MacauTripping Chapter 11 - Eagles In My Daydreams, Diamonds In My Eyes
I wake up, grab my phone and see a message from my wife that I should Skype her. She tells me that she brought Gunther to the vet again and left him there to be examined. The vet said that he very concerned about what is going on... first he was incontinent, now he's stopped up. The X-ray doesn't show any kidney stones. The vet's office has taken blood and are going to try and assess what the problem is. Results should arrive in a few hours.
Ugh. I'm worried now. Gunther is my shadow. He follows me everywhere - out in the yard, onto the couch, next to my desk, to the toilet, in the shower and in bed. I hope that my absence hasn't caused whatever distress he is going through. As incredibly interesting as this trip has been, part of me is ready to go home. 60 hours.
I pack up my gear and say goodbye to the Cotai Pool Suite at Banyan Tree. My room reservation came with a complimentary breakfast at Banyan Tree's Saffron cafe. I arrive to find that breakfast service is over and I've missed it. They don't offer to make good on the breakfast inclusion I paid for. I didn't press the issue. This is the first service ding I've encountered in Macau. Galaxy seems to enforce rules of the clock.
I take this as a sign... it is time to GTFO of Cotai and hop a cab back back to the peninsula. Today, I'm checking in to a Grand Salon Suite at Encore Macau. John and Hunter are shoving off to Hong Kong today. I've decided to skip the side trip as I've got a lot of photographic ground to make up since my earlier days on the peninsula were occupied primarily by jet lagged confusion. Next time, I'm going to spend more time on the peninsula, and the first two days recuperating in the same hotel.
The cab ride is quick. Upon arrival at the Encore porte cochere, a valet hands me a card with the cab's license plate number in case I forgot something. A bellboy rushes up and grabs my bags and a series of employees greet me "Checking in? This way sir." "Welcome to Encore" another one says.
The Encore lobby is busy with employees and guests buzzing about - some arriving, some departing, some waiting or talking on the phone. The vibe is one of high contrast luxury, almost cartoonish in hues, lights, shapes and decor. A giant oval dome frames the room which features crystal chandelier lit by pin lights set inside the dome's ring.
Beneath the dome is an oval shaped carpet containing a Roger Thomas doodle and an oval shaped table that holds a magnificent a floral display. The walls feature interior lit sconces in the shape of crystal rock formations, more vases, more flowers, sculptures and accessorized credenzas on either side.
At the far wall is the registration desk, behind which is a giant aquarium filled with thousands of light-reflecting jellyfish - an avant-variation of the gigantic aquarium behind the registration desk at The Mirage in Las Vegas, also designed by Steve Wynn.
Strangely, check in at Encore contained some lost-in-translation friction. The attendant repeatedly said that I had to send them a confirmation of my booking, but I didn't need to do it now. They would email me a request at a later date. I never got any email. The entire experience was baffling.
I got the keys and headed up to my room.
Needless to say, the Encore Grand Salon Suite is massive, vibrant and exquisitely appointed. The red isn't nearly as bright and outrageous as I had thought would be. Did I mention that this suite is huge?
After photographing the room and sorting out some wifi-network issues, I get a message from my wife asking to Skype. We connect and she's crying. "What happened?" I asked. "Gunther has taken a turn for the worse." My heart sinks, my blood pressure goes up and a wave of anxiety fills my body. No no no no. She goes on to tell me that his urethra is blocked and he cannot urinate at all. The vet outlined some options options to clear it out, but due to his having eaten in the last 24 hours, they need to wait before anesthetizing him. The doctor advised that she take Gunther home for the night and keep a watchful eye on him. If Gunthy demonstrates symptoms of septic shock - extreme discomfort and vomiting, she should bring him to an emergency hospital. Otherwise, bring him back to the office first thing in the morning. The vets office doesn't have a night staff to watch animals. I see via Skype that Gunther is hanging out as normal... lounging around on the bed watching TV and snuggling with his favorite toy - a furry, spit-covered, duck. This is good. We make a plan to talk in (her) morning unless something changes.
