MacauTripping Chapter 8 - I Can't Give Everything Away
I seem to have settled into a bit of a jet lag-inspired schedule. I'm waking up at 4am Macau time, make two cups of coffee using the travel coffee kit I brought then plop down at the computer and write until the sun comes up. Sunrise this morning was absolutely incredible.
Grand Lisboa Palace at dawn.
I get on the Skype with my wife, who tells me that one of our dogs, Gunther, has been acting strange (at least stranger than normal) since I left. Recently he started dribbling pee wherever he sat down... trailing through the house and leaving a small wet spot on the bed. She went to the pet store and bought him some puppy diapers and is going to take him to the vet tomorrow. Gunther is a 10 year old male pug, who started developing a neurological disorder 18 months ago which has made walking and standing more difficult. Eventually, he'll require some training wheels to assist in his mobility. You wouldn't know there was anything wrong with him by the way he acts... he's the happiest dog in the world, always full of smiles and conversation. We suspect that this urination issue might be related to the neurological disorder.
I pop open the room service menu and peruse the offerings. Most of the hotels offer four types of breakfast combos - the American Breakfast - eggs, meat, bread, more bread, fruit, pastries, coffee, juice, Chinese Breakfast - dumplings, congee soup, fish/pork, fruit, juice, tea, Continental Breakfast - pastries, fruit, coffee and a Macanese Breakfast - eggs, pork, oxtail soup, pastries, coffee. Some hotels offer a Japanese Breakfast as well, which adds rice dishes and sushi rolls.
I ordered the Macanese Breakfast.
It was delicious and affordable... ~$98HKD.
After breakfast, I headed to the loo and settled in for the first major poop I've had this trip. Maybe it was the pasta at El Mulino, or the three bags of gummy candy I gorged on at Sofitel, or the beer, or the dumplings, or the airline food or just finally getting into a routine in Macau but it all came out. Pooping is a very important part of travel, and an essential part of any true travelogue. Sure, I could give you a top 10 list of dumplings, but then you'd only be getting half of the story. With Macau being a trans-continental jaunt of many cuisines and water quality districts, it is essential for this travelogue to touch on this somewhat taboo subject.
I've eaten everything with no exceptions. I've been drinking primarily tap water, refilling a plastic bottle I bought at the Circle K next to Sofitel on Day 3. I've buttressed the intake by drinking all of the water bottles given out in hotel rooms. On rare occasions, I've been grabbing bottled water from the little tables of water that are everywhere on the casino floors. While some of the tap water tasted a little strange, I haven't undergone any degree of digestive distress beyond what should be expected.
The toilet paper at Studio City is pretty fancy, and the same as the stuff they have at the six star Crown Towers hotel which is operated by the same corporation. It has a very thick, yet soft two ply, embroidered with curvy punchhole designs. Apparently, if your asshole reads Braille, it says "Thank you for choosing our hotel." This paper felt great on the bum bum.
It felt so great, I used a bit too much and completely clogged the toilet. (I'll spare you the photo) I let the poop/paper mixture marinate in the bowl for a while, hoping that time would break it down enough to flush away. No dice. Twice. Ugh.
John texted at 8:40am:
No dice on checking in early at Galaxy.
Damn. That's early. Hunter follows shortly thereafter saying that he can't check in either. Apparently Agoda.com never sent his reservation to the hotel and the hotel is 100% full today.... he's shit out of luck. Hunter springs into action and books a room at Grand Hyatt at City of Dreams. Until Agoda screwed the pooch on Hunter's reservation, tonight was the only night that the three of us were going to be staying in the same hotel at the same time. No cabs, no shuttles, no hoofing it through the late night swamp. It sucks, but Hunter handles the whole thing like a pro, shrugging it off and moving forward. I love Hunter.
I'm wondering why these guys are up so early, when I remember that today is the grand opening of the first Apple Store in Macau, in the mall at Galaxy. Apparently, at Apple Store openings, people chant and clap and they give out t-shirts to the folks on line. Hunter and John are superfans and have been looking forward to this for a month. I must not be a fan because I completely forgot about it.
This woman [I'm standing next to] is beaming. Her son's dream was to get hired [to work at the Apple Store.] She's practically crying. FWIW, the JW Marriott bar is open.
I love John.
I start packing up my shi... stuff and begin motivating towards Galaxy. I wander back into the toilet to see how my stew is stewing and give it another flush... it gurgles, spins and fills with water. My turd needs a plunge. I close the toilet lid and place a crisp $100HKD bill on it, grab my bags and hop a cab to Galaxy.
I arrive in the lobby just as the big levitating gemstone waterfall show starts - an odd, yet awesome spectacle.
The check in rodeo is chaos, but I'm motioned to go onto a shorter VIP line, probably for language purposes. Much like John and Hunter, I'm unable to check in early and told to come back at 3pm. The valet who takes my bags tells me to arrive earlier 2 - 2:30pm.
Galaxy Macau is huge. It consists of three towers containing five hotels, plus a ginormous casino, multi-leveled retail promenades and one of the largest resort pool decks I've ever seen. The casino is large, but has been designed in a way to make it feel sectional and more intimate. Each chunk of the casino has its pavilion, sort of like a center bar. Sometimes these pavilions are VIP gaming rooms, poker rooms, Galaxy Entertainment Group Rewards "stores" (where points can be redeemed for purses, electronic gadgets, jewelry etc) or actual bars. Eventually, turns to the right and extends out for another segment or two, with a slightly different design... this is part of Galaxy's Phase 2 construction where J W Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels are located.
