I aways new my time in Hong Kong would be limited, so could I really justify taking a day out of that time? Well, for a day trip to Macau it seemed like a good idea. In the end, well, I am just a little confused.
With all the UK’s connections to Hong Kong it’s easy to forget that it is not the only former European colony that’s now been returned to China. Macau – in all its variety of spellings – was a Portuguese port from the 1550s (and officially a colony from 1887) until its handover back to China in 1999.
It has a lot in common with Hong Kong (they are only an hour apart by ferry), but with the one major exception: casinos are legal. Thanks to China’s addiction to gambling (seriously, if my time in Macau taught me anything it’s that some people need some serious help!), the casinos in Macau are enormous and hugely profitable. In fact, casinos make up half of Macau’s economy (per capita they’re one of the richest nations on earth) and despite their profits declining in the last year or so, the profits of casinos in Macau were more than five times that of Las Vegas. It’s crazy.
Macau is a weird mix of ancient cobbled streets, Portuguese churches and architecture, Taoist Temples, Chinese streets, and gargantuan casinos. I had a delicious Portuguese Custard Tart – they claim they are the best in the world, but I disagree – and a Cantonese beef noodle dish; took photos of ancient churches and hyper-modern casinos. Oh, and there was a Mexican catholic cathedral (above) in the centre of the old town – no, I’ve no real idea why either… I would love to articulate the strangeness of this melting pot, but I don’t think I can.
Having been in a couple of the casino hotels out of sheer nosiness I can confirm that they are places where time of the day makes no difference and it’s a surreal wonderland. In the Grand Emperor there were portraits of the Queen, imitation Grenadier Guards, and more than 70 gold bricks in the floor. In the Grand Lisboa had so much gold and crystal in the foyer you don’t know where to look. And The Venetian, well, it has a mock up of Venice – including St Mark’s Square (feature image), the Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal (including opera-singing gondoliers) – ON THE FIRST FLOOR!
If I’m honest, I’m mainly just confused by what Macau is. But it’s confirmed many of my thoughts about gambling and casinos, and they are not positive.