I've spent a great deal of time inside of Wynn & Encore, but I feel like I've barely explored it. As Hunter mentioned many times (and I agree) it feels odd to be walking around a Wynn property that we don't know like the back of our hand. Even after spending a good deal of time here when Hunter was booked, when John was booked as well as doing the tour, I feel like I've only mentally mapped about 40% of this property.
One of the things that strikes me most is how much of Wynn Macau wasn't open when I was here way back when. A large chunk of the retail promenades were blocked off and there were only two ways to enter the casino - the former shuttle entrance facing MGM and the east entrance by the VIP porte cochere.
Today, I plan to explore more of Wynn & Encore, take my first look at MGM Macau, Mandarin Oriental and L'Arc, then chase neon with my camera.
But first, I head down to the Encore Cafe for something to eat.
While dining, I noticed that a woman, her husband and daughter keep looking at me and laughing. The woman makes hand gestures that outline a beard on her face. She calls the waiter over and shares her joke with him, he looks at me then walks away from their table. Weird. This whole thing makes me feel self-conscious and even more isolated than I already do. The waiter comes over and engages me in discussion about my camera. Nice guy, but I can't help but be transported back to being a middle school nerd staring down the blunt end of the harassment stick. I may have reached the point in the trip where I'm ready to go home. Maybe I'm just tired.
I wander Wynn & Encore Macau. Peeping the details and trying to square my memory with reality, eventually exiting via the former bus entrance. There used to be a Starbucks here.
I wandered towards Nam Van Lake and along the outside of the One condo tower before escaping the oppressive mid-day heat and duck inside the Mandarin Oriental. I lasted a whopping 15 minutes outside.
Macau's Mandarin Oriental is a super tall, non-casino hotel built as sliver of the One Residences project. The entire building was under construction when I was last here. This location replaced the Mandarin Oriental Macau (now called Grand Lapa) that is next to Sands Macao. A doorman greets me and welcomes me inside. The lobby is small, as is the entire footprint of the MO Macau. The shoebox sized public spaces don't have the aura of opulence one might expect from a five or six star hotel. Perhaps the goods are upstairs in the rooms.
In addition to peeping the scene, my goal at MO is to Chuck Buffet the Mandarin Oriental Cake Shop. I hit the dessert case hard, ordering three items plus a larger-than-expected pot of hot chocolate. This may have been one of the best dessert experiences I've ever had... wow. I wish my wife was here, she'd go ape shit over this stuff.
MGM Macau is right next door.
I eyeballed the Salvador Dali 'Alice In Wonderland' sculpture in the porte cochere, then headed inside.
The lobby is light and bright and contains painted lions as Fu dogs and another Dali sculpture. The artwork behind the registration is by Bellagio lobby artist Dale Chilhuly.
The Grande Praca is MGM Macau's version of the Bellagio Conservatory, crossed with Macau's Senado Square. It was vibrant, stunning and not very busy.
I made my way through MGM's casino. The khaki and tan hued L shaped casino has an intimate feel that appears to attract the upper middle tier of the mass market. A number of private gaming salons - including "The Las Vegas Room" - line the eastern side of the casino. Table minimums are pretty much in line with what we've been seeing elsewhere - $300-500HKD baccarat. The casino is reasonably busy, particularly the roving mob of gamblers who move from table to table spotting hand outcome trends and placing bets en masse.
MGM Macau retains a teeny tiny bit of the MGM brand with the use of lions and camera aperture blades as design motifs. The rest is generic MGM moderne design, with each section of the property demonstrating snap-together quality that illustrates a lack of cohesive vision. That being said, I much preferred MGM Macau's casino to any/all of the SJM property casinos... which are bruised nudes.
