Macau is an island 65km off of Hong Kong. Both are part of China. But in order to travel from one to the other, you have to go through an immigration procedure
that requires a passport and entry and exit declarations. The immigration hall in Macau is very large and was packed with people; it took nearly an hour to get in. Oddly I was a head taller than almost everyone else there.
Gambling is legal in Macau, and only in Macau. So I took the shuttle bus to the
Venetian Casino to see Venice first-hand, like a friend who was there a few weeks earlier (hi Martin). It’s a giant mall with facades inspired by Venetian architecture, two Canals, lots of bridges, a copy of St. Marcus square, a campanile, the works, under a blue artificial sky. A little artistic freedom made the buildings all look like buildings in a mall, and the Canal Grande was about four meters wide and smelled like chlorine instead of you know what. But they had gondolas and a Chinese gondoliere who belted out O Sole Mio at the top of her voice. Incredibly cheesy and bizarre but you have to admire the effort.
Ok, to the real Macau. It was a Portuguese colony and you can still see that. Around the main square, Largo do Senado, the colonial architecture was preserved perfectly, but it’s packed with tourist, like the surrounding shopping streets. But walk a little further and there are little crooked alleys, only old buildings (all in desperate need of fresh paint), the characteristic tiny balconies that look like bird cages, little Chinese shops and people going about their work, and little traffic except in the few thoroughfares. Macau is wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable after Hong Kong and Kowloon. It seems that Macau was able to preserve its authenticity and its soul, apart from a few tourist watering holes. And the eastern edge of town, which is a loud and soulless modern town.
One of those is the church of St. Paul, built by Jesuits in the seventeenth century and burned down in the eighteenth, leaving only the front facade standing. It is quite ornate, and has become Macau’s main landmark. There is also an old fort next to it. I enjoyed Macau quite a bit, if I hadn’t bought a ticket to Guangzhou and made a reservation there I might have stayed there overnight.