Gambling destinations around the world are often seen from afar as one-dimensional destinations, a magnet for high-rollers and slot fanatics, all bathed in a garish neon cloud. But as with all metropolises on the globe, they are multi-layered places, often with rich histories and hidden secrets that are missed by most visitors. If you’re planning a trip to Macau or Las Vegas anytime soon, and don’t fancy spending all your time at the casino card tables, read on for some other interesting and unusual things you can find in the cities and their surroundings.
The island of Macau, once a former Portuguese colony, now boasts the most lucrative gambling economy in the world, surpassing Las Vegas six times over. Many stick to the large casino resorts, but more intrepid visitors will find plenty of fascinating places steeped in history, such as Hong Kung Miu, a Chinese-style temple dating back 200 years. People go for meditative reasons, or to wish for good fortune (quite apt in a gambling city). Of course, if you are playing in any of the casinos there are other traditional ways to encourage your luck, from blowing on dice to wearing a red dress, Visitors to both bricks-and-mortar and ever-popular online casinos will tell you that the best numbers to play in roulette will also bring you good fortune —although it’s important to remember that it’s still just a game of chance, albeit great fun to play on your mobile.
With a mesh of Chinese and Portuguese influences, it’s not surprising to find exciting, tantalizing cuisine on the island, and it’s worth taking a break from the gambling halls to check out some of the delicacies on offer. Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese egg custard tarts) are delicious with a cup of strong coffee and have been adapted for local taste buds at eateries like Ko Kei Bakery, and Margaret’s Café e Nata. And for a big Chinese blow out, you’ll find places all over the city — most highly rated are Lotus Palace and Golden Court.
Sin City: Not a place for the faint-hearted (or faint-walletted). But, if all that glitz, gambling, and the lack of distinction between day and night drives you from the grand casinos on the Strip, there are plenty of other things to check out. Let’s assume you’ve already visited the newly opened, and breathtakingly high-tech Sphere, and go for something a little more esoteric. Head to Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas for a taste of the alternative. Sure, you’ll still find casinos, some of them old, retro style affairs, but nestled between there are great eats, drinks, and a vibrant scene full of homegrown artistic talent (a wealth of independent open studios, galleries, and wall murals), contemporary street food to rival any other major US City, and droves of dive bars that crank out alternative rock and beats 24/7.
Need a break from neon civilization altogether? Grab a rental car —channel your inner Hunter Thomspon with a ‘Great Red Shark’, perhaps — and blast beyond the city limits. Not far out of town you’ll find stunning scenery, and keep the pedal to the mettle for a couple of hours and you’ll be in the iconic, otherworldly Death Valley. You can make it a day trip, but really it’s better to spend a night out in the wilderness to really take it all in.
Gambling cities seen from afar are all surface, no substance. But nothing could be further from the truth — scratch beneath the facade and you’ll find worlds rich with hidden gems that can excite and inspire even the most cynical visitor.