Like a radiant slot machine that extends sky high directly west from the emerald city, Macau is merely 65km by water travel but light years in many other respects from Hong Kong. Enjoying a fling with Vegas 1x a year, I thought it would be cultural / social immersion time if I bandied over to the old Portuguese colonial outpost and paid my respect to the Venetian. I mean, do what the locals do right? Hmm….
Since the Portuguese hit the road in 1999, this recently established Special Administrative Region was similar to Vegas in so many respects, yet wildly (or sublime) different. My goal was to act as an observer to keep pushing on this thread of economic prosperity a la the west, but with a Chinese bent. I was fascinated to see how they took the concept of Vegas and made it their own? I was about to find out.
My original intent was to spend the day in the city. The Portuguese arrived in 1510 via the Pearl River and a desire to trade with the local chinese, I figured there was mucho culture to be seen, soaked up, divulged and shared. I had all the relics on my list – Chapel Of St Joseph, Church of Ste Dominic, Leal Senado, Museum of the Holy House, a few resturants to eat “Macanese soul food” …whatever that was, etc. Without too much of an excuse, I found my way barred by a very late start from Central. We didnt board the ferry till around 5pm. As expected, sightseeing quickly became nigh improbable. All that was left was to visit the shine of the holy gambler.
While Wynn, MGM, and other colossal megalithes have sprouted up in the past decade, our rendezvous with fate was to be had at the Venetian!
From the very start….i knew I would not stay long at this controlled oasis of luck. In short, not very entertaining. Almost too kept. Too manufactured. Too too.
Vegas reeks of opulence, the allure of riches, the untold story of someone (maybe you maybe me) hitting the big win and retiring to a life of leisure in Scottsdale. Macua on the other hand was subdued. No one was hooting or cheering at the busy but lifeless craps table. Everyone had the same desire as those chaps in Vegas…but expressed this desire in a much different manner.
When I was up $10k Hong Kong at the 21 table, and I tried to tip the dealer for a mad stream of blackjacks to moi, she refused. I was told not to tip the dealer. When I ordered a cocktail, to refresh the palate, I was told “maybe later”. Everyone was sipping orange juice or coffee. The air was noisy with people (clinking of chips, rustling of shoes on the polished marble veneer) but the masses silent as the teetotalers prayed to their gambling gods and were intent on winning. This was serious gambling. Religion for those looking to hit it big. Not entertainment. Hmmm. Not too interesting.
Returning to Shek ‘O, I spent the remainder of the week sitting by the ocean as a break in the weather opened up some outdoor possibilities. A quick 7 mile run on the Dragon’s Back followed by a 3 mile hump back into town almost crushed my spirit, soul and other non physical extensions of my id/ego/superego…but I perservered.
A lovely party with the local frenchies brought me back from the depths of runner’s pain that eve. I enjoyed the remainder of the starry night on the BackBeach with a few friends after a Thai dinner of crab and squid at the local shack. My trip to Hong Kong was quickly coming to an end.
Smelling the sea salt air, the musty wet sand that dried instantaneously at the first hint of sunshine, only to be smothered with the next rain fall….I knew my trip was all but complete.
Time to return to California. It was time to visit the family in Coronado and then make my way to Sonoma for a wedding of a good college friend. Ciao Asia…cant wait to see you again.