Sunday, November 02, 2008

Macau: Our Venetian experience!

Royce and I recently ventured out of the special administrative region that is Hong Kong and into another such special administrative region. (By the way, there are only two of these regions in China). Over the weekend, we went to the special administration region of Macau, just to see what was there and because we were in need of a special just the two of us trip.

Macau is about 60 kilometers southwest of Hong Kong and reachable by a speed ferry in about an hour. People still talk about the days before the speed ferry when a trip to Macau was an overnight boat ride. Our ferry was so fast, it felt as if we were bouncing on top of the waves and quite frankly a little slower would have been fine with both of us. Macau was once a big island and two smaller islands. Now Macau is a peninsula, thanks to a small sand bar and extensive reclamation works, and the two islands. Like Hong Kong, Macau is in the Pearl River Delta and surrounded by the South China Sea.

Macau was the first and last European colony in Asia. Populated by Portuguese traders since the 16th century, Macau served as a hub for trade until it was handed back to China on December 20, 1999. Like Hong Kong, Macau is operating under China’s policy of “1 country, 2 systems” which allows them autonomy for 50 years, including their own monetary system. Macau’s main industries are finance, where it serves as an offshore finance haven (recently, North Korea’s frozen assets were in a Macau bank) and tourism, primarily meaning gambling. A gambling license, allowing a monopoly on the industry, ended in 2002. Since that time many new Las Vegas casinos have opened up in Macau.

And that is where Royce and I ended up, in The Venetian, a Las Vegas hotel-casino-resort- mall mega-complex. As we wandered through the mall which is set up to look like Venice with water ways and gondolas and street performers, Royce asked why we studied Portugal before our trip and not Italy. It was a good question. While that part was a bit crazed, our hotel room (we were bumped up to the honeymoon suite!) and pools did not disappoint. Our hotel had Cirque du Soleil theatre built into the bottom. We went to the show and were amazed by the high flying acts. But getting hot chocolate at the hotel breakfast was just as exciting. And being able to really listen to all the funny things one little girl was saying and singing was thrill and a treat too.


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