work a lot and they are surrounded by old Chinese rich gambler dudes. Many will have excellent English. So I suggest a tactic similar to this one:

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