The fourth day of the year of the rabbit had arrived as we cruised towards the southern coast. Plans to cross into Macau for the evening had been thwarted by the crowds of Chinese tourists who had hopped down to the Portuguese colonized island. The smaller of the two special administrative regions, the island is significantly less built up and populated than its economic powerhouse of a cousin, Hong Kong. The island has a permanent population of a mere 500,000 citizens. On Saturday, however, 300,000 tourists had entered through Gong Bei port alone, which is only one of the border crossings to enter the “Las Vegas of the East”. Much of the tourists seemed to be northern Chinese, who had come down to escape the cold, celebrate the New Year, and try their luck inside the neon cash castles. It was reported that there was no where to sleep with the surge of gamblers and gawkers, and we stood starring out at the ocean, feeling some defeat having come so close to the little enigma of an island.
I very much wanted to see the chaos that was a mere half hour out into the South China Sea, and in the end Juliet and I decided to put down a bet that we could find a cutty spot to sleep for the night. In the back of my mind I knew that we still had an ace in the hole, we could just rage all night in the city of lights and worry about sleeping tomorrow. We both had flights leaving the next day, a few hours snooze on the plane should be of some assistance, no? 17:00 rolled around and we pulled the trigger, grabbing a ride from Juliet’s uncle to Gong Bei. We carried on us only what would fit in our pockets. No need for any bags on this mission, we were rolling lean and mean and ready to ride a raucous one night stand with the Portuguese mistress.
After making it through customs, we caught a free bus to the Venetian, which was supposed to be the largest, most over the top casino that Macau boasted. When the Venetian was built it was the second largest building in the world based on floor space. The rumors were true. The size of the Venetian was alarming and housed a settlement of; restaurants, theatres, gambling rackets, and a shopping district complete with a shallow canal patrolled by gondolas.
We cashed in a ticket for a free Mango Soba desert, marveled at the hyper consumption, and extreme commitment to foreign façade, before grabbing a cab to the old city. The line to get a cab was backed up by the hundreds, but after about a half an hour we got a car. During our wait we had figured out the conversion rate, and had picked up a recommendation for the best street food area in the city. We blasted over bridges on our way to Xin Ma Street. The four day old moon hung like the last sip out of a glass of white wine, fireworks peppered the sky on all sides. Explosive launching zones were established along the waterfronts, with fire trucks and medical stations lining the entrances, waiting to aid in the event of unexpected explosions. There were protective fences that created alleys, forming firework shooting ranges.
We attempted to make small talk with the cab driver, but he had only recently begun to study Mandarin, like many others here Cantonese was the native tongue. I followed the trails of sparks towards flowering explosions of color, and was already satisfied with our choice to say yes to a night in Macau. I looked ahead to the old city and wondered what mark the Portuguese had left on this little Chinese island?