Macau is the Asian Las Vegas, and actually it is even bigger. Macau’s casinos make five times more profit than Las Vegas; in fact it is so much profit, that they pay the taxes for all citizens of Macau and even give them some extra money twice a year… Though the city itself is set on only around 9 square kilometers, a whole day spent in Macau is not easily stuffed into one single blog entry. And because everybody knows about the casino side of Macau, I decided that I will tell you about a few other things, that really amazed or interested me during our day-trip there.
When we arrived at the ferry terminal in Macau, I was very surprised at how quickly we passed immigration. I had expected to wait for at least half an hour, as it was still CNY holiday and many Chinese and Hong Kong locals were on the ferry with us. However, we passed immigration in less than fifteen minutes – and even our tour guide found that very memorable. He explained to us, that he hadn’t expected us all to be through immigration till at least an hour later, because “immigration, especially on a holiday, usually takes around two hours”! He also told us, that till some years ago, Macau would welcome eight to nine million visitors a year – but last year, there was a sudden increase in visitors and 28 Million came to the city! They even had to build this extra terminal, because the immigration offices were otherwise completely overloaded.
Starting our tour, our guide showed us the Macau skyline from the bus and also pointed out a cemetery on the left hand side. “It is funny that you are all looking there,” he said, “usually I don’t tell people about this cemetery any more. This is a Taoist cemetery, and whenever I used to have tours, I’d introduce them to it. However, a few years ago, a group of Chinese fishermen came and when I showed them, they didn’t even look. Yet a few days letter, my agency received a letter from these men. They wrote: ‘The guide showed us a cemetery in the beginning of the tour. He is so stupid. We came to Macau for fun and gambling, and he shows us the cemetery in the early morning. No wonder that we didn’t win anything!’ I was suspended for seven days, as usual when a complaint arrives – no matter how true or wrong it is. Since then, I’m careful with showing the cemetery to my tour guests!” … How lucky, that none of us had come to gamble, anyway.
I was also very interested in the conflict between the Chinese and Portuguese in Macau concerning the city’s bronze statue of the Chinese goddess of Mercy, Guanyin. Originally a gift from Portugal to Macau, the Chinese have still not accepted the statue as representative of ‘their Guanyin’. The main problem is, that the statue fails in far too many standards of Feng Shui and therefore is considered a “bad statue”: It faces the mountain, backs the sea, its head is bent down, making her seem shy and unhappy, her eyes lie upon the Macau Redlight-District and the Lotus beneath her feet is not wide open but clinging to the goddess’ legs. For the Chinese, all these flaws are unacceptable – and absolutely not the expected outcome of all the money stuck into the production of the statue.
Another story about Macau that immediately caught my attention was the one about Dr. Stanley Ho, pretty much the “owner” of Macau. Of the 43 casinos in Macau, Dr. Ho owns no less than twenty-four. Plus the Jockey Club. Plus the Dog Races. And the Horse Races. And half of the Macau International Airport. His monopoly was only strained a few years ago, when MGM and Sands, big U.S. casino companies, came to Macau. Still, Dr. Stanley Ho is the legend of Macau. A billionaire; the only person alive having a street in Macau named after him (The Dr. Stanley Ho Avenue); husband to four wives; official father to seventeen children – unofficially, “he probably doesn’t know the number of his children himself”; father to a new-born child at the age of 81 years; husband of to a 38-year old at the age of 90 (“money makes sexy…”) and owner of dozens Rolls-Royces. This man is surrounded by myths and legends, billions of dollars – and armed guards.
At last, we visited the Macau Tower – 340 meters high and second highest (commercial) sky jump in the world. Our guide told us stories of people who had done either of the six possible jumps, with “running and jumping, without looking down first” being the biggest challenge of all, as he explained. We saw two people jumping right after each other – there was so much tension in the air! A simple jump costs around 2000 HKD, but prices vary according to special wishes. Apparently, one of the jumpers was a disabled 50-year-old women in a wheelchair. They attached the wheelchair to the rope and let her ‘jump’ in it. It must have been an amazing experience, only the wheelchair broke few meters over the ground, unable to stand the high pressure. Fortunately, nothing happened to the women. “Some people loose consciousness,” our guide explained, “last year I had a really buff guy from Europe here, who wanted to jump. So he paid and they showed him the spot – but when he realized how deep it actually was, he wanted to go back. The problem was, that they wouldn’t return him the money, so he still decided to jump. Just after he did, we could see him hanging motionless in the ropes. He lost consciousness, and I spent the rest of the day in hospital with him.” Maybe women are a little tougher after all – the statistics say, that in 2012 more women jumped from the Macau tower, than men. Among them was a bride, who jumped hugging with her groom. How romantic.
Macau is really one of those places where you can always discover new interesting things wherever you go. The peninsula is full of legends and stories and its casinos are by far not the main sites to go to! Our tour guide really knew which secrets and myths were worth to be revealed to us, so I learned a lot about the history and culture of Macau. Absolutely wonderful!