The Venetian, currently the largest casino in the world
Casinos and Portuguese cultural heritage
A few weeks ago we went with Emma’s sister and a friend of ours to Hong Kong and Macau for a week. We will begin our stories from this journey by writing about the Macau part of the journey and cover the Hong Kong adventures in a separate blog entry.
First a short background on Macau. The Portuguese were in control of Macau from the 15th
century. They had it as a colony or trade station and as such the area had special privileges. The Portuguese presence ensured that there were a lot of European influences in the architecture, cuisine and culture. Macau was like a chunk of Europe thrown in right on the border to China.
Chinese authorities however have always considered that Macau should have been a part of China. Hong Kong was in a similar situation, being a British colony right on the border of China. When China and UK came to an agreement that Hong Kong should be handed over to China there was no other alternative for Portugal than to make a similar agreement. In 1999 the power over Macau was handed
Ruins of St Paul's
Today the most prominent feature of the ruins is the former front wall of the church standing on top of a hill.
over to China. But Macau is very different from the rest of China. Still today the culture has a clear European touch to it, the visa regulations are more relaxed than in mainland China and gambling is permitted.
Macau is a place of great contrasts.
There is one Macau which is the historical part of the old town with its Portugese heritage, old churches, museums and so on. The old colonial heritage
is so well preserved that several buildings in the old town are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
There is another Macau which more resembles Las Vegas. There are grotesquely large casinos, huge hotels, Hard Rock Café, night clubs, entertainment venues and so on. Macau really comes out as a strange place when these two totally different worlds meet each other. By the way, it is fair to compare Macau with Las Vegas. The casinos in Macau are similar in style and size as the big famous counterparts in the gambling mecca in the state of Nevada and the revenue from the gambling business in Macau is actually larger than in the casinos along the Strip in Vegas.
We decided to
The theme of the Venetian is Venice
The theme of the Venetian is Venice complete with canals with gondolas.
stay in the Venetian
, currently the largest casino in the world. We even decided to splurge a bit. We stayed in one of their luxury suits. The theme of the Venetian is Venice complete with Italian streets, canals with gondolas and even a fake Rialto Bridge outside.
We are not into gambling. Emma didn't gamble at all and Ake spent only about USD10 on one of the slot machines. Ake didn't expect to win the 10 million dollar jackpot but when he is in the largest casino in the world he thinks he at least has to try.
In the Venetian we went for a gondola ride, Emma checked out the shopping and we walked along the fake Venetian streets. It was fun for a couple of hours but after a while it started to become pretty dull.
We also spent half a day in the Old Town. We first went to see the Ruins of St Paul's
. St Paul's was originally Church of St Paul and St Paul's College. It was built in the 17th century and was destroyed by a fire about 200 years later. Today the most prominent feature of the ruins
The theme of the Venetian is Venice
The theme of the Venetian is Venice complete with Italian piazzas
is the former front wall of the church standing on top of a hill. The Ruins of St Paul's has become a symbol of Macau much like the Eiffel Tower has become a symbol of Paris or Big Ben has become a symbol of London.
When we walked around the old town we looked at some of the other historical buildings and we went to a pawnbroker museum. The museum was small and free of charge and was housed in the former office of a pawnbroker. In the back of the office they had a separate building, several stories high, where they used to keep the items the customers left as a security for the loan.
The ferries between Hong Kong and Macau are fast and the border control is quick and easy. Yes, there is a border control if you go between Hong Kong and Macau. They are both officially a part of China but they are also to some degree independent territories. Both have their own currencies and you need a passport to travel between them. Luckily we didn't need to get any visa though.
Macau is a small
Here Emma is standing on a fake Italian piazza inside the Venetian.
place and can easily be visited on a day trip from Hong Kong. We are happy that we decided to spend two days there though. It was worth it. We would not have stayed longer than that even if we had had more time on our hands. But if we had tried to see Macau in one day it would have been hectic and not very rewarding.
In the next blog entry we will write about Hong Kong. We hope you will read that one too.
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