A new breed of upscale bars and nightclubs have replaced Macau's once-seedy dive bars
The former sleepy port town has shed its seedy image to become one of the region's hottest entertainment destinations
Text: Mathew Scott
During the past decade, Macau has done much to cast off its reputation as an Asian "sin city". Gone - for the most part, anyway - are the dark dives where to enter on some nights was to take your life (and your wallet) in your hands, thanks to the assortment of ne'er do wells slipping in and out of the shadows.
Among the benefits of the city's influx of almost 30 million visitors annually is that they demand better, more varied and most definitely safer nightlife options. While you can still find the seedy side - if you must - you would be doing yourself, and Macau, a disservice if you think that's all the city is about.
Move with the times, and spend your after-dinner hours taking in the bars and nightclubs that continue to crop up all over as the mega casinos continue to flourish.
Or wander the streets around the Docas waterfront entertainment district for a more laid-back vibe. There you'll find tourists and locals mingling as they bar hop, or grab late-night snacks on tables lining the footpaths.
Macau has expanded its horizons - take the time to expand yours.
The mood: it's all about the energy. The opening of Club Cubic (Level 2, The Boulevard, City of Dreams, Estrada do Istmo, tel: +853 6638 4999) at the end of 2011 marked Macau nightlife's coming of age and a stream of top-line international DJs have been visiting ever since.
It's loud and proud with a champagne bar if you feel the need to take a breather, while some of the VIP rooms come with balconies which allow you to step out and wave to the plebs as they dance below.
The music: regular DJs pump out pop tunes, while major parties and live acts are fashioned for all tastes - and ages. Guests lined up for summer include DJ BL3ND (August 2) and LA Riots (August 9).
The menu: live the high life and buy your champagne and vodka by the bottle. Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut NV at 3,080 patacas (1.5 litres) or Grey Goose at 3,480 patacas (1.75 litres) are sure to keep everyone happy.
The mood: a location down near the waterfront (45 Rua da Madrid, tel: +853 2875 2945) means a very different vibe - and crowd - and it usually fills up with locals and casino workers looking to avoid the bright lights. It's an old-school place to come and kill a few hours, with live music being the bonus - when you're lucky.
The music: and here's the catch. While a soundtrack of rock and blues plays nightly, up until recently, Roadhouse was one of the few venues in Macau that supported local acts, hosting live music a few times a week. But due to the city's curious licensing laws, the bands have been put on hold while the paper shufflers earn their keep - so keep your fingers crossed.
The menu: keep it simple. Beer and snacks are your best bet. A pint will set you back 65 patacas; a bucket of (six) bottles is 195 patacas.
The mood: see and (hopefully) be seen. The growing stature of The Venetian (Estrada da Baia de N. Senhora da Esperanca, tel: +853 8118 9940) on the international entertainment and sporting circuit means no end of stars - from Avril Lavigne to Manny Pacquiao - have ended up being lured between the curtains that close off this lounge from the main gaming floor.
Ladies night on Wednesdays sees the place go off, but pretty much every time you go you'll get plenty of bang for your buck.
The music: the live bands are big and bold in every way - currently it's the 10-piece outfit Phunk Shui backed by the house DJ - and they know how to play to their people, with a stream of funk, soul and R&B classics amping up the energy.
The menu: the drinks list is so extensive you might not know where to start, but management have come to the party with a special summer cocktail list (all for 70 patacas). If the band hasn't already got you moving, a few raspberry mojitos (white rum, Chambord, raspberry, mint leaves and ginger ale) definitely will.
The mood: a gathering place for discerning adults who want to kick back and let all life's troubles drift away. The action builds up as the night wears on and punters drift in and out from MGM (Avenida Dr Sun Yat Sen, tel: +853 8802 2375) gaming floors outside. By the time the weekend rolls around, it's standing (or dancing) room only.
The music: here's the trump card. It's a venue where the punters demand to be entertained (often) and so, from Tuesdays to Sundays, Lion's Bar bounces between its house DJ (currently DJ Ted) and a house band (Soul Republic) without missing a beat, mixing soul, hip hop and Latin tunes - and even fulfilling what are sometimes some quite bizarre requests (Air Supply? Really?). The venue also hosts the TakeOut Comedy club
The menu: party drinks, and the signature Long Lion Iced Tea (80 patacas) with its combination of gin, vodka, rum, tequila, Cointreau, cognac, green tea, honey and lime. There's also the Winston, which at 94,880 patacas is claimed to be the most expensive cocktail on earth.
The mood: tucked away up on the top floor of the Altira Macau on Taipa (Avenida de Kwong Tung, tel: +853 2886 8868), 38 Lounge offers stunning views back towards the city as you ease into the cosy armchairs inside, or out on the balcony that wraps around the main bar area. You can party if you must, but 38 Lounge is also probably the best place in town to find a sneaky spot where couples can be left to their own devices.
The music: there's a chilled out vibe inside with a house band playing jazzy pop and jazz standards in one corner and lounge music filling in the blanks between sets.
The menu: a cocktail is hard to resist (all at 100 patacas) given the surrounds, but it's the extensive whisky selection that will set the scene. A few nips of the 1990 Lagavulin (380 patacas) will help give a rosy hue to any evening.