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New Year’s Trip to “Xin” City: Visiting “Xin” City, the Gambling Capital of the World + Conrad Macao


The boat ride to Macau took just an hour aboard the Cotai Water Jet ferry. For those staying at the Conrad/Sheraton/Four Seasons/Venetian/Holiday Inn, you’ll want to take the ferry to the Taipa terminal which is serviced by both Cotai (every 30 minutes) and TurboJet which only has a few sailings per day to this location. Most of their boats go to the Outer Harbor terminal and they have sailings there every 15 minutes. There is a free shuttle bus right outside the Taipa ferry that leaves every few minutes and dropped us off right outside the Conrad where I had booked our rooms for 2 nights at 40,000 Hilton points which felt like a steal since the retail price around this time was over $300 per night.

Aboard the Cotai Water Jet to Macau

Complimentary drinks and cookies

The Conrad Macau is an amazing hotel and has all the makings of that brand spanking new Vegas feel, but with more blinged-out decor. Inside the Conrad there is a casino and shopping mall inside, and many of the hotels in the Cotai Central strip are connected via bridges so that it feels like one inter-connected area. The gambling age here is still 21 just like Vegas, except they don’t let anyone underage even enter the casino as there are guard posts all around the casino area entrances.

We checked in and were informed that we were upgraded to a suite. Since there is no executive lounge at the moment, the lobby bar is available for breakfast, afternoon tea, and evening drinks. Alternatively, breakfast can be had a t the Grand Orbit restaurant which we did for both days of our stay and had the biggest buffet selection we’ve ever come across.

Conrad Macao

Main lobby

Heading to the room

Upgraded to a suite

View from the room

Even as a grown man, I still get a kick out of collecting these animals

After check-in we headed up to the room to settle in, and then later on went to go walk around and do some shopping. Since it happened to be 3pm, we decided to check out the lobby cafe to see what the afternoon tea offerings were. We’re used to just some basic cakes and cookies, but were surprised to find out that it was a full traditional afternoon tea offering. We couldn’t pass it up, and sat down for afternoon tea which was really great. There is a Spanish option (more savory sandwiches) as well as a Crystal option (more cakes and sweets), and we got one of each which worked out nicely for sharing.

Afternoon tea at the lobby cafe

Spanish tea set

Crystal tea set

White chocolate snowman

Next we walked around the Conrad mall, then headed over to the Four Seasons mall and then lastly the Venefitan mall which is HUGE. It’s definitely bigger than the one in Vegas, but still very much looks the same with the man-made canal running down the middle with gondola rides.

Just like the Venetian in Vegas

The entire Cotai Strip side of Macau very much felt like the man-made paradise that is Vegas. The shopping here was fantastic and my wife was having the time of her life and I definitely got dragged around every which way. At least she did sense that I was being dragged along begrudgingly, and not wanting me to be like the fellow in China that just couldn’t take anymore and jumped to his death, appeased me with snacks along the way at Tai Lei Loi Kei for a delicious pork bun sandwich, as well as Lord Stow’s for Portuguese egg tarts. Both were recommendations from Anthony Bourdain’s visit to Macau, and once again he has yet to steer us wrong.

Tai Lei Loi Kei pork chop sandwiches

Lord Stow’s Portugese egg tarts

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel, also decided to pop in to the Bodhi spa at the Conrad for massages. We were able to get a last minute reservation and the Ayurvedic massages we got were fantastic.

The next day we decided that we had enough casino-hopping for now, and headed across the bridge to the city where we visited St. Paul’s ruins and walked around Sedona square. We also stumbled upon the milk pudding that Anthony Bourdain had when he visiteid and hopped in for a bowl, which was so simple yet so delicious.

Biggest breakfast buffet we’ve come across, just half of it shown here

Sampling from breakfast buffet

St. Paul’s ruins

Walking around Sedona Square

Christmas decorations

Always come back to you

Like Anthony Bourdain once said, like unwrapping the panties off a supermodel

Amazing milk pudding

So simple yet so delicious

We continued to just wander around, and not before long we ended up around the Grand Lisboa and Wynn hotels. We walked through the Wynn and did some window shopping, and checked out the rotunda which has a cool ceiling scultpire of the entire Chinese zodiac. Afterwards, we walked back to the Grand Lisboa where we had lunch reservations at the 8 restaurant. It’s a 3 Michelin star Chinese restaurant known for dim sum, and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try it out. The dim sum here was truly amazing and I would definitely recommend this. All things considered, lunch was pretty decently priced at around $80 USD for all the dim sum we could fit into our bellies, which isn’t much more than we’d spend back in San Francisco.

Rotunda at the Wynn with Chinese zodiac

Walking over to the Grand Lisboa

Macau Tower, will NOT be bungee jumping today

Many cool artifacts/displays at the Grand Lisboa lobby

Lobby at the Lisboa hotel next door

The 8 restaurant, 3 Michelin star dim sum

Foie gras on Chinese BBQ pork

Signature goldfish har gow

Fried egg whites filled with shark fin

Porcupine-shaped pork buns

Steamed egg with crab claw

Lastly, we headed over to the City of Dreams back on the Cotai Strip side to watch the House of the Dancing Water show which is by the same creator as La Reve in Vegas. It had a lot of similarities, but this show was a bit more artistic-focused than the other one, with time spent dancing around which was at the expense of some of the acrobatics that we prefer. If you’ve seen La Reve in Vegas, you could probably skip this one.

Venetian at night

Heading over to City of Dreams

House of Dancing Water show

After another trip to the Venetian mall, we headed back to the room and called it a night. Macau is definitely all about gambling, whereas Vegas has a lot more activities and nightlife. Even though I really enjoy gambling, I didn’t play too much here as the game of choice is baccarat and I’m more of a craps guy. Even though I did find craps tables at some of the hotels, it just didn’t have the same Vegas-like vibe that I’m used to, mostly due to the cultural part since most of the players are from mainland China. Not saying anything good or bad about this, just that it didn’t have the same inviting atmosphere that I’m accustomed to and didn’t make me feel like I wanted to sit down and play.

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