Monday, May 16, 2005
Because Hong Kong is in the Asia/Pacific area, there are tons of countries that are really close by and easy to get to. For example, Vietnam (which we just went to - oh sorry, Lance, am I rubbing it in again?????????)
This new country we went to is fairly close so we took an hour ferry ride over on a TurboJet. This thing is cool! It's a huge catamaran type boat that basically hydroplanes across the water. We went with two new friends that we met a few weeks ago so we had a great time with them exploring this country.
Anyways, one such country is Macau which I'm sure you have never heard of. It is very similar to Hong Kong in that it was under Portuguese rule (HK was under British rule) until 1999 and then handed back to China under the "one country, two systems" rule (which is what HK is). It too (like HK) is considered a Special Administrative Region (SAR). Ooh look at me sound so smart! You would think I actually know what I'm talking about!
Anyways, it will be it's "own country" for another 43 years until it gets handed back to China (like HK). Since it is it's own country, you have to have a passport to go there. So we're good for another 90 days, since we are still "illegeal".
Macau is a very small country about 45 km east of HK and is connected to China by a tiny strip of land. It has a population of 46,000 and receives 25X that amount in tourists and visitors a year. The reason they get so many tourists is their casinois. Casinos are not allowed in HK or in China but they dominate Macau. They even have plans to build Vegas style casinos. They are actually in the process of building a Venetian, just like the one in Vegas. Every week there is some sort of article about a big developer from the US coming over to build a guargantuan casino.
Since it was under Portuguese rule for so long, the city has a very Meditteranean feel to it. The buildings and streets are dominated by the European architecture. With cobblestone streets, and pastel colored buildings, it was a very pleasant sight to see compared to the skyscrapers and dingy buildings of HK. It's also intersting that the streets and buildings have Portuguese names (very similar to Spanish for those language impaired people) while surrounded by Chinese shops and stores.
There are also two nearby islands that are connected by absolutely gorgeous bridges. I know that sounds stupid, but the bridges were really fascinating. Unfortunatly, the taxi was going to fast to take pictures. On these islands were some black sand beaches. It was here we could check out the fat Chinese men in their speedos while drinking a 25 cent beer! Gotta love that (the 25 cent beer thing, not the fat Chinese men in speedos).
The day we were there was Buddha's Birthday! This is a huge celebration around China. Wherever we went in Macau, there was some sort of indication of this celebration. Whether it be hundreds of people waiting in line to eat food that would bring them health, luck and riches (we called it Buddha food) or dragon dances with drunken Chinese men beating their drums and drinking rice wine while escorting the dancing dragons around the town for 8 hours.
After a great dinner we decided to check out the casinos. The first one we went to was the Lisbon Hotel and Casino. This was a no glitz or glitter, no guts or glory casino. Talk about people taking their gambling seriously! There was no laughing, smiling, or joking with friends. They don't even serve alcohol or have cocktail waitresses. It was also grungy and dirty. It was actually a depressing place to be. We then went to the Sands casino which had a very different feel to it. It was very open and had the glitz and glitter of a Vegas casino, but on a lesser scale. It was just a more combfortable atmosphere. They had cocktail waitresses but wore long pants, long sleeves with their shirt buttoned up to their throat. So very un-Vegas.
It was a very long day but we had a great time exploring this small country. If Troy and I ever decide to take up gambling on a serious level, we'll be back!