Friday, 20 March 2009

Macau-ver and out

It feels somehow disingenuous writing about the trip now that I'm not actually on it, but eh, what the hey, I got into this for the bitches and the rides, not the integrity.

So you all know about Macau, yeah? Portuguese China? Hmm. You know, I don't think I could have picked it out on a map until it happened to fall open at the correct page of my Lonely Planet China and I was like 'THAT'S what Macau is, now I can pretend I knew all along'. And I did, to everyone in China, but now I don't care. I simply don't care.

Sorry, this is all sounding a bit nihilistic. I do care. Somewhat. Actually while drinking at the weekend I discovered that at least ten people have been reading my blog, some of then concerned from what might best be described as 'the general tone' that I was not having a good time on this trip.

I would like to clarify that I had an amazing time. When not vomiting. Or doubled over with stomach cramps. Or working up a racist lather about the Chinese. It's just that one - who wants to read about some twat saying what an amazing time he's having, especially in reference to someplace the reader will like as not ever go? (Oh hold on, that's basically all of travel journalism. Oh dear). Er, two - I can't really write about things in an enthusiastic way without sounding like one of my own reviews. And three - there is a lot of money to be made in misery memoirs, surely that can be made to dovetail with travel journalism... 'and then A FOREIGNER touched me. Touched me with burning things. AND I COULDN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT HE WAS SAYING.'

Oh god, this is turning into the blog equivalent of the last day of term.

Macau. A word that strikes a skeptical look onto the face of EVERY SINGLE BACKPACKER in Asia who I told I was going there. Reports varied from 'it's full of violent drifters' to 'it's quite boring'. Neither were ideal, but at the very least it would be worth it for the sheer ease with which I could accumulate exit and entry stamps on my passport via the medium of the 45 minute boat trip from Hong Kong. Accumulating ink marks in your passport is what travel is all about, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Anyway, Macau. Is a city of two halves. There is the nicely preserved Portuguese Old Town. It is very lovely and almost freakishly reminiscent of Mediterranean Europe, and were it not for the fact everyone is Chinese and there is virtually no Portuguese spoken at all, it would probably be quite a freaky experience - while Hong Kong is visually unique, Macau centre is like somebody obstinately transplanted a bit of Europe halfway across the globe. Seems to be a thing that the Spanish/Portugeuse favoured when it came to Empire building. Is it arrogant? Or a sweet (if you can apply that term to sociopathic conquistadors) desire to be surrounded by the familiar. Anyway, it is nice, I guess there isn't a lot to do in the town itself, but it's pretty and there are some old churches and it's got a nice, bustling feel to it... the sheer novelty of the atmosphere was enough to soak up a day of my admittedly easy to win attention span.

And then there are the casinos. The old town is a little island, with giant, Vegas-scale megacasinos ringing it. The twain never actually meet, though there are still some profoundly odd juxtapositions.

Anyway, as I've all informed you ad nauseum, I went to Vegas once and it was quite the experience... though Vegas Of The East is a term applied to Macau with about 1,000,000% more accuracy than Vegas Of The North to Blackpool, it is very different; aesthetically the hotel-casinos are very similar, from the outside some are virtually identical (The Venetian literally so), but inside things are a bit more serious-minded. No Gloria Estefan-alikes, but also very few bars - drinking is not a major part of Chinese culture, but seemingly gambling is a-okay. Apparently the tables are on average TEN TIMES more profitable than those in Vegas. I'm not sure what that really means - does booze make you a better gambler?

Anyway, I had a few flutters (just on the slots), and with crushing inevitability I won money, but my utter lack of any gambling instinct precluded me winning big money. I was not a target for any violent drifters. I do not think there were any. Though wandering around as a single white man (I stayed in a guesthouse, there aren't really any hostels) perhaps invariably made me a target for the local sex worker population. One girl smiled at me with a look that said "Great! You're here, let's get this show on the road" and I briefly felt guilty for being the wrong type of single white traveller. Ah, that's a milestone gone past. My last observation about sex workers on this trip.

And that was just about it. I went to a pretty little village where I bought amazing egg custard tarts, essentially the village's main industry, and a thriving one. Then I went back to Hong Kong for one night, pondered vaguely with some people at the hostel that this was my final evening and it seemed objectively peculiar I had no inclination to do anything beyond loiter at the hostel with a couple of beers. But they weren't really people I knew, and maybe that's it - if you're on your own and you don't have a job/routine to go to, you don't have a travelling party that's about to disband, then I suppose it's hard to say what actually constitutes 'the trip' emotionally.

Blah blah blah. I got on a plane, watched some films, got drunk with my amazing friends, went home to parents' house, wrote a blog about it.

Moving to London soon. Excited, despite lack of job prospects at the moment. I don't know - travelling on your own (yes, I am sort of attempting to wrestle a moral in here, sorry) is all about being temporary about yourself, and I do feel particularly temporary now. After years where it was getting to the point of my being slightly embarrassed I ever told anybody I'd applied for permanent Canadian residency on grounds it appeared to be taking such a pisstake length of time ('So what happened to that idea of you going to Canada, Andrzej?' 'I STILL AM' 'Er, but wh-' 'THE APPLICATION TAKES A VERY LONG TIME, THAT'S ALL. AND GOD HATES ME') then it looks likely I'll have a 'yes' or 'no' by September. So yeah, I don't know what this move to London really signifies, other than a period of time where I'll somehow manage to get pissed with Laura McDermott and Mark Ward EVEN MORE, but it's something new, and that's all you can ask for, really.

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