Friday, 6 January 2012

Places to avoid: Macau

I hear some people enthuse about Macau. It is a World Heritage Site! I see many comments praising the fine, ancient, colonial buildings. I have heard tell of the wonderful food, and the Portuguese flair that inspires this historic town.

I feel it is time to take your beer goggles off.

The team sent by the World Heritage Outfit to assess this rotting place may indeed have been a single blind man, desperate for intimacy. Pity him. He was probably cruelly taken advantage of by someone who just said they were an indecently-clad busty blond (38-29-36).

In reality they were a conniving resident called Paolo. The deep voice and hairy belly were not the result (as claimed), of emergency medical treatment, but because they were the front end of a part-owner of a Macau casino.

Pity Paolo. He probably has to pay protection money to the Triads, so understandably he is desperate to draw in more gullible punters to this blasted site. He must focus his mind on the sole purpose of removing the last cash from the pockets of people who probably can't afford to give any at all. If the creation, exploitation, and asset-stripping of their dreams can be assisted by a concocted veneer of attractive historic charm, then so be it.

I would like to tell you straight. There is no charm to Macau. None at all. Macau is the world's top gambling centre, outstripping the strip of Las Vegas, and it shows. It is the world's most soulless place, driven by the brutality of gambling, stinking of deceit, throwing up rotten displays of glitz to create dreams of wealth when in reality it is decay, abandon, and I had to suffer it for a full wretched eight hours, the final one of which could not come too soon.

But because I begin everyday with grit in my soul, we embarked on the lovely historic tour of the old town, the pride of which seems to be an old front of St Paul's Cathedral.

Obviously, a bit of old church wall confers history legitimacy on this miserable run-down town, and so it drew thousands of bussed in visitors in the 20 minutes I spent propped up against one of the iron-clad floodlights.

Each one of the visitors who were marched up the steps by sour-faced tour guides to click away on cameras in front of the thing bore an expression of forbearance and sufferance. One looked clinically depressed. I only saw one person smile in all the time I sat there. It was a young man following a blond woman. She looked ruthlessly addicted to old churches, and he looked ruthlessly addicted to the jiggle of her rear.

I would like to say things brightened considerably when Dig found us a place that could serve a vegetarian lunch, but I am sorry to say it was on the main tourist drag in Starbucks. (He could not extract a straightforward lunch from anyone unless it had dead animal or sea slime draped over the top.)

Well, you may say I got my deserves in this corporate chain, because I was abused with appalling service and a cold hot chocolate drink. I declined the cheese sandwich. It had clearly seized up from the strain of trying to look like a sandwich, and had reverted to its original form of two sawn up squares of peeling cardboard propped against a slice of yellow formica.

Then we visited the Museum.

Here the town shows how truly, madly, deeply, it already had given up its soul to absurdly betting on anything, from the Blackjack table to two water drips running down a window. Long before the Portuguese got here probably, and long before the greedy hand-rubbing property developers turned it into a lucrative playground for the gambling-obsessed and money-laundering needy.

Well, what else is there to bet on when you are sat round the bamboo hut, having eaten all the pandas, but crickets, fighting?

I leave only vitriol and take only photos. Of the merciless contest arena for the crickets, the tickling sticks (which drive them to fury, apparently), and the coffin for the loser.

If that alone is not bizarre enough to lure you to squander your meagre income, remember that this place is run by people who think it's a good idea to turn the streets into a race track every November. It makes sense if you consider this is an opportunity to gamble whether you are going to be knocked over and killed by a Formula motor sports team, or not.

I think I should speak bluntly now.

I hated Macau and I never want to step foot in this charmless place ever again. If I must, it will be for the same reason I did this time. The visa run.

Finally - but please do not consider this an addendum - I apologise to all the lovely people who live here, who are perhaps as happy, sad, joy-filled or miserable in life as anywhere else on Planet Earth.

Wiki tells me your literacy rate is 93.5%! Don't let the British government know that. Michael Gove will visit you and before we can say Jack Robinson, he will think it a good idea to make Britain worse than it already is. Poker cards will be delivered along with milk for the children.

And I probably did not do your old colonial buildings justice, this is true. I am sure many are there, valued by the residents, enjoyed and preserved as best as can be. I can detect the mix, elegantly arched, delightfully peeling, and cherished with new paint.

I fear for those that are evocatively non-restored, waiting for death. Or conversion into a new themed casino. It amounts to the same thing.


Nora said...

At least the city of Las Vegas makes no excuses for why it exists. It's very clear about it and doesn't try to hide it. All of its citizens are somehow involved and proud of it. It's a booming economy and nobody gets lured there under false pretentions.

Denis said...

Totally agree. Absolutely hated it. I came across with attitude, arrogance and racism in Macau. People spoke not a word in English and even common words in Portuguese were challenging for them. What a frustrating place!