Notes On Macau

How to order a Portuguese tart in Macau

You'll walk past the Portuguese tart stands in Macau. This is not a difficult thing to do. When you see and smell the deliciousness smelling delightfully you'll stop and ask the person behind the display for a tart. That person will speak Cantonese as this is Macau. They'll ask you for something that isn't money and you don't have it. A quick tango and you'll be directed to the far reaches of the store. At the very back you'll join the queue of people who are buying things unrelated to Portuguese tarts.

At the front of the queue you ask for a single tart. $8 Honkanese or Macanese dollars later you'll be given a receipt. You take this receipt to the person at the front of the shop. You should be familiar with this person by now. You give them the receipt and in exchange –and stay with me on this one as this exchange operates differently to currency which one might confuse it with– and in exchange for this receipt you'll get a single Portuguese tart. This last part doesn't take very long because the person serving tarts doesn't do anything else and there is no queue here.

On Macau

I like Macau. It's so very different to Hong Kong and yet it's almost the same place. The similarites are China and Chinese people. The differences are the same as the differences between Portugal and England. Macau, like Goa and Malacca was acquired by the Portuguese well before most other colonism ventures in the region. Macau is different again because it was rented to Portugal because they helped the Chinese deal with some particularily pernicious pirates. The Portuguese held Macau right up until 1999 when they handed it over –no doubt dancing to Prince. The Portguese tried to hand it over in the seventies when the Carnation Revolution removed their dictator but China didn't want it.

Macau was an indication of how biased towards England my education was. I knew of Hong Kong's return to China in 1997 but nothing of Macau's return in 1999; nor that that Portgual was running Macau for 400 years. Their history is related though. Hong Kong didn't like gambling (but opium's OK) so Macau allowed gambling to take place. These two islands represent the vices of China.

Macau Street Sign

The influence of Portugal over Macau is much more visible than England's influence over Hong Kong. This is because with 400 years to run the place they spent more time building in their own style. Hong Kong has less of this as it was only run by the British for 150 years. There are lots of churches in Macau but they all look the same. There are lots of casinos in Macau and none of them look the same. The casinos are so phenomenally disgusting that I felt sick walking around them.

One casino attempts to recreate the canals of Venice. There are gondolas. There are people who will push the gondala around singing in an operatic voice. There was also a posse of classical musicians: three with violins and one with a cello playing. They were not on a gondola, they were nearby though and they were exceptional musicians. This particular casino cost about 2.4 billion dollars, which is one of the few things that cost more than Myki. Of all the games that were being played in this casino, none of them were Mah Jong. This place is a fucking travesty.

I had forgotten that it was a weekend when I went to Macau and consequently couldn't find accommodation less than $140 AUD per night. It was cheaper for me to take the ferry back to Hong Kong each evening. Macau is so crowded on the weekend it was farcical. Getting around the centre of town was akin to wading. It was easier to step on to the street and deal with the cars than to stay on the sidewalk.

The Crowds of Macau

when: Saturday, March 15, 2014