Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wandering around Macau again

Today is the grand opening of the Galaxy Macau, an enormous casino-and-hotel complex round the back of the Venetian. The owners promoted this, in part, by buying every single advertising space in the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station. I don't think that reflects so well on them, as if you've been following my interminable Hong Kong fragrance updates on Twitter, you'll be well aware that Tsim Sha Tsui MTR smells of wet mud. Hardly the most glamourous association for a casino to make, unless it's trying to attract crowds of unwashed ramblers, fresh from twelve hours of being rained on in the Lake District.

We had forgotten about the earth-shatteringly exciting event that is the opening of a casino, but in any case we went to the Venetian instead once we had disembarked from the ferry. We walked through the palace to misery that is the main gambling room, through the super-super-fake replica of Venice (incorrect in a few key details: they have omitted the smell of sewage and added in a branch of Fatburger) and then left to take a taxi to Coloane village. This is where Lord Stow's bakery is; since we last visited in 2010 it seems to have metastasised so now every other shop in the village is Lord Stow's. (The remainder sell slowly drying fish or flowerpots in the shape of owls.)

Drying fish

As Coloane village isn't very big, I'm not sure how long it can support the continued expansion of Lord Stow's empire, but he does make exceedingly good croissants. And gloriously strong ginger cookies, the kind with a bit of turmeric included so they're really fiery.


There are a lot of photogenic buildings in Coloane, although sadly this is because a lot of them are becoming derelict in picturesque ways. When we'd finished wandering, we took a taxi to old Macau, a car-sickness-inducing ride of lurch after sickening lurch, chasing a convoy of tour buses up the narrow streets of Macau.

Disgorged from the taxi by the ruins of St Someone's, I was ready to fall over and collapse (just like St Someone's) but instead we went to the Museum of Macau, mysteriously open for free today. Maybe they're trying to compete with the Galaxy.

Since we last visited they've added a few exhibits, and there are some amusingly sino-centric captions on some of the exhibits. Yes, we know the Chinese had printing presses before anyone else, but that doesn't mean you can go round implying that every invention from the Western world was an adaption of Chinese technology, rather than something that might have developed in parallel (although a few millenia late). Pushing the line that China is unique and homogenous and special starts to make you look a bit insecure, and then a bit silly. (This is in the same weekend that the South China Morning Post suggested the Terrifying New Aircraft Carrier of the PLA might just be a knackered old Russian boat with a few planes on it, rather than the Ultimate Weapon of the Coming Apocalypse - make of that what you will. But visit Minskworld first so you know what you're talking about.) I suppose it could have been worse. There weren't any signs suggesting Caxton or Gutenburg had picked up their equipment cheap in the shopping mall outside Lo Wu station in Shenzhen. Let's keep our eyes out for any such revisionism.

The museum is quite good: not much interactivity, but some nicely presented replicas of houses in Macau through the ages, and the constant comic relief of people taking photos with their flashes going off, and being told not to by the security guard, and immediately doing so again. Do they not understand? Do they hate museums and want to damage the exhibits via the means of flash photography? Is it the jasmine revolution mutating into an attempt to disobey authority, only when the authority is being sensible? All very mysterious.

After the museum, we plunged into the crowds around the hill, then after as much shoving and free sesame seed cookie samples as we could stand, took a quick look at a historic mansion, failed to find a taxi to the ferry terminal and yomped to the stupidly over-the-top Grand Lisboa, before getting a bus to the ferry terminal.

On the way there, we passed lots of buses for the Galaxy, and lots of people milling around to get onto the buses. It did make me wonder if there was something so special about the Galaxy that you'd take a bus from another casino to that casino, when you had some perfectly good ways of losing money right in front of you. But the gambling industry is founded on man's irrationality. Trying to be sensible about something that manufactures replicas of Venice just because it can is a fool's errand.

We missed the 6pm sailing home to Hong Kong, and had to wander off to Fisherman's Wharf, yet another set of fake buildings masquerading as something fun, in order to find anything to do, but when we got the 7pm sailing, I remembered that nobody bothers to check your ticket after you've gone into the waiting area for your boat, which means you can sit in the Super Class waiting area for free. Ok, that only means you park your backside on a leather sofa rather than a hard plastic chair, but those 15 minutes of stolen comfort ameliorate the pain of dealing with the surly/borderline apoplectic staff working the ticket desks in the Macau Ferry Terminal. And with that, we were gone.

Apologies for the paucity of photographs in this post - pictures will appear soon, for those of you who really like dried fish/derelict buildings/suchlike.


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