Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Macau welcomes you

We were in Macau for the long weekend. Lots of new hotels have opened in recent months but we stayed in the Westin, as usual. It is in Coloane, by the Hac Sa beach. I booked the cheapest room but got upgraded to a seaview room even though they were fully booked for the weekend.

The first time I went there must have been eight years ago, when B got a free night's stay from his job then. I think I was pregnant with O. I think it was May. We go there once twice a year, and the kids love it. The staff remember our faces and we remember some of theirs.

Macau is a very special place to me. I grew up in Macau, when it was still a sleepy little town. We used to walk everywhere. We took a tricycle to our piano lessons. We recognize faces of strangers.

The amazing thing, for me, when I go to Macau these days, is how relaxing it still is, compared to Hong Kong. On Friday night, we went to the Coloane village square and had dinner there with my old friend Christina. The kids played in the square, the food was good and the beer was cheap, and the atmosphere was so relaxing. On Saturday, we walked to the reservoir in Hac Sa, paddled around in the calm waters, and we were the only people there. At the playground, where there were ropes and obstacle courses for kids, again we were alone. Just by the dam, there was a grass slope where kids can go tobogganing. For free! There was nobody there but us. The kids went wild and we spent at least 40 minutes going up and down that slope. In HK, all that would have been mopped with people!

That evening we had dinner at Christina's place and then hung out in their bar just around the corner. In Macau, you can do that. You can run a bar without paying rent through the roof, without needing to go through the hassle of getting a license to sell booze, without having to pay off triads, without having to offer two-for-one happy hour. Pedro (Christina's husband) threw out customers whom he reckons are complaining too much. You can do that in Macau.

On Sunday, we went to "Fishermen's Wharf" (I have no idea why it's called that since it is not a wharf and there are definitely no fishermen there), which is basically an incredibly tacky theme park ironically in lack of a theme, with rides for kids where parents can burn their cash. It is cheesy and crappy, okay, but still, a place like this in HK would be filled with people on any Sunday afternoon. But we didn't have to wait for any rides nor stand in line for anything!

And why is that so? Where do all the tourists go?

Hong Kong tourists typically go searching for cheap, tasty food. They are armed with their guidebooks and determined to sample all the local delicacies. Mainland tourists typically go to the casinos. Men typically go searching for prostitutes (or perhaps it is the other way round). People like me, go searching for peace and quiet, and that is, surprisngly, not hard to find. It really is a town with something for everybody.

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