Macau: It Definitely Deserves More Attention Than It Gets
Macau is one of those odd places in China, whose modern history is peppered with stories from the Golden Age of Sail. Much like its close neighbor Hong Kong, Macau was a separately controlled province on the Chinese mainland. Unlike Hong Kong, which was controlled by the British, Macau was controlled by the Portuguese. Yeah, it might seem odd at first that such a small European power in modern times would have a long-lasting foothold all the way in China, but if you look back in post-Renaissance history, you’ll see that the fleets of Portugal rivaled those of the Spanish and British Empires. After all, even Brazil speaks Portuguese.
When Great Britain had given back Hong Kong to China, Portugal followed suit very shortly after. Just like the other agreement, giving back Macau was to be a 50-year long transition into full Chinese control, to ensure a smooth transition. This made Macau very attractive for the time being for foreign investors, as it was not already as developed as Hong Kong, but presented some of the same autonomy that these Special Administrative Regions allowed for the time being. By the time this 50-year transition is up, it should be expected that Macau will have solidified itself as the playland for those that aspire to be wealthy.
Today, Macau is a prosperous boomtown, much like how Dubai rose out of nowhere from the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, Macau rises from the coast of China. Some of the biggest casinos in the world have been built in Las Vegas fashion but in Chinese scale. Not only are the largest casinos in the world located in Macau, but some of the largest buildings periods are found here as well. There is a sense of pride in how much larger everything here has been made.
It’s still kind of hard to get a work visa in Macau thanks to the Chinese government being in control of that process, but the opportunities are currently endless. Despite the difficulties, more than 100,000 foreign workers have been brought in to staff the hotels and casinos. Tourists are flocking here regularly to take in the gaming tables, as well as the amenities. And speaking of amenities, some of the most luxurious hotels in the world are also located here. Think about a marriage between Dubai and Las Vegas, and that’s essentially what you get when you visit Macau.
The landscape may lack in that master-planned sense that Dubai has, which makes it a hodgepodge of old and new. You will have a super-massive hotel and casino plopped right next to the facade of an old colonial-era Portuguese church or government building. The whole vibe is very eclectic, yet authentic. You get the sense that they embrace their past, and proudly display it untouched as a monument to who the locals are, or were. One minute you are having a cocktail at a cutting-edge bar made from lumber and drywall, and the next you are walking in front of something hundreds of years old carved from stone.