Published: August 6th 2007June 1st 2007
Macau is the only place in China where gambling is legal, all part of the peculiar "one country, two systems” rule that allows such anomalies. The Chinese love lady luck and gambling is a big part of traditional culture so Macau hopes to capitalise on the huge Chinese and foreign population with a penchant for gambling. Macau is pitting itself as the next generation Las Vegas; according to the sales pitch it’s destined to be more than just a conglomeration of hotels and casinos, but more an entertainment and recreation destination without the tacky and seedy undertones said to plague Vegas.
The numbers favour Macau too. Within an hours flight of Macau is a population of over 2 milliion, compared to a paltry 250,000 within the same distance from Las Vegas. Investors are scrambling for their slice of the pie and to satiate their demand a whole strip of land has been reclaimed to accommodate the burgeoning development. CoTaiis the strip of reclaimed land that now joins Coloane Island and Taipa islands that will become the heart of the neon glow, with casinos, hotels and even a mini Venice replete with canals and gondola rides. Macau is on the rise.
The promise of a small fortune and potentially gambling away our travel funds didn’t hold much allure for us so we stayed with one of Suz’s ex-Melbourne friends Hannah. Hannah (originally from NZ) is working there and living the ex-pat high life with her aussie fiancée Matt, and Molly the kitten who provided hours of entertainment and snuggles. They welcomed us into their posh highrise apartment in Taipa overlooking the bridge and harbour and we felt very spoilt to have our own plush guestroom with ensuite!
On our first night Matt and Hannah whisked us off for dinner at their favourite Portuguese seaside restaurant on Coloane island. The company was excellent and the food was divine. Loads of delicious seafood dishes that had Dave salivating when they arrived to the table, and moaning with delight as he dipped his bread in the lashings of heavily flavoured sauces. The Portuguese cheese and beer were pretty noteworthy also.
Hannah and Matt had a work function one night so we were left to our own devices. We took the opportunity to cook dinner and lax out on the couch with a DVD. It’s amazing how simple things like this can
bring so much joy - after months on the road we’ve missed the normality of life back home, so preparing our own meal and vegging in front of the big screen was a long overdue experience.
Despite the neon casino influence, Macau retains most of it’s small colony charm and the Portuguese influence is evident in the colonial buildings, gardens and remnant culture. Taipa Village consists of narrow and leafy cobbled streets, low rise baroque housing, churches, colonial buildings and scattering of Buddhist and Taoist temples, and local stores selling wooden birdcages, and incense coils that spill out on the footpath.
The commercial heart of Macau is found on the Macau peninsula along with baroque churches and an assortment of colourful colonial buildings in dusky pinks, mustard yellow, mint green and pastel blues which made it an excellent place for meandering and exploring. The Largo do Senado is the heart of the area and locals conglomerate there for a spot of people watching around the central fountain. A crypt, staircase, an intricately carved facade depicting 17th century Christian dogma are all that remain of Church of St Paul, and it cuts and interesting and slightly surreal figure in
the skyline. The Macau tower which is modelled on the Auckland city sky tower is purportedly the 10th tallest building in the world, and in another kiwi touch AJ Hackett has been allowed to run climbs, jumps and skywalks all over it!
Macau was well worth the visit and was easily accessible from Hong Kong via the “TurboJet” which took just one hour to whisk us towards the history, culture, bright lights and future goldmine that is Macau.
As usual we’re way overdue in updating our blog, and have since been back through China and are now in Mongolia about to head out to the vast expanses of the terra. More updates about China and Mongolia on the next blog! No contact via e-mail for the next week or so. Love to you all.
There are more photos below