Meandering in Macau

Macau’s tourism front is eerily reminiscent of Las Vegas – you’ll see The Venetian, MGM, and Wynn, to name a few of the countless hotels you’ll see. Did I mention the casinos and the indoor smoking? The difference is that you’ll see Chinese characters in the signage, beneath which you’ll often see Portuguese words. In fact, many of the older institutions and street names are in Portuguese. And despite being in China, there is Portuguese architecture in older structures. You’ll even see hotels with names like Lisboa and Grand Lisboa.

Given that Macau was a Portuguese colony until late 1999, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Still, I’ve been to Portugal and it’s a little startling to see its influence here in Asia. Despite this, I can more closely relate to the Portuguese side of local culture. Sadly, despite “Portuguese” being listed as a national language, I don’t encounter a single Portuguese speaker. I do try. I don’t speak a lick of Mandarin or Cantonese, and when English fails, I turn to Portuguese (what little of it I know, anyway. I figure I can switch over to Spanish if I actually find a speaker and need directions.)

Because of this language barrier, an ancient cab driver (cabette? What do you call a female cabbie?) kicks me out of her vehicle. With a cab driver who doesn’t know any of the museums I want to go to, and doesn’t speak a lick of English (or Portuguese), I wonder if Macau isn’t as tourist friendly as I’d been told. The rest of my crew (see previous post) isn’t arriving until tonight, however, and I’m not one to sit idle waiting for them. Only one problem: they’re the ones familiar with the area, and I haven’t done any research because I thought I’d have them for tour guides the entire time.

Getting acquainted with a new place and a different culture is a good exercise in venturing into the unknown. So, I’m going to be creative (and flexible) until my tour guides arrive.

Corollary: I do alright on my own, discovering the Wine Museum and Grand Prix Museum. I make some new friends during dinner, and find myself being pulled onstage during a concert for Winter at Cotai.