Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Wandering China Day 2: Macau


Macau, along with Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the PRC. An hour’s ferry ride away from Hong Kong, the dominance of the Portuguese over Macau is as apparent as the dominion of the British over Hong Kong, from the apparent like architecture (there were more casas than Victoria buildings) and signages, to the not so obvious like eating habits – the Portuguese egg tart.

Macau proved to be the first (starting from the 16th century – 1557) and last European colony (ceded back in 1999) in China. In the past, the port city was part of the Silk Road with ships loading here with silk for Rome. I had no idea from before the silk road extended this far down south.

Fishermen from Fujian and farmers from Guangdong were the first known settlers in Macau and Cantonese seemed the present day lingua fanca. The Chineseness of Macau was apparent in its visual composition and most I observed were able to switch comfortably between Cantonese and Mandarin (I believe it necessary to handle their mainland Chinese visitors). To a much lesser extent Macanese / Macau Creole is the language of the small population of Eurasians.

Having an area of 29.5km2 makes Macau some 23 times smaller than Singapore where I was born. It boasts the second highest life expectancy in the world with a population of over 500,000 that is less than 10 times that of Singapore.

Legal since the 1850s, Casinos are the name of the game in Macau, and a visit to the casinos was a must. Known as the Monte Carlo of the Orient, 50% of its economy comes from its 33 casinos and the picture was pretty homogenous where I was at- guests from the high rollers to the newly rich – all hailed from the mainland. There were easily 9 mainland Chinese in every ten guests I observed. Not the biggest fan of casinos, a day-trip to Macau seems enough for now. Coming from Australia where guests are expected to be well-dressed and well-behaved in casinos, it was interesting to note that in Macau, thongs and slippers were accepted, and so were tee-shirts and shorts.

Next stop – Guangzhou.

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Filed under: Back to China, Bob's Opinion, History, Macau

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