Visiting Venice in China
The biggest attraction near to us in Macau - and I mean biggest - was The Venetian casino. It is being built on reclaimed land that used to be between the islands of Taipa and Coloane, and it dominates the skyline. It opened in August last year and has already had 10 million visitors. In fact Macau's economy has come to rely heavily on gambling being legal in this small 'Special Administrative Region' of China, and between them, the casinos of Macau now take more money than Las Vegas.
The Venetian, as the name suggests, is built as a replica of Venice. The outside features old Italian style housing, with the large hotel rising like a tower block in the middle. It comes complete with a fake St Marks Square - and a facsimile of the Doge's Palace.
Plus a fake Bridge Of Sighs.
Inside, the building consists of a giant shopping mall. This has canals, complete with gondolas with singing gondoliers, There are wandering opera singers, and the ceiling is painted to look like the dusk sky. A clever use of lighting and an air-conditioner driven breeze give a pretty effective illusion that you are outside.
The casino floor itself is massive, with lots of different games to be played on tables, and an army of one-armed bandits. We had a good afternoon spent there on the slot machines. I fancied going on the tables, to try one of the popular Chinese dice games like Sic Bo. However, I came round to thinking that since I didn't understand the game, or understand the language being talked around the table, standing there throwing away £10 a game didn't represent very good value for money, so I gave it a miss.
It was quite good fun though, and one night we got a meal in there and had a beer in the inevitable fake Irish pub, but you did feel that it had somewhat dwarfed the natural charm of Taipa. Besides which, there just seems something really, really odd about finding a corner of the world which is a unique mix of Portuguese and Chinese, and then plonking a giant great big replica of 16th century Italy right in the middle of it!