Manny Pacquiao v Brandon Rios: Macau is Sin City of the East – but without the sin

 

Macau’s tourist board has been going to great lengths in recent years to try and show the town is more than simply the Las Vegas of the east.

That is a hard sell, and one that won’t be helped when the eyes of the world turn in the direction of the Venetian Macau on Sunday, and alight on what is little more than a brick-by-brick replica of it elder Las Vegas sister. While Pacquiao and Rios come to blows, Chinese gondoliers singing Verdi arias will propel honeymooning Chinese couples down indoor canals past branches of Zara and Sisley’s.

It wasn’t always thus. Whole millennia eased past while the island was little more than a series of sleepy fishing villages. Then the Portuguese arrived, 500 years ago this year, in fact, and set about turning what was then a little peninsula at the Pearl River Delta into a trading port of world importance, and a metaphorical bridge – and a two-way one at that – into the heart and soul of China. The two empires swapped culinary secrets too: Macau fried rice comes with huge chunks of Iberian sausage – delicious.

Macau still has an old town, where pretty little Mediterranean style churches with lemon-coloured columns open on to whitewashed plazas. Its first settlers, so they’ll have you believe, were guided to the island by Matsu, the goddess of seafarers and fishermen, who took one step on dry land and disappeared in a ball of flame. Now the Chinese tourists meet at a temple built where she vanished, light incense sticks and pray for good luck when they hit the tables.

The casinos are newer than Vegas but they look older – they get more use. When the Sands Casino Resort opened in 2004 – the first of the big international brands to do so – a 15,000-strong crowd desperate to get to the tables broke through the plate glass doors before the official ribbon cutters could get to the front. On every financial comparison, Macau wins, but it feels a lot less fun. Eastern pockets grow ever deeper than Western ones, but to be the world’s Sin City you need to broaden your offering. For drink and drugs and women, it’s still hotter in the desert.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence