Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Macau, baby, Macau"

Caroline and I went to Macau almost a month ago, so this post is way overdue. Macau is a weird place; a Chinese special administrative region (SAR), Portuguese-influenced, island city-state. It has its own currency, the Macanese Pataca or MOP, and was both the first and last European colony in Asia (handed over to the PRC in 1999). It's also considered the Las Vegas of the east and has actually been the top-grossing gambling market in the world for quite a while, out-pacing Vegas by a staggering 20 billion USD each year.

In stark contrast to this swinging vegas-style hedonism, Macau has also preserved over 400 years of Portuguese influence in its compact old town.

This section of Macau is full of amazing baroque architecture, churches, European squares, and free samples!    From left to right, almond cookies (basically compacted almond powder, good but make sure you drink something with it), egg tarts, and funny-tasting sheets of meat-product.

Macau's southern island, Taipa, is easily accessible via the ubiquitous casino buses that park in front of all large gambling establishments.  So numerous are these buses (every casino has a fleet) and so extensive is their network of stops (every casino in Macau) that they easily beat Macau's actual public transit system (and they're free!).

Taipa is home to most of Macau's ritzy new casino development which includes the Dream City casino complex and the Macau Venetian which is apparently the largest casino in the world.  It looks exactly like it's Las Vegas counterpart and even has "real" Venetian gondoliers.  There isn't much to see on Taipa aside from the casinos as its only other attractions are a dog track and loads of new luxury condos.

Macau is full of strange contradictions.  Old and new, mega casinos and colonial architecture, east and west. It's a playground for the Hong Kong elite, and a reminder of how much money passes through Southern China only to be gambled away in a game of high-stakes mahjong at an Italian-themed casino.  At least you can still find a free dance show on the street and even a friendly panda or two.


Unknown said...

Not really an example of good planning, I suppose. Fascinating nevertheless. Thanks for the story!

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