Hong Kong and Macau are both Special Administrative Regions of China, but coming from either place to the other gives one a cultural jolt because of just how contrasting they are, without really being too different.
When we arrived in Macau, we saw signs written in three languages instead of the usual Chinese and English (the third being Portuguese). Macau of course used to be a colony of Portugal so this shouldn’t be shocking. It wasn’t. But it was a pleasant surprise, and it heightened our wanderlust – that which is the fountainhead of vigor and passion; executioner of lassitude and apathy.
In Macau, buses and taxis are the major modes of public transport, as opposed to Hong Kong which, aside from those two, also rely heavily on its MTR (mass transit railway) and ferries. Also, good ol’ coins are used instead of something like an octopus card. In its bus fare collection scheme, honesty really proves to be the best policy – both efficient and effective.
THEN, there is the architecture. If not for the Chinese signs, I certainly wouldn’t think I was in Chinese territory. Largo de Senado, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a testament to this. Aside from buildings like Leal Senado and the Post Office within it, Portuguese influence is also evident in the Square’s pavement, a wave-pattered mosaic of stones, similar to those found in Lisbon and other Portuguese colonies such as Brazil.
Macau is a very pedestrian-friendly place. It also does not hurt that some touristy places are within walking distance of each other, giving you a chance to go into streets and alleys and peek into the Macanese life. The residential areas look more Chinese, providing a different perspective of the region. Also notice the street signs. Charming.
Macau lives on two things – tourism and casinos -and we weren’t about to skip the latter. No, we didn’t gamble our hard-earned money. We just visited Cotai strip where The Venetian is located. There are other nearby hotels and casinos but due to time and energy constraints (wanderlust could only take us so far), we zeroed in on the most famous. The place is huuuuuuge (the photo below is only the side of the hotel). Everything glitters and the sky is ALWAYS blue (in the area where the gondolas are). Yes, it’s a sky-painted ceiling. How can it not make you smile?
When we finally got to the casino area, I was underwhelmed. That’s it? I was expecting to enter into an Alfred Hitchcock set – dark, mysterious, tense. I expected Mafia, or at least Clark Gable-ish men in suits and with cigars. OR something like Vegas – crowded, rambunctious, high-strung.
O Reality, how you disenchant.
Of course, it wasn’t long before I was admonished about taking these photos.