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Published: December 11th 2013
And a quick 1h flight later, I was out of Guangxi and in the so-called Special Economic Zone of Zhuhai in Guangdong, gateway to Macau, gambling capital of the world, and Monte Carlo of the Orient. (Or should Monte Carlo be more aptly known as the Macau of the West these days?)
I had read about the exorbitant room rates in Macau itself (USD50 upwards for crappy singles and shared baths??), so my plan was to base myself in more affordable Zhuhai, and cross the border daily. Plus I get the added bonus of a cheaper flight to Zhuhai, and the chance to check out the spill-over prosperity in this border city, which in its own right offered some interesting nightlife.
But the game (literally) was Macau -- once an absolutely sleazy backwater with smoke-filled rooms and hard-core gamblers and other shady characters, some changes in its gaming and development regulations saw it rapidly transformed into a genuine tourist attraction, with so much more than just roulette wheels and baccarat tables.
Sure everyone still comes here to gamble - USD30+ billion changed hands at the tables and slots in its three dozen casinos last year, the highest amount
No I did not do the jump.
in the world by a long shot (Las Vegas is second I think, at about USD10+ billion). But Macau certainly seems to have evolved and become friendlier to the average tourist. Clean streets, free shuttles from pretty much all hotels, it was kinda like a less crowded version of Hong Kong, though one could still see the old, sardine-like apartment blocks in some areas. But walking along the waterfront, the noticeable absence of congestion and general peace (notwithstanding the technicolour neon lights almost everywhere at night) made me think that this might be a pleasant place to reside long-term, if cost of living wasn't too high.
Anyway, Macau/Zhuhai pretty much marked the end of this leg of my extended Southeast Asia/Southern China adventure. Once again the months seem to have flown by, but when I reflect over this period away from home, at times even I'm amazed at the ground I've covered. In some ways I can almost see the end coming, but in some ways, I can also imagine the end still being a long way off. As I head back home to Singapore for my now-customary Christmas break there, I have some thinking to do, and you'll
know in due course my next plans.
Stayed at Lianhua Hotel.
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