Welcome to the Time Warp : Hotel Lisboa Macau
When I first started planning this trip, Hotel Lisboa was not high on my list of joints I wanted to spend a night or two in. It's not that I don't have a taste for hotels from the 70's, I do, it's that Hotel Lisboa has been around forever, what could I add to the discussion that hasn't already been said in the last 40 years. But, alas, due to room rates skyrocketing at the 4 and 5 star hotels during the weekend - I added Hotel Lisboa to try and keep the costs of this trip from being truly enormous.
After the deliciously comfortable experience at StarWorld I had prepared myself to step back in time from 'Asia's Las Vegas' to 'Asia's Old Vegas' and witness first hand what the 'Legend of Macau' is like and how it has been pulling in gamblers for almost 40 years.
The walk from StarWorld to Hotel Lisboa took about 10 minutes in the humid Macau morning. It should be noted here that Macau isn't wired for pedestrian traffic, cross walks are few and far between, and crossing Avenida De Amizade - the main drag - can be a little tricky. Fortunately there isn't that much traffic, but eventually there will be. What traffic there is uses two lanes, each way, with assorted construction barriers, miniature parks and other stuff in the median. LOOK RIGHT when crossing, not left - they drive on the opposite side of the street as most of the rest of us.
Hotel Lisboa is located on the north side of Avenida de Amizade - essentially the Macau 'Strip'. Avenida de Amizade runs from the Ferry Terminal (east) to Nam Van Lake (west). The north side of Avenida de Amizade has all of the older SJM casinos - the Lisboas, Rio, Emperor, Presidente, Golden Dragon, Casa Real, Galaxy Waldo etc.. The south side of the street was part of the sea until land reclamation has slowly expanded Macau's land mass extensively in the last 15 years. The south side of the street plays host to the casinos opened since the land upon which they are built has been reclaimed - Wynn Macau, Galaxy StarWorld, Sands Macao, MGM Grand Macao and whatever else the future brings.
After towing my travel bag and other junk across and four blocks west on Ave. Amizade, I arrived at Lisboa. I could see it, but coudn't get inside. Hotel Lisboa is constructing a new entrance on the Wynn & StarWorld facing corner of the property so navigating into the hotel wasn't as easy as one would expect.
Chinese gambling superstition says that entering a casino through the main entrance bodes bad luck. They also say that women having their menstrual cycle are good luck, of which I've yet to see shred of supporting evidence. As luck would have it, the main entrance to Hotel Lisboa is all the way on the other side of the hotel so I ducked in through a secret entrance below the bridge from Hotel Lisboa to the Kem Pek / Louvre Casino. That Hotel Lisboa wouldn't have this entrance on the built before Wynn Macau opened is a bit of a surprise... but not really.
Hotel Lisboa's history is a long and storied one. At the center of the nexus is SJM, the company that held Macau's gambling monopoly for 50 years under the steady guidance of Dr. Stanley Ho, who, by extension, may be labeled Asia's Kirk Kerkorian (90 year old owner of 52% of MGMMirage). Dr. Ho is about 85 years old now, has a handful of wives, is supposedly involved with unsavory business practices... namely 'Asia's Las Vegas' Underworld.' In all truthfulness, he's more 'Asia's Moe Dalitz' than anything else.
Hotel Lisboa was built in 1970, its main hotel towers architectural style poached nearly verbatim from the famed Sands in Las Vegas. A decade later, Hotel Lisboa added a second larger tower and another hotel building. In 1979, time at the Hotel Lisboa stopped. With the only exceptions being the hotel rooms and the casino floor, the decor at Hotel Lisboa is stuck in a late 1970's time warp of beveled mirrors, glittery faux marble, gold lettering and lite-brite style advertising. Through out the hotel's public areas are sequined glittery entrance arcs to micro-casino rooms where the dirty deed of gambling goes down. Each of these micro casinos have fancy names, and probably superstitions and dedicated fans. Names include "Crystal Palace" and "Mona Lisa Casino."
The Hotel Lisboa also features numerous display cases featuring stuffed peacocks in full bloom, antique jade carvings and urns, artifacts, furniture and vases from ancient eras. The internal decor that is not 70's tasteless, emulates a Portuguese Grand Hotel. Navigating through the hotel isn't easy, not because it is crowded, but because it is a maze of shopping arcades, jewlery shops and stuffed peacocks. Where Wynn Macau (and Las Vegas) exude a soft Zen relaxation with delicate attention to feng shui, Hotel Lisboa feels hard and spiritless - a vacuum that borders on deathly. While some may look at a peacock and see its myriad colors and beautiful plumage, I see a stuffed bird carcass with prominently sharp beaks and ominous talons.
Imagine if the hallways and public areas of Las Vegas' Flamingo Hotel and Casino were lined with taxidermed displays of its namesake pink fowl. Get the picture?