L'Arc Macau, a combined apartment building/hotel located across the street from Encore and just behind Starworld is one of these examples. It features a multi-level casino whose only personality points can be derived from the bits of quasi-French design flourishes they've digested from Wynn. L'Arc is typical SJM - casino tables, casino tables and more casino tables organized into a grid inside of a non-descript, slightly dingy space that lacks any feeling of comfort and caring. The table minimums at L'Arc were a slight bit lower than MGM, Starworld and Wynn properties at least on the main casino floor.
The exterior of L'Arc features some great sculptures... like this one of a guy celebrating a threesome. Oh, Stanley.
The entire neighborhood east of Wynn/MGM/Starworld and L'Arc is made up of blocks and blocks and blocks of pawnshops. Each of these pawnshops displays jade carvings, camera gear, jewelry, laptops and hundreds upon hundreds of watches. Between the multitude of high end watch boutiques inside the casinos and the throngs of watch focused pawnshops outside the casinos, one has to wonder if luxury time pieces have become the new currency in post-graft Macau. There are restrictions to bringing cash into Macau, but not on purchasing a luxe watch via credit card and swapping it for cash at the pawn shop, unopened, in a pachinko-style balls for prizes for cash workaround.
The pawnshops in Macau are visually stunning. I walked a few blocks taking photos.
When I was last in Macau, these pawnshops were covered in neon lights. Since then, they've removed all the neon and replaced them with high vibrancy, low cost LED light boards and signs.
Some of the casinos on Avenida da Amizade have also removed their incredible neon signs. President Casino had one of the more amazing neon signs (jump to 1:11 in linked video to see it in motion). Now, it looks like this.
Casino Lisboa's south facing neon facade is currently off as they do renovations to the building. Neighboring Kem Pek has also removed its amazing neon sign.
This neon pawn shop sign (photo taken in 2007) was located on the column exactly where that man is.
With the sun going down, I high tailed it back to Wynn to try and get magic hour shots of the fountain show and the rest of the peninsula. I ran around like a nut for the next 80 minutes, attempting to photograph as much Macau casino architecture porn as I could.
Wynn Macau fountain show
Downtown Macau panorama
After the sun went down, I ran around the backstreets of downtown Macau... peeping casinos and marveling at the sights and signs.
Eventually, I arrived back at Encore, drenched from head to toe in sweat. My phone was full of messages from John & Hunter. They're back from Hong Kong and the plan tonight is to record a podcast. We make a date to meet in my suite. I get back to my room to find that I've left my keys in the room. Ooops. I head down to the front desk and get a new set. Thankfully, this joint isn't that big... I'd hate to have to trudge across the Venetian to handle a similar problem.
I cleaned myself up and made coffee. Hunter arrived, and then John. We fired up the recording device let our love for Macau spill out for over an hour. Immediately after finishing, Hunter auditioned the recording to see what the quality was like. Apparently a shorting ballast in the room caused audio interference to the recording, rendering it virtually unusable. Aaaaaaargh!
The three of us then headed over to MGM to check out Hunter's room before he crashed for the night. John & I went downstairs and got on a baccarat table. We started the game as the only two people on the table. The pit boss was unrelenting in asking us to sign up for players club cards. John eventually gave in... upon seeing John's ID, the pitboss remarked that he grew up near where John did in California - "Diamond Bar!" We all laughed. After a little bit, three Chinese women got on the table. They studied us every time we pushed out our bets and - based on some voodoo I can't comprehend - placed bets with or against ours. Baccarat is as much about the social game as it is about fortune. We got creamed at the baccarat table, swiftly and painlessly, and left.
John and I chatted outside for a bit until his Uber arrived to take him back to Crown. I wandered Wynn & Encore looking for food but nearly everything was closed. I gave up and headed upstairs, where I devoured the chocolate gift box and the rest of the welcome fruit plate.
I Skyped my wife before falling asleep, she was in the car driving Gunther to the vet. Their night at home was uneventful... Gunther slept like a little baby, didn't vomit and isn't acting any weirder than normal. The vet is going to try and force the blockage to pass. If that doesn't work, they may operate, but operating in this instance is very dangerous. Ugh.
We say goodbye and zzzzzzz.