Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Episode 8: The Land of Money

"Money flows in to Macau, and out of Hong Kong."
-Marco, Macanese bartender 
One could sense the sparkling energy in the air.  It was the grand opening of the Conrad Hotel. It also completed a significant step in what the Cotai Strip will look like. There was a tightrope walker earlier in the day that walked the impressive distance between The Venetian and Conrad. It was hot and humid, clouds hugging as if protecting Macau from a volatile monsoon. All I could see was money. Money, money, money.

I've gotten used to biking on the left side of the road, even in roundabouts, which are my favorite as it resembles as a symbol that chaos and harmony can exist together. I locked my bike behind some inconspicuous bushes. The migrant workers are known for stealing bicycles here. Whoever stole my bike headlight got a pretty nice headlight. 2 watts, 130 lumens, all from 2 AA batteries. Not in my defense, it was a clip-on. Shame on me. At least my conscience is clear.

The Venetian Hotel with migrant worker housing in the foreground

In the lobby I sat with my camera, embarrassed, like I was some hotshot journalist covering a momentous event in Macau. It was a momentous event indeed and I was waiting for Anne who worked in the Venetian, the largest casino in the world. We were to explore the wonder of what billions of dollars can do. A Macau photographer and artist was on exhibition, documenting the rarely seen culture of the Himalayan people. In reality, since the inception of the Venetian in 2007, it is the biggest event for Macau Cotai Strip this year.

Development of the Cotai Strip is pretty amazing. The world is convinced Macau is the gaming capital of the world. Or at least Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation is. He, single-handed, made more of Macau. Macau too small? Add dirt. Christened "Cotai," it is a literal and physical portmanteau of the reclaimed area between the Coloane and Taipa islands, now essentially one big island. Profits for 2011? $33 billion USD. Just use $4 billion and make this:

Tower 1: Conrad
Towers 2 & 3: Sheraton and Holiday Inn

Inside the brand new Conrad Hotel
Even the little ones want to be part of the festivities!

It seems the Special Administration Region of China is doing quite well. Mainland workers from Guandong and Zhuhai make anything and everything for cheap and easily bring them across the border to Hong Kong and Macau. International businessmen do their businessmen activities. They come and go. They earn money then come to Macau and gamble. Mainland Chinese come to gamble. It accounts for half of this country's economy and does ok even in our global economic crisis. It raises the question where these mainlanders get the money to "healthily" gamble since I've read and heard that pathological gambling is an arising dangerous problem.

People post pictures of The Venetian? I post pictures of The Venetian.
Though one may conclude that Macau is a destination for tourists and money spenders and has no room for the people, living here gives me evidence otherwise. Oscar, one of the teachers here, is published with the help of the Macau government. If a Macau citizen is unemployed, they will provide housing and find employment for them while they are without a job.

Oscar and his Easter Pet. Quite an artist

One of the residents here said that the Cultural Centre with even host an event for you! The Farewell Concert might actually happen. And to find a job for the summer. Any bike shops hiring? Time to get cracking.

Until next time.

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