A fortnight ago I was in Macau, enjoying luxury like I’ve never experienced luxury before.
I was one of about 1,250 invited media guests flown in from all over the world to witness the grand opening of the Venetian Macao, an expensive and ambitious project spearheaded the Las Vegas Sands Corporation.
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
These are the same guys who had won the lucrative bid to open the first casino in Singapore, The Marina Bay Sands Resort in 2009. They also operate several casinos and convention halls around Las Vegas, including the original Venetian of which the Macao one is based on.
Throughout my stay here, I could not help but to be in constant awe of the sheer size and enormity of the project.
It was monolithic. Truly unlike anything I have ever seen before.
The hotel lobby
The Venetian Macao is the second largest building in the world and the biggest integrated resort in Asia.
The entire complex boasts a total floor space of 10.5 million square feet. They call it the first true integrated resort in Asia, featuring 3,000 hotel suites, 1.2 million square feet of convention and exhibition space, 1 million square feet of upscale retail space, 550 thousand square feet of casino space, a 1,800 seat theatre and a 15,000 seat arena, all housed under one single roof.
Frankly, I don’t know exactly how big “10.5 million square feet” is either, but imagine this.
Imagine the most luxurious hotel suites in Mandarin Oriental, the largest convention halls in KLCC, the biggest upmarket shopping mall in Starhill Gallery, the entire Genting casino (times two), the whole KLPAC theatre and the whole Bukit Jalil Indoor Stadium ALL COMBINED under one single building.
Give it a classic Venetian makeover and put it at one minute drive away from KLIA, you’ll get the Venetian Macao.
The man behind all these is Mr Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp.
Sheldon Adelson also happens to be the sixth richest man in the world and third richest in the USA according to Forbes Magazine. He ranks in after Bill Gates and Warren Buffet; but way ahead of Steve Jobs, Google founders and all those Hollywood A-list celebrities.
You gotta hand it to him.
Here’s a guy who was born into an immigrated family, started out dirt poor selling newspapers at the roadsides to earn a living when he was 12.
Through hard work and determination, he made his first big break selling exhibition space for a computer convention. Now he owns and runs one of the biggest integrated resorts in the world.
At 74 years of age, Sheldon Adelson shows no signs of slowing down. His first Asian project, the billion-dollar Sands Macao Casino broke even in just one year. Over the next few years, Las Vegas Sands Corp will continue to invest heavily in Macau, China and Singapore.
Here’s a guy who predicted that revenue in Macau will soon surpass that of Las Vegas, famously saying that “Las Vegas should be called America’s Macau”
As amazing as the Venetian Macao already is, it is only the first phase of development among a much more grandoise scheme. They build the resort on a reclaimed land, by filling up the sea with enough sand to build the Egyptian Pyramids.
The new land is called Cotai, and The Venetian Macao is the crown jewel of a stretch of road nicknamed the Cotai Strip – the stretch of road that will bring Las Vegas to Asia.
In the years to come, Cotai Strip will be populated by seven other famous resort hotels, greatly expanding the casino, convention and retail space.
At the moment, Macau is mostly a side-excursion when people go to Hong Kong. Travellers to Macau rarely stayed for more than a day. But the Cotai Strip is gonna change that, and Macau is gonna radically transform into a place where people would stay longer and spend their big money at.
Have you ever seen escalators that curve?
Despite the sheer magnitude of the resort, somehow they managed to keep everything within close walking distances to each other.
This is my hotel suite.
From here, I’m only a lift ride away to the entrance of the World’s Largest Casino.
As huge as the casinos are, they are only a tiny part of the entertainment they have on offer. There are so much more things to do there besides gambling.
If there’s something going on at the convention halls or the Arena, I’m just a few steps away to watching it live.
Already, Roger Federer vs Pete Sampras and an NBA basketball match are scheduled in the Arena.
Like on the Grand Opening night, we were treated to several surprise performances by well-known Taiwanese and Hong Kong singers.
But that event deserves an entire post on its own, another day.
If I feel like a bit of retail therapy, the Grand Canal Shoppes are close by on the second floor, carrying everything from affordable brands like Bossini all the way to cutthroat expensive ones like Tiffany’s.
The retail space at the Venetian is larger than any shopping malls in Hong Kong. Considering how big shopping mall already are in Hong Kong, that’s saying a lot.
The resort has gone through great lengths to actually fool you into believing that you are shopping in old time Renaissance Venice, Italy when you’re not.
It’s beautiful. They even went as far as to have artificially hand-painted blue skies onto the ceiling. I kid you not.
So even if it’s pitch dark or raining heavily outside, you’d still happily think its cool and sunny inside.
Of course, the fake skies can cause a bit of problem when it comes to stray helium balloons though. 😛
The signature of the Grand Canal Shoppes is three 490 long water canals along the cobblestone walkways. They even have Italian gondolas and serenading gondoliers to transport you around.
It has become quite a trend of newlyweds to take the graceful and romantic glide down the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy and here they have faithfully re-created the experience.
Yes, I know there are Venetian gondolas in Genting too, but these ones are so authentic, they make the gondolas at First World Plaza looks like some cheap 20 cent children’s ride.
What I love about the Grand Canal Shoppes are not the shops, but tireless street performers present all day long to entertain the shoppers.
As much as this whole “Disneyland for Adults” is artifical and man-made, you gotta love their elaborate costumes and attention to detail.
There are opera singers, stilt walkers, jugglers, and my favourite… a human statue.
The purpose of the human statue is to just stand there and not move at all.
Like a statue.
After 15 minutes.
After 30 minutes.
I swear I heard him snore.
Such an easy job.
When I grow up, I wanna be a human statue too.
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