I had been extremely fortunate to spend Chinese New Year in Macau, an island off the coast of Hong Kong. The country is arguably the most far removed from western culture. Walking through the city, I met no Americans and struggled to find people who spoke English. What began as frustration turned to appreciation when I was humbly reminded of the purpose of traveling. It’s beauty lies not in finding what we already know, but discovering that which we yet to learn.
I began to practice Mandarin and explore some of the unique cuisine that China has to offer: dim sum, pork buns, jerkies, pastries, milk teas, stylized meats and specialty desserts. I learned a bit of history as well. Red and gold are symbolic colors of prosperity and good fortune and tea pots hang upside down to “rain money on guests.
During the New Year’s festivities red envelopes were given out to children as gifts containing candy and money, and the dragon (this year’s symbol) means children born will show signs of fire, vigor, success and have strong personalities.
Here are some of the highlights:
Nights in Macau: 14
Hours of Poker Played: 90
Similar City: Las Vegas
Best Meal: Golden Flower, Wynn Hotel
Best Buffet: Mandarin Oriental Breakfast
Best Thing: Unveiling a new way of life
Worst Thing: Sitting between two chain smokers at the poker table
What’s Cheap: Taxi’s. A 20 minute ride costs 50 HKD or ~ $6.50 USD
What’s Expensive: Fruit. A Japanese apple costs $158 HKD (~$20 USD) and a bag of strawberries costs $10 USD.
1) The casinos only accept HKD because of gaming regulations, but Macau has its own national currency. $1 HKD = $0.97 Local.
2) Macau’s gaming revenue is four times higher than Las Vegas.
3) The One Central Mall is home to the highest grossing Louis Vuitton in the world. It’s a 50 meter walk from the Wynn poker room.
4) At the time of construction, the Venetian in Taipa was the world’s largest building and is still the world’s largest casino, seven times larger than the one in Las Vegas.
5) Macau has 550,000 people. Last year, their gaming revenue was 60 billion. Hong Kong has 7 million people. Last year, their GDP was 40 billion.
Memorable Moment: Watching the New Year’s firework show from my window. It lasted five days. ♠