In Poland we have a card game called Makao, for Chinese people Macau (Macau Special Administrative Region) is also associated with games – card games, and more.
Not everyone knows (we didn’t know) that Macau is the gambling capital and produce much more gaming revenues than Las Vegas. In the city you can travel by casino’s buses for free. Within casinos drinks are served to players for free – juices , tea, cola or water. The splendour of the decor is amazing – Casino Venetian looked like real Venice. Some of the casinos are quite kitsch in style, but others simply dripping with wealth. Through the corridors of the Lisboa casino strolled young ladies, as we were later explained – luxurious courtesans arriving there from every corner of China.
We didn’t know anything about casinos before, we knew however that Macau was Portuguese colony for many centuries. We decided to see how many of Portuguese are still in Macau. Names of the streets and of many buildings are still in Portuguese (an incredible help especially since we know a little bit of Spanish, even if we didn’t know it, it’s more similar to Polish than Chinese! ). It was difficult to spot Portuguese people on the streets however – everybody looked Asian. We were able to locate a Portuguese family in the bus – but it turned out that they were tourists from Lisbon (the real Lisbon, not the casino “Lisboa”).
We rode the same bus to the edge of the Coloane island (Macau consists of interconnected islands of Taipa and Coloane and Macau peninsula, which is the older part). We were walking through the southern edge of Taipa – beaches, villages and forest. Maybe it was not the most beautiful route for a walk in the world (it was nice), but we feel better than great. All tourists in Macau (mainly Chinese from mainland) sit in casinos, so we had peace and quiet : ) what we often missed in China. There we found a real, alive Portuguese…
I saw a white man with dark hair, sitting in an off-road car with a flag of Portugal behind the windshield. I approached him with the map… He was friendly, he asked me – ‘Where do you want to go?” I Answered “Nowhere. I wanted to see if you are a real Portuguese”. He was. We talked for a while. He said that after the handover of Macau to China many of his compatriots left because of the fear of communism, but now because of the economic problems they return. He also said that his girlfriend is from Belarus – and asked if I speak Russian. I started to learn Russian last fall ( greetings to Svetlana, my teacher : D). I said, full of pride yet humbly: “плохо ( plokho ) “, which means “a little”. Portuguese fellow was pleased and asked where I learned Portuguese ! As you can see, in a Pushkin’s speech I am so bad that instead of Russian plokho, I produced Portuguese “pouco”. What a disappointment..
During our hiking in Coloane we met exciting adventure. The maps showed that somewhere there should be a graveyard (we always like to visit cemeteries ). For a moment it seemed to me that I see tombstone over the hill. I felt like an explorer. I told Jowita to wait. I climbed up the hill. Yes, there was a lost cemetery, nobody was here for tens and perhaps hundreds of years! What a mystery! I helped Jowita to climb a steep hill – we passed mounds of debris, on one of them there was a frightening, old, abandoned doll. Once at the top of the hill we looked respectfully at the Chinese tombstones, with containers for incenses. It took us a few minutes to figure out that a few dozen steps behind the hill there was the normal entrance to the cemetery and we went there just from the behind. Well 😉 A further behind the cemetery there was a shooting range. Very practically, if someone does not know how to handle a weapon.
Naturally we used Couchsurfing again : )
In Macau, our host was Clark, Chinese guy from Hong Kong. He was very welcoming and showed us some interesting places, but what I liked the most was that he talked to us about the mindset of the people from Hong Kong and Macau – about what they feel and why their life is a little different than the other inhabitants of China. We won’t explain the policies, but with Hong Kong and Macao, it is a bit like if they are China but at the same time they are not – The Chinese called it “one country, two systems”. China tolerate diversity of political, economic and legal systems of its “special administrative regions “. The important things for tourists – to HK and Macau Poles do not need a visa to China – they do. We will come back to the topic of Hong Kong. As for Macau, firstly it is not a large area and does not have very big number of inhabitants (Compare – 0.55 million to 1 350 million residents of the People’s Republic of China) and secondly , as I wrote, for the Chinese Macau is one big casino, and indeed, it is difficult today to think about it differently.
Dessert of our stay in Macau was freshly baked pasteis de nata from the bakery in the coastal village : ))) – wonderful delights in Portuguese style. If there could be any positive dimension of colonial heritage, let it always taste like pasteis de nata!