Macau / No, no, the Disneyland of China!

Well, Hong Kong has a Disneyland already (only just turning a profit after 5 years of operation).  And Shanghai is getting one soon – after years of rumours, the government finally announced late last year that construction was well underway for a 2012 opening, confirmed by a visit to the site by Barack Obama the following week.

And being China’s gambling den, Macau could easily be mistaken for another Disney-constructed world.  Gambling is outlawed in the rest of China, so there is a constant flow of mainlanders into Macau, attracted by the neon lights and dreams of untold wealth, and supported by cheap direct flights, relaxed customs laws and mega-hotel-casino conglomerations.  Since gambling licenses were opened up to foreign investment in 2002, the sector has boomed, now accounting for 50% of all of Macau’s revenue (and 70% of government revenue), as well as employing 10% of the population (not counting many more who are employed by associated retail, hospitality and entertainment sectors).  Macau now easily outstrips Las Vegas in terms of cash turnover, and many of that city’s casino operators have set up in Macau. 

Scattered through the city, one finds an array of crayzy buildings, each trying madly to attract and retain punters.   Along the waterfront, there is Fisherman’s Wharf (I saw no wharf, and certainly no fisherman), a replica European-style street … that is, if the street in Europe contained some kind of weird Egyptian temple and an American style food court. 

It must the only street in the whole of China that is devoid of people.  Many of the resturants were closed or vacant. 

Next door, there is a huge colosseum and “ancient” “ruins” – apparently a shopping centre, but apparently also a commercial failure (being now closed for business).

Next door lies a half-scaled Italian village snuggled into the side of a volcano (inactive, of course…)  The helpful sign identifying “Aladdin’s Fort and War Game Arena” didn’t really help to clarify the function of the buildings, but did confirm, that indeed it too had failed to attract the punters.


 Surprisingly, blatant pulling at nationalistic heartstrings also seemed to be a failed strategy.  This massive “ancient” “temple” also sat unused.

More susccessful (operating, at least) was this familiar-looking building.  Google “Beijing Watercube” if you don’t get what I’m saying…

One casino that is an inarguable success is the famous Grand Lisboa in the Macau downtown.  It’s like a shiny ball with spiky leaves mounted by a humungous golden lotus (in the same order, a huge casino with grand entry structure mounted by a massive hotel that looms over the historic heart of the city).  It was packed full of tourists, happily gambling away their cash and smoking away their healthy lungs.  It is grossly overblown and tacky and I guess I don’t need to say much more than that.


One Response to Macau / No, no, the Disneyland of China!

  1. Pingback: My first year in Shangers | That Look Crayzy!

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