May 22, 2007

Macau: Casino Republic

Our final destination on this trip was Macau, about 50 minutes by Turbojet ferry, which was eerily familiar to the Waiheke ferry, from Hong Kong airport.
It's the oldest European colonial outpost in the Far East but it is currently struggling to maintain a quaint Portuguese/Mediterranean feel because it is rapidly being transformed into a Las Vegas for mainland Chinese who want to indulge in gambling. There is a huge construction going on of the most garish buildings which will house eventually more casinos than its Nevada counterpart. A pity really, if you're not into that kind of entertainment - Googling gay Macau didn't yield any worthwhile results - but we managed to fill a day and a half with exploring what was left of the old sleepy backwater that resulted after Hong Kong took over as the main commercial hub on the Chinese south coast: a couple of nice Chinese gardens, a few church ruins, beautifully laid out cobblestone mosaic foothpaths and quaint streetname plaques made from glazed white and blue tiles. It rained solidly for the two days so we got thoroughly drenched for our efforts. But another highlight was the Macau Art Museum, housing charming watercolours, old and contemporary, evoking a sense of place and identity; Chinese ceramics and temporary exhibitions of local artists. The currently featured artist was Konstantin Bessmertny, a Russian who has made Macau his home, and his work is a wonderfully sardonic commentary on his new hometown, especially the now dominant industry of gambling. He calls his concept "Casino Republic", and how apt that was! Needless to say we were the only visitors to the exhibition. Obviously everybody else in the territory was too busy losing money.
So now we're waiting for our flight back to Auckland tonight at Hong Kong Airport, which must be one of my favourite airports: unrushed, beautiful, quiet, and a free internet connection at the local pub.
So see you all again in NZ soon

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