January 12, 2012. Written in Xiamen, China
With my French friends, I went to Macao the day after christmas. From Hong Kong, you go there by this fast, fast speedboat,and arrive within the hour. All of my friends fell asleep as soon as they landed on their chairs, so for me there was nothing else to do then bash the buttons of my gameboy. First, I thought I was hearing some strange sound effects while playing the game, but a few minutes before arrival one of the French guys had woken up and took a picture of me playing with this so called “sound effect”
The kid had been watching me the whole time without me noticing it. When I offered him to play a bit, he politely refused.
If we talk about worldwide fame, of course Las Vegas is the nr.1 gambling city in the world. The problem for Las Vegas is, however, that in gambling it is not about the fame, but all about the money. And when we talk about the biggest gambling city, moneywise, Macao has become nr.1 in the last decade. This is all thanks to the rich mainland Chinese with their gambling spirits becoming even richer. You will easily see people spend thousands of dollars on 1 game of blackjack.
But, gambling is not all Macao has to offer. At least, my French friends believed so. Before going to the huge casino’s, they decided to view the old town first. Macao is an old Portuguese colony, and one of the only Asian cities that have a Mediterranean look.
In the middle of all of this, there is the St.Paul Cathedral, which you can climb.
At the top, numerous coins have been thrown on the surface of open windows. However, in front of them, it says that it is forbidden to throw them. Well, let me be so kind to get rid of them then! I could barely reach it but was able to take about 10 coins by hanging over the fence and stretching my arms.
Some of these coins were from Macao, but the majority was from Hong Kong. I also grabbed one Malaysian coin, and one SEGA coin. Altogether I seemed to have taken about 2 Euro’s in value. Paul joined me in my good deeds and picked up a few coins as well. 2 girls observing this approached us and asked us why we were doing this.
“Err…” we didn’t know what to say.
“Because it brings luck?” they asked.
“Yes, yes, because it brings luck, of course”
With this money, I decided to become rich in the casino’s. Wouldn’t that be a great story? 2 guys that grab some coins at the cathedral becoming rich? First, we had to do some more sightseeing though. On the streets, people were handing out small bits of food to try out and then buy. We tried out, but didn’t buy. Free coins, free food, I’m already starting to love Macao!
And then, it was finally time for the casino’s! Be sure not to lose that coin you picked up Paul, because it is going to make you rich! We took one of the free casino busses that bring you to the casino island for free.
The first casino we entered was a new one opened in 2011 called Galaxy, a huge casino in a sub-tropical resort style.
We walked through the many tables and slot machines. Blackjack was the game we were going to play, but we couldn’t find a table with a minimum bet under 500 HK Dollars (5000 Yen or 50 Euro). I asked where the low bet tables are, but learned that 500 was the absolute minimum for the whole casino. Chinese people can be so incredibly rich! I then accidently entered a high-betting zone, which you are not allowed to go if you are not playing. Here, people were spending thousands, sometimes ten thousands of dollars on one game of blackjack or roullete. A casino girl approached me, and gave me free whine and fried dumplings.
Ok, this wasn’t the casino’s were our coins were going to become gold. Here, they would become no more than an ice-cream at the McDonalds. We decided to go to “The Venetian” next, which is not only the biggest casino in Macao but also the biggest casino in the world. But here too, none of the 800 gambling tables dared to go below 300 HK dollars. The shopping centre of the casino was a complete replication of Venice, just as fake and big as anything in Las Vegas would be. And again, in these Venatian rivers many, many coins were dropped. We also found one gambling chip lying in the river. Knowing that the minimum bet is 300 Dollars, it must have been worth a lot, but even Paul was not courageous enough to putt of his clothes and jump in.
At the front of the casino, we asked for a casino with cheaper bets. They told us that a casino near the ferry port had some cheaper tables. Perfect! We could quickly become rich there and then go back straight to Hong Kong. After arriving there, we soon found out though, that our St Paul Cathedral coins weren’t of much value here either. After having asked, we found out that there was 1 blackjack table with a minimum bet level of 100, and one roulette table with the same minimum. They did serve free drinks, though. First free coins, then free food and now free drinks! I have only been winning in Macao for now! That was about to change, though. I exchanged 200 Hong Kong dollars for gambling chips, and went to search for the 100 dollar black jack table. I couldn’t find it, and decided to try my luck at the 100 dollar roulette table instead. I chose to bet 100 dollar on red. The little ball was now rolling on the spin. If it would be red, I would be 100 dollar richer in a second! The ball lost speed bit y bit. Of course, it ended on black.
So now I had another 100 dollar to spend. I didn’t feel like playing roulette again. My French friends were drinking something at the bar. I left my bag at their seats and went to search the table. It didn’t take me long to find it this time, but the table was already full. I observed the play for about 30 minutes. One guy was playing it very carefully, and although losing sometimes, he definitely seemed to be gaining chips. He often stopped with surprisingly low cards, but then the dealer would usually get busted, almost as if he could predict it. When a seat finally opened I sat down and put in my last 100 dollars for 1 game. I was going to play it safe like the guy that had been winning. My first to cards were a 10 and a 4. Usually I would play on, but after hesitating for a while I decided not to. The guy next to me did take a card, it was a 10. So I had been right! If I had taken a card I would have been busted right now. After everyone was played out, the dealer took 2 cards. She ended up at exactly 21. Game over.
So much for gambling for me, just 1 minute (if you don’t count the watching) and already lost 200 dollars. I went to my friends and had a drink with them.
From the casino, we walked back to the ferry port only to find out that all the night-ferries had been sold out. It was now around 2:15, but the next one with tickets available was the ferry of 6:10 in the morning, at least so it said on the screen in front of the ticket corner. That was strange, given the fact that these ferries go twice in an hour, even in midnight time, and there weren’t even that many people around. A few Chinese people approached us, saying that they had some tickets left they could sell us for a higher price. It was almost the double of a normal price, so I decided not to buy it. My friends, however were hesitating on what to do. They only had a few days left in Hong Kong, so one sleepless night would hurt.
“Its so cheap! You will lose a lot of time if you wait!” a young girl said.
While my friends were trying to bargain, I headed to the ticket corner to buy my ticket for the next morning.
“We have tickets for 3:00, sir.” the man said.
Whaaaat!!?? I called my friends to go together on this boat. So the ticket office had been bribed by these Chinese guys.
“You are such a lyar!” I said to the young girl, before we headed to the departure hall.
She seemed hurt by these words, and tried to make clear that she was not.
“I am not a lyar! I just have to do as my boss tells me. It’s my job you know”
I smiled at her and said that it was OK.
After we had checked in, an official told us that we could go on the boat of 2:30, because it had been so empty. In the “full” empty boat, I didn’t care about the money that I had lost at the casino anymore. It was the first scam that I had been able to avoid and that felt great. While having an interesting conversation with Paul, beloved Hong Kong came closer and closer.
- Journal of a French guy living in Hong Kong (My friend Nicolas)
- 人生は想い通り(A Japanese guy traveling around the world)
- Photography by Lars Reiner (produced the main picture of this site)
- 老寨山旅館 (A fantastic hostel in Xinping, China)
- Proyecto VIVI (2 Basque guys traveling around the world
- Vida de Portugal! (The experiences of a Japanese girl on exchange in Portugal)