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Here is the 15 second explanation of Macau:
Macau lies about 40 miles away from Hong Kong and was a former colony of Portugal. It was handed back to China in 1999 and has a status similar to Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region. It has its own currency as well as its own immigration rules and entrance policies. While it has traditionally been overshadowed by Hong Kong, Macau has come into its own lately as the gambling center of Asia.
Macau is a pretty tiny place. Even by Honk Kong standards (which is small) Macau is pretty small.
My time in Macau was all of 13 hours, so beyond this post, I probably wont have too much more to say about it. In that 13 hours, I managed to see a good portion of the territory and most of the significant attractions.
These where my thoughts which I wrote down on my laptop through out my Christmas Day in Macau…
I’m writing this on the ferry to Macau. The ferry was only a 15 min walk from my hostel. The ferry is looking pretty packed. I think something that Chinese and Americans have in common is that in both places, the casinos will be packed on Christmas.
A common thing for people who are living or working in a country is to do a visa run, where you leave the country briefly just to come back and get your visa renewed. This is probably the easiest visa run in the world. Macau is about 40 miles from Hong Kong and a round trip on the ferry is only HK$315 (US$40). This is probably the shortest trip I’ve had (distance wise) between locations on my trip so far. Time wise it was probably either the flight from Guam to Saipan or the Apia, Samoa to American Samoa flight.
I’ve been walking around for about an hour and a half around the big casinos. They are very nice. The MGM is probably the neatest building, architecturally, I’ve ever seen. Everything is very high end. This is called the Vegas of Asia, but right now I’d call it the Atlantic City of Asia. It isn’t quite to Vegas proportions yet. It is Christmas day, but its not very busy. I realize that Christmas isn’t as big of a deal in China, but you’d never see Vegas this dead any day of the year.
Macau is like Hong Kong, but there are definite differences. The Portuguese influence is obvious. The street signs are more continental European than British. The architecture is different and it is more Catholic. That and you see signs in Portuguese everywhere.
I can easily see this place overtaking Vegas in 10-20 years. Chinese love to gamble and as China becomes richer, this place is going to explode. Think Vegas back when the Mirage was first being built (1980s). That is Macau today.
The fact you have to go through a separate immigration when coming from Hong Kong is sort of a pain. Considering how close together they are, and considering they both have a special administrative status from the rest of China, I’d think a merger would make sense. Certainly, carrying a currency for just 500,000 people is probably unnecessary. the Hong Kong and Macau dollars are very close to each other. A HK$37 frappachino in Hong Kong is MOP$36 in Macau.
I’m off to the city center to see the historic parts of town. That is something which Vegas lacks.
I ducked into a Starbucks to sit down. (This is the first Starbucks I’ve seen without wifi) The street food here is very unique. The two big ones are Portuguese egg tarts (not bad actually. Like a sweet egg pudding) and what I can only describe as pork jerky. It isn’t as dry as regular jerky and much sweeter. They literally pick up sheets with tongs and cut it with scissors.
I’m in the city center which is very European. While there are parts of Hong Kong which seem very British, I don’t think the British left their stamp on Hong Kong as hard as the Portuguese left theirs on Macau.
Asians who feel the compulsion to take their photo in front of every object they see is really becoming annoying. If there is a group of three, they will take seven possible photos in front of every object. (3 solo, 3 pairs, and one group)_I’m serious. I haven’t been anywhere in Asia where I haven’t seen every photo taken involve someone standing in front of something, holding a peace sign. I’ve had people complain that I don’t take enough photos of myself. I’m sure I could if I tried. I have a tripod and I could always have someone else take a photo. But having few photos of me is much better than having nothing but photos of me. I’m far more interested in the places I visit than proving for posterity that I was there.
The biggest historical attraction is the ruins of St. Paul’s. It was the nicest church in Macau and burned down (like all wooden buildings eventually do) in 1835. Today, only the facade and the foundation remain. I also saw St. Dominic’s and the fort. Everything is in very close proximity in this area, and viewing a facade really doesn’t take much time. I’m not sure any of the churches in Macau would be that special of they were transported to Europe. What makes them unique is that they are an island of Europe in Asia. It has a similar feel to the Intramuros in Manila.
I’m at the Macau Tower. It is basically the same thing as the CN Tower in Toronto, The Sky Tower in Auckland or the Stratosphere in Vegas. Here, however, they have bungee jumping and you can do a two hour climb to the top of the spire. If I had more time here, the climb would be fun. I’m actually waiting to go see a movie. I’m watching “I Am Legend”. It is the first movie I’ve seen in a theater since I saw Harry Potter in Samoa. You purchase movie tickets here like you buy sports tickets. You pick the exact seat you want for the show. As I type this, I’m overlooking the three bridges that connect Macau to the island of Tipau. The PRC is very close to Macau. It would be a very easy swim to get from there to here. I wonder how they patrolled the border when Mao was in power.
To give you an idea of the size of Macau, I’ve only walked today and I’ve seen most of the pinnesula.
After the movie, I think I’m going to do the skywalk on the top of the Macau tower. You basically get hooked to a rail and you can walk around the top of the tower on the outside. I’ve already proven myself in the bungee department. In addition to the bungee, the skywalk, and the spire crawl, they have a thing called the sky jump. It is like a bungee jump, except you don’t spring back. You just drop and the slow your descent.
I didn’t end up doing the Skywalk. It was closed by the time I got up to the top of the Macau Tower. Also, the casinos weren’t nearly as busy as I thought they’d be when I was on my way there.
Macau isn’t Vegas yet. The Vegas hotels which have opened in Macau (Sands, Wynn, MGM and soon Venetian) are all smaller than their Vegas counterparts. However, they all seem much nicer. There is a lot of construction going on and I think it is only a matter of time before Macau will rival Vegas. Macau is much better situated than Vegas to take advantage of the growth of China and the rest of Asia.
I wonder how long Portuguese is going to last as a language in Macau? I doubt if it will be more than a generation. Most people I interacted with spoke English and there is zero incentive to know Portuguese now that they aren’t a part of Portugal. The pressures are to learn Mandarin and English.
My guess is that Macau will be one of the unsung boom cities during the next decade. They will be overshadowed by mainland China, but will have an enormous increase in casinos, hotels and jobs as they attract more Chinese.
If you are in Hong Kong, I’d definitely take a day trip to Macau. I’m sort of embarrassed I waited this long considering how easy it was to get there. You really don’t have to stay overnight unless you want to really want to gamble.