The J.W. Marriott lobby features a tremendous chandelier and grand staircase. The room is packed with people who appear to be waiting to check in to the hotel. The lobby is outrageous.
I tried to make the people disappear via long exposure, but this dude was too busy figuring out what happened to his Agoda reservation to seize the opportunity to vacate my photograph. Nice shorts.
I sense that the toilet I clogged at Studio City has been just been plunged.
Just around the corner from J.W. Marriott is the Ritz-Carlton, pound for pound, dollar for dollar highest rent hotel room in Macau, not including villas and other accommodations paid for by the casino managers pencil.
The vibe is different in here. Elegant. Calm. Quiet. Compared to the tiered mass-market chaos happening in the other hotels in this complex, the Ritz-Carlton may as well be on another planet. All of the employees are impeccably dressed in creme uniforms, with jackets and skirts. The porte cochere vestibule is massive and drop dead gorgeous.
After wandering about for a bit, the hostess greets me with a question... "How may I address you?" "Charles." "Mr. Charles, would you like to go upstairs to see and photograph our lobby?" "Why yes." She hails the elevator, puts me on and presses the appropriate buttons.
I arrive in a small lobby, with two more uniformed nurses behind the reception desk. They greet me and invite me to explore the Ritz-Carlton. To the north side is a lobby, filled with trays of snacks and plates of Starburst candies. To the south side is the Ritz-Carlton bar, which - judging by the weird look the bartender gave me - is closed. I dook photos from both sides.
Here's the view of the north.
To the far left is The Broadway (the building with the P on it) formerly Galaxy Grand Waldo. The red brick building is Pousada Marina Infante, a hotel with a small casino. The hotel tower on the left is the combined Banyan Tree and Hotel Okura towers. The blue roof buildings on the pool level are Banyan Tree's pool villas. I'm staying at Banyan Tree tomorrow night, but not in a villa. The tower at 12 o'clock is Galaxy Macau proper. The area just on the other side of the light rail line that is under construction is Old Town Taipa. Fifteen years ago, that water met the land. This stuff was mostly dirt when I was here in October 2007.
I decide to make my way back to the elevator when one of the nurses asks me, "is there anything else we can do for you?" Without thinking, I ask... "Is there any way I can see one of your hotel rooms?" She says "absolutely, let me take care of this for you." She leads me back to the lobby lounge, sits me down and promises to be back in 10 minutes or so.
Ten minutes later, she arrives with three other nurses, who gather me and my belongings and bring me to a waiting elevator car inhabited by two other nurses. They all leave the elevator but one, who brings me upstairs and guides me on a tour of the room. I ask her if I can take photos and she says "absolutely, please, take as many as you want."
I wander about the room, looking at the details and only managed to take a half dozen photographs. I got to talking to the woman who was leading me on the tour, she is native Macanese, spoke perfect English and was as sweet, thoughtful and nice as any person I've ever met. She laughed at my dumb jokes too. I'm left wondering how an experience of this kind would've played out in Las Vegas. It would've ended in the lobby downstairs where I would have never been invited to get on the elevator to explore the hotel, let alone escorted into a luxurious hotel room to take photographs of it.
Granted, The Ritz-Carlton is the top of the heap. Their service model is synonymous with high-touch, exclusivity, where everything is done for you in advance of it being needed. No, you don't have to wait for the elevator. You don't even have to touch solid gold buttons. You don't need to do anything. Everything... everything will be taken care of.
If I have any regret right now it is that I passed on booking Ritz-Carlton when I saw it advertised for the ungodly rate of $379 on Ctrip.com - down from the $800/night usual rack rate. At least I've got something to look forward to.
My tour guide then walked me down to the front door of the hotel where we stood and chatted for a while about the hotel and what it is like living in Macau. No, you don't ever get used to the heat and humidity... you stay inside. Eventually, we said goodbye and she offered her best wishes on the rest of my trip and stood there at the Ritz-Carlton gates as I walked away. Amazing.
John texts... he's eating at the Ritz-Carlton cafe next to a table filled with Apple nerds. I wander over and join him at his table as the most delicious looking burger arrives covered in a lobe of foie gras. OMG. I leave him alone to savor every morsel of it. Add something else to the list.
I headed back towards the north end of the resort and ended up eating at Hotel Okura's Yamazato restaurant, where I was escorted to the restaurant by a woman in full Geisha attire. The food, service was impeccable and the serene atmosphere was just what I needed.
After lunch, I headed to Galaxy to get my keys from the overflow hotel check in desk and headed up to my room. The guest turn over system they've set up at Galaxy is really, really bad... but probably par for the course for mass market hotel operations.
The hotel elevators are a short jog down the hallway, passing a bunch of jewelry shops, pork jerky stands, Chinese apothecaries and a food court. Oh look... there is a KFC and a McDonalds! I hop in the elevator, head to my room and start exploring and photographing it as quickly as I can. In 90 minutes, we're going to finally meet the legendary UAV photographer and my favorite Macau Instagrammer @linolens.