Thursday, January 13, 2011

Viva Macau: Las Vegas East

You gotta sin to be saved, you gotta be damned to be raised. In Macau, China's nouveau riche come to pursue gilded pleasures with the passion of invincible religious zealots.

From the casinos of the Grand Lisboa Hotel to the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral, this is a town that thrives on glitter from the gutter.

And overlooking it all are the ghosts of revolutions past, remixed to fit the times.

Macau, like Hong Kong, is a Special Administrative Region and its citizens enjoy more freedoms than those on the mainland. An hour away by ferry from Hong Kong, it's a unique blend of Portuguese and Chinese cultures reflecting its history as a colony from the 16th century.

Portugal handed it back to China in 1999, two years after Hong Kong, but the Macanese culture still survives with Portuguese an official language along with Cantonese. This has made the territory a tourist mecca with thousands of mainlanders arriving daily to spend in Macau's gilded palaces of sin. Over 20.68 million visitors arrived in Macau between January and October 2010 and more than half – 10.93 million – came from mainland China.

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