Finding Nemo

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Real City of Sin

Pretty Macau skyline

I asked the man at the counter, dressed in a shiny gold tuxedo, to please repeat himself.

“That would be 3,120 dollars, sir.”

“Jesus.  That’s the cheapest room you got?!”

“It is a standard room, sir.  Yes, sir.”

I was drenched in sweat.  Again.  I put down my backpack and shoulder bag and considered my situation.  I was hungry and tired and had just paid a bit of money to cross the bridge over to Taipa to check out the new Venetian.  However, unlike Vegas where the rooms at even the best hotels tend to be pretty cheap, apparently in Macau that was not the case.  Not in the slightest.  I was done, I really didn’t want to go looking for another hotel.  And oh yeah, I had just jumped off a skyscraper and was feeling just a tiny bit drained.
I ended up in a Chinese-only hotel for the low low price of US$150, but hey, it included free breakfast (which of course I missed).

The awesome Gran Lisboa above Portuguese style sidewalks
My first port of call was the gleaming Hard Rock tower.  After all, the legendary Hard Rock circle bar was THE place to start a night out in Vegas.  To my disappointment, the Macau design put the bar off to a corner.  I looked around at the tables.  A few brave Westerners were scattered about, but mostly the hall was empty and depressing.  In Macau, I guess it’s better to cater to the Chinese.

I went back to the Venetian and checked out the bar there.  The design was not friendly for a lonely tourist, it bent in a slow arc that prevented the kind of natural conversation you can get at a round bar or the corner of a square bar.  I managed to strike up a chat with an Aussie guy who was a scuba expert.  It turns out in Macau there are quite a few scuba experts, but it’s not to check out the seafloor.  It’s to keep the ubiquitous water shows, ala Cirque-style, running smoothly.

“What are you doing here, mate?  All the action’s over in old-town Macau.  Look, let me tell you about a few tidy spots that will sort you out.”

Busty bathroom ad, Chinese men like western girls?
He gave me some names of bars, and I realized that the “new” Macau over here on Taipa was sterile, boring, and very expensive.  It was the old Macau I was looking for, the real reason that Chinese men flocked to this Portuguese colony looking for lucky tables, booze, and women.

Back in the taxi I found myself on a seedy strip of watering holes filled with transvestites, sloppy hookers, and men grabbing my arm and trying to force me into their clubs.  Jackpot.

“You want lady?  You want girls?  Good price!  Where you from, friend?  Don’t go, good price!”
After a brief look around, I realized that I was a bit late for this street and headed off to the Aussie’s next recommendation, a little “gem” called Playmates.

I won’t go into too many details, but suffice it to say that it fulfilled all my expectations of old Macau, in every way imaginable.  There was a stripper pole, and a rainbow of dancers from Ghana (yep) to Malaysia to Russia.  They did very interesting things I have never seen before.  And I’ve been to Bangkok.

But just to be clear, I only watched, paid my tab, and left.

And woke at Noon with the realization I was in Macau, and had a train to catch to Beijing leaving from Hong Kong in 2 hours.  I could write a movie with what happened in those 2 hours.  But all that matters is that after slapping my forehead a few times and knocking over an old man (it was an accident I swear!) I made it.
Karma levels a bit lower.  And drenched in sweat.  Again.

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