Thanks to plenty of visual treats, Vijaya Pratap discovers how to have the best of times in a gambling paradise without indulging in gaming

I have never held a pack of cards in my hand, but always admired clever players making quick sequences in rummy or skilfully operating their trump cards. Brows were raised when I announced my trip to Macau, the Mecca of Casinos. A few joined me, and we returned after a wonderful vacation, not losing money, nor making any, but with rich memories.

My visit to Las Vegas eight years ago, with my family, was limited to watching the dancing fountains in Bellagio and gaping at the very long limousines people were getting out of. The grandeur and beauty of places such as MGM, Monte Carlo, Luxor, Venetian, etc. was comparable to that of a fairy land. So, I knew how to have the best of times in a gambling paradise without indulging in gaming!

The next few days, we were busy doing the rounds of exotic hotels and casinos with our host Allerino, a Portuguese-Indian from Diu, in Macau for the last 30 years. We saw a number of fascinating shows, mostly free, for, only a few were ticketed.

Dance and drama

On the first day, we watched House of Dancing Water at The City of Dreams. The state-of-the-art theatre with 2,000 seats was fully packed. Purpose-built with a stage pool that holds 3.7 million gallons of water (equivalent to five Olympic-sized swimming pools), it was the perfect setting for an epic love story — a journey through time and space. Based on ‘seven emotions’ from classical Confucian beliefs in Chinese culture, it is said to be the most extravagant live production ever staged in Asia. With drama, music, dance, stunts and surreal settings, this world’s largest water-based show was the most spectacular I have ever seen. At the end of 90 minutes, we were speechless.

Dragon’s Treasure was another iconic multimedia attraction at the City of Dreams. With stunning audio-visual effects creating glaciers, rainforests, volcanoes etc, the Dragon’s Treasure tells the story of the dragon bird and its mysterious powers as experienced by each of the four dragon kings. It is an amazing 10-minute sensory adventure across their magical kingdoms. The show took place at The Bubble, a dome-shaped theatre specially built for this show.

One day Allerino took us to the Tree of Prosperity at Wynn. The famous golden tree of prosperity with over 2,000 branches and 98,000 leaves composed of 24 carat gold leaf and brass leaf is a symbol of auspiciousness. Designed to excite guests as they enter Wynn Macau, the Tree of Prosperity’s performance is a choreographic masterpiece of shimmering sculptural patterns, music, video and light. This centre piece, which fills the atrium depicting Chinese and Western astrological symbols, rises from below at the finale and transforms into vibrant colours of the four seasons. Allerino said that gamblers first stopped at the tree, tossed a coin and made a wish before entering the Casino, hoping to win bagfuls of money.

Symbolising vitality, good fortune and well being, the Dragon of Fortune combined traditional sculpture, modern lighting and audio effects in a dramatic display at the Rotunda atrium of Wynn Macau. The Dragon emerged in a rolling fog and rose to a height of 28 feet, featuring an animated head complete with glowing eyes and smoke billowing from its nostrils. The beautiful Lotus Blossom opened 12 feet in diameter and produced a remarkable crystal light effect.

People flock to the joyous and vibrant performance of The Performance Lake, located at the open area in front of Wynn Macau. Here, lofty plumes of water and fire shimmer and dance through the air to classical and popular music, as well as Broadway show tunes. To present this delightful illumination of water, light, colour and fire, the lake houses over 200 water nozzles shooters, and holds 8,00,000 gallons of water.

Powerful performances

At the Venetian Macau, with its specially created blue sky, replicas of imposing medieval architecture, canals and gondolas, we got a feeling of being in Venice. There were musicians performing at frequent intervals. A window opened in one of those ancient structures, full-throated Opera singers gave a brief but powerful performance. People took gondola rides, while some gondoliers sang a line or two in Hindi to please the Indian clientele.

Outside Venetian Macau, we saw some people squatting on the sidewalk, with downcast faces. Allerino said they were Chinese farmers from the neighbouring mainland China, who came to gamble at the Venetian and were waiting for the shuttle, to reach the border, cross and go back home. I felt sorry for them…