Pictures were added with SHOCK's assistance. Visited the tiny island of Macau (about a 1hr ferry ride from Hong Kong) last week. Didn't stay overnight but wanted to visit the gaming mecca of the east for at least a day trip while vacationing in Hong Kong. Started out at the HK ferry terminal. With the strong exchange rate to HK dollars, we could easily step up and pay the first class fares for the trip over to Macau. Used Turbojet as the ferry. First class includes bigger seats, a light meal, reading materials, a separated waiting lounge at the terminal with leather chairs, and they let you off first before the rest of the ship once you arrive. Total cost round trip was about $30USD for a first class ticket! Once off the ship, you have to go through customs which is a relatively easy process. We had no plans when we got there so we just stood around looking at the information signs. Most of the major casinos offer free shuttles (big air-conditioned buses) to their casinos. Saw the familiar signs of Wynn and Venetian and was about to go on one of their buses until a man came up to us. No, it wasn't a timeshare seller but a tour guide rep. He must of seen us standing around looking lost so he brought us around to his counter and explained that they offer half day tours for about $27USD each which included a private minivan and tour guide. We said yes, paid cash and by the time I came back from the washroom, our tour guide was already waiting by the counter to take us to the minivan. The tour was the best thing we could have done for being there for such a short time. Most travel guide books say the best way to explore Macau is on foot as I think it's only about 20 square km's. But it was now 11am and our ferry ride back was at 7pm so a guided tour was probably best. The tour was great, the guide was friendly and he drove us straight to each sight to see which included St. Paul's ruins (a 1600's church that burned and only the front wall remains), the Macau tower (kinda like the Stratosphere ), several hilltop viewpoints, the Grand Prix museum, a temple and a few other spots. The tour lasted about 3 hours and at the end, he dropped us off in the casino area where most of the casinos are located. It's not like the Vegas strip where one casino is right next to the other. These ones are more spread out and actually, the Cotai strip where the Venetian and some newer casinos are being built are on a separate island (only 5 minutes away over a bridge). The area we were in was near the ferry terminal where the Grand Lisboa, Wynn, Starworld and MGM Grand are located. There's many more smaller ones in the area but those are the major ones. The Grand Lisboa casino hotel is shockingly tall. The hotel is in the shape of a lotus flower (their national flower) and towered over the Wynn. The Wynn was shockingly small. It's probably less than half the size of the Vegas version (at least the hotel tower anyways). The MGM Grand is a big tower with some cool wavy designs. Most of these casinos are brand new - MGM has been open for about 3 months and the Wynn and Grand Lisboa have recently opened as well. The games of choice were the biggest difference. No blackjack was found. Instead, dice games like sic bo were abundant as well as plenty (and I mean plenty) of bacarrat tables. Slot machines were far and few between except at the MGM Grand which I had read was a conscious decision of theirs to try to promote more slot play. The card games I think are in the back corners of the casinos. I'm sure you can find blackjack if you wanted to. I remember seeing a Carribbean Stud poker table at the MGM in a back corner but that section was completely empty - not even dealers waiting for players there. I couldn't believe the lack of English spoken inside the casinos (even by employees). Yes, it's part of China but English is almost like a first language in Hong Kong. It took us forever to try to get directions to a buffet restaurant which we eventually gave up on trying to find. The tour guide had recommended the Grand Lisboa's buffet but that one was closed when we got there so we went in search for another. We ended up eating at Chef Leo's inside the MGM Grand. Again, with the exchange rate, it wasn't too expensive, maybe $20USD each for a good sized Asian meal with about 6 or 7 shared dishes. I had wanted to visit the Venetian but when told that it was on the other side of the bridge, I didn't want to risk missing our 7pm ferry. Through the reading materials on the ferry, the Venetian supposedly has lots and lots of shopping - their Grand Canal shoppes are twice as large as the Vegas ones. But, I also wanted to see Wynn so we hung around there for the last hour. Lots of high end shops inside including Prada, Chanel, Ferrari (but no dealership), Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton etc. I don't think they serve alcohol inside at the tables. Water bottles are free and there are many counters/tables inside each casino where you can just take a bottle of water. Coffee/tea was available from a waitress with a cart but she stayed in one spot all the time. Every casino made you go through metal detectors before going inside and every bag is searched. There's a free attraction at the Wynn. Every half hour, the side entrance to the casino has an area where the ceiling opens up and a giant chandalier comes down to music while the "Tree of Prosperity" blooms upwards from beneath the floor. Kinda cheesy and definitely Vegas inspired but it killed some time. Soon, we hopped aboard the free shuttle buses back to the ferry terminal and went back to Hong Kong. It was definitely nice to see Macau after reading so much about it. The casino boom there is a relatively recent one as I think it was only in 2002 or 2003 when outside gaming companies (Wynn, Adelson) were granted licences in Macau, although Stanley Ho has had a monopolistic rule there for over 40 years. Google his name if you want to know more about him. Interesting life...depending on which reports you read, he either made his first million as a company bonus by fighting off pirates in the South China Sea or he was involved in gunrunning to North Korea. Nevertheless, he's now on the Forbes list of the world's richest. Many more casino hotels are being constructed there right now by companies from Australia, Malaysia, Britain and of course Vegas. I read a local magazine there and even the locals are crediting these Vegas operators as bringing new things like gourmet dining and theatre shows to them. I missed Celine Dion there by 3 days. I always seem to miss her in Vegas too. I would recommend Macau if you're in the area. Just keep in mind that it ain't exactly like Vegas and you should always be cautious of your surroundings.