Macau - before all the new casinos
Macau Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Long before Travbuddy made my life easier, I would send out my travel blogs in email form to my friends and family. This one I wrote after my first trip to Macau. This was in January of 2002, before they built all the new Vegas style casinos, so it's a bit dated. Nevertheless, it's good to finally clean it out of my hotmail sent box and actually post it online. Thanks Travbuddy.
I finally made it away for a weekend to a place many of you may not know exists, Macau. Macau is a former (don't laugh) Portuguese colony about 45 minutes boat ride from Hong Kong. It was the first European colony in Asia, and was handed back over to China two years ago. Macau now has the same status as Hong Kong, the coveted SAR status. SAR (Special Administrative Region) is what China now calls Hong Kong. You've gotta love communist marketing. Don't call Hong Kong "Island of Opportunity" or "Your link to world markets" as that Port of Toledo sign reads. Name the 6th biggest economy in the world "Special Administrative Region." And they wonder why Taiwan isn't interested in becoming the 3rd SAR.
Anyway, back to Macau, what a strange place. I arrived via turbo-jet hovercraft on the coldest day of the year so far. I was quite suspicious of anything that claimed to be a Portuguese colony. I lived about 100 miles from the Portuguese border in Spain and never hear anyone utter a single word about the place. Speaking of which, has anyone ever thought of how overrated Magellan is and how underrated his first mate is. Afterall, Magellan never did make it all the way around the world. He got killed, not eaten (thanks Iheart2travel) in the Phillipines. His boat did make it and whoever sailed it the rest of the way is getting completely screwed by the history books.
Sure enough though, Macau has all the signs written in Portuguese, Chinese, and English. I actually heard two guys speaking Portuguese in the boat terminal. Even more amusing was taking Avenida Rodrigo Rodrigues to the hotel. On the way we passed some really strange sounding places like the Banco Maritimo de Portugal Chung Keong. We also passed the Hotel Lisboa, which houses Macau's famous Casino. Which brings me to my next topic, Stanley Ho. Dr. Stanley Ho (a name reserved for Gangsta Rappers and Hong Kong Real Estate Tycoons only) is the latter of the two and provides 50% of Macau's GDP through his casino and betting empire. He built the casino, owns all the boats to HK, owns all the race horses and tracks, and built the new space needle. He also maintains several wives in several different countries, and co-sponsors the Macau Grand Prix with Jacky Chan. In other words, Stanley Ho is a doctor of general coolness and all that is right and wrong with the world. *Note: I actually saw Stanley Ho a few years later in a Starbucks in HK. He was with wife #6 and his bodyguard, whose concealed handgun was bulging out of his coat. They sat at the table right next to me and flipped through a real estate guide (just as you would expect them to do). It was my most memorable celebrity sighting ever.
Our first stop was a seaside Buddhist temple dedicated to the sea goddess. There the fisherman pray for calm waters and abundant fish before they leave Macau. They also have giant rings of incense which burn for days at a time. They are about 4 feet tall, thick, and are coiled up like a snake. You just light one end and let it burn in the temple. We then visited a 5 star hotel built out of the shell of an old Portuguese fortress. They've built around it so the fortress walls are actually inside the hotel itself. After that we ate at a Macanese restaurant. Macau's national dish is something called African Chicken (don't ask why) but resembled Thai peanut curry only with more garlic. It's absolutely fantastic and we went back the next day to have it again.
That night we also toured the casino which was absolute crap but still managed to roll in cash. The casinos had signs in Chinese that said "no spitting". Apparently mainland chinese have a habit of spitting wherever they want to including a carpeted floor so they had to hang signs in the place to ask them not to. We also saw a relatively phenomenon new in Asia, though prevalent many other places, the Russian hooker. There was a whole gaggle of them across from the casino with their bleach blonde hair and bright red lipstick. I told Viv "hey some more expats over there" . She said, "those are hookers you f******g moron, Russians". Apparently they are famous in Macau. We ended the evening at a trendy bar which featured Portuguese beer, a cheezy band, and NBA basketball on the big screen. When I was in Portugal 5 years ago, it's safe to say that I didn't think the next time I'd drink a Superbock would be in South China, listening to two Chinese girls singing Toto's "Africa", and watching the Lakers/Spurs game.
Next day we toured the colonial district of Macau. It looks like Europe but everyone is Chinese. The biggest cathedral in Macau burned down a long time ago but the facade is still there along with the graves of many priests and Portuguese officials who built Macau. We visited some pastry shops with some really good things and other delicacies such as "Pig Grease Macaroons". The district also had some of the best furniture stores I've ever seen. If you like lots of wood in Asian style furniture, send your requests, the stuff is really cheap there, and they'll ship it anywhere. After more African chicken for lunch, we headed to the island across the harbor. It's much nicer, houses the university, racetrack, and the airport. But there isn't a lot to do there so we found a shopping mall to get out of the cold. The mall was just different enough to make you realize you were in Macau. There were Portuguese items everywhere, and some strange Eastern European chocolates and other random things. There I spent the last of my Macanese Patacas in the video game machines. The horse racing game was fun until my video horse died of exhaustion and I nearly did with it. I have some funny video of me beating the hell of of this mechanical horse with the mechanical whip button. Send money for a copy.