You’ve probably heard of Macau being hyped as the "Vegas of Asia", or as some place even better than Las Vegas, home of the best casinos in the world. In other words, Macau is probably the most tourist-attractive place at least in Southeast Asia.
But I think it’s the least tourist-friendly tourist destination.
From the moment we set foot in the Macau International Airport — and outside of it — to hail a taxi and get to our hotel, it was kind of hard talking to the cab driver since the hotel we stayed in wasn’t really well-known (Pousada Marina Infante? Anyone heard of it? Exactly.). Fortunately, we got to our quarters safely.
Yes, my biggest concern, ever since our first night in Macau, was the language barrier. Whenever I travel with my family, I always expect this to pop up, may it be in Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, wherever (in non-English countries). But with Macau having world-class 7-star luxury hotels and casinos, the language barrier was magnified, so much so it seemed like the barrier was the Great Wall of China, and the Great Wall is in Beijing! Take as an example the grand Venetian Hotel and Casino along the Cotai Strip (soon-to-be Macau’s version of Las Vegas’ Strip). Being an international hotel, my family expected the people here to be able to speak English. But no. Unless you find a Filipino, if you talk to a Chinese national, conversation is close to impossible. Why is that? Is it that hard to find English-speakers in Macau?
I was in a casino with my mom in the City of Dreams and we were in the slot machines. When we won a little amount of credits, these two ladies approached us, asking us to sign up for a membership to some club, which we really had no idea how it worked. But since all we had to do was fill up a form, and with the membership card being free, we — or rather, I — signed up for it. We got the card, but we had NO IDEA whatsoever how to use it. We ask them, they explain in Chinese. HOW DO I UNDERSTAND CHINESE?! We ended up using the card as a souvenir because it served us no better purpose.
To experience Macau, I suggest having a tour guide, or at least someone you understand well who knows the ins and outs of Macau, from the best shops to the most breathtaking sites and shows.
And if it’s your first time playing in a casino, bring a companion knowledgable in casinos to guide you. Don’t rely on those security personnel or anyone on the floor, unless he or she is a Filipino (I say this not only to my friends, but to whoever reads this who doesn’t understand Chinese at all). They’re your best bet with communication.
I personally think Macau is overhyped. The language barrier is too much of a blockage for tourists. And for you to really enjoy Macau, you must go to the casinos and hotels. This makes traveling with sub-18 year olds tough. Once, we had to go through the Sands Casino to get to a site across it. Because my brother was 15, we had to go around, a much, much longer trip than if we were able to pass through the casino. Tough luck.
The best part of our Macau trip, for me, was our visit to Hong Kong. When the best thing about your trip to <insert place here> was your visit to <insert a different place here>, then there is something wrong.
(BTW, if you’re going to Macau, avoid Pousada Marina Infante Hotel at all costs.)