Macau is a funny little place – one part Havana with old colonial buildings, one part Rio de Janeiro with black & white cobble-stone patterns a la Copacabana, and six parts Las Vegas with massive casinos housed in oddly shaped buildings, musical fountains playing “Luck be a Lady”, and neon, neon everywhere, blinking neon, pulsating neon. It was a Portuguese colony for hundreds of years even before Hong Kong became British, and once it had lost all trade to Hong Kong it reinvented itself as a casino heaven that now pulls in more money than Vegas. Portugal was actually trying to hand it back to China for decades but the Communist Party didn’t want the crazy mess of gambling and prostitution…until by the 90′s they had realized that money is more fun than socialist ideals! It became another “special economic zone” of China just after Hong Kong.
We spent 2 nights in Macau, walking around town, enjoying some great sea-food, and walked up to an old fort and museum on a hill overlooking town (good displays on the great ocean voyages and the silk road) but skipped out on the gambling which I hold to be a special tax for people who can’t do math – something I like pointing out to friends and family members who enjoy buying one or two lottery tickets a year… I can be a real pain sometimes . We did visit one casino/hotel complex one evening though, to catch a Cirque-du-Soleil show – very lucky with the seats and ended up on 2nd row even though we only bought mid-class tickets at about 50 euro each. The show, Zaia, was fantastic – it’s on a custom made stage for this show here (with one show every evening) with a big sphere rising from the floor and floating around the ceiling with different things projected on it, great acrobats bouncing around in amazing costumes looking like some sort of psychedelic wood-elf space-aliens.. While some acrobats are performing in the foreground there are usually lots of other things going on in the background, an astronaut on an antique high-wheel bicycle powered by fire-crackers flying through the air or a polar bear slowly floating by… Great show – like the visual equivalent of listening to Shpongle music..
More fun on Macau – when you arrive and the networks pick up your mobile phone all the big casinos bombard you with text message ads for hours to get you to go! There’s also direct casino ferries from Hong Kong and free casino buses everywhere to reel you in. And a final interesting note worth mentioning – we found an inventive fast-food place called “Ireland’s Potato” that served french fries with kiwi flavoured yogurt and sported the slogan: “Ireland’s proverb says: There are two things in the world that can’t be joked: 1 marriage, 2 potato“!