Sunday, 14 August 2011

Macau's Changing Face

Senado Square still looks quaint from a distance...
If you plan to visit Macau, don't go on the weekends or during the holidays.

I went there this afternoon for work and there were hordes of people coming and going. I had just missed the 11am Cotai Jet and the next one available wasn't until 1:30pm. So I got on the next Jetfoil boat at 11:30am.

Shopfronts now have international brands
However once we arrived, the immigration hall was already packed with people, and even the lines for Hong Kong residents -- of which there were only two -- crawled at a snail's pace.

Thankfully the taxi queue was relatively short. I didn't arrive to my appointment until almost 1:30pm.

Afterwards I thought I'd wander around a bit and headed to the ruins of St Paul as I hadn't been there in years and was keen to check out the antique shops. I was dropped off in front of Senado Square and had to stick my elbows out to jostle through the crowds. The quaint alleyways have turned into strictly commercial spots, and the more international the better. In places that used to have shops selling double boiled milk, pastries or other Macanese or Chinese snacks were overtaken by McDonald's and Starbucks, Sasa and Giordano.

I finally made my way to the bottom of the ruins of St Paul and tried to find the antique shops. The vast majority of them were gone -- one was replaced by a property agency, and many others by shops selling beef jerky that had crowds in front trying all the free sample strips.

The alleyways are now crowded with tourists
The antique shops I did look around in had much less stock than they used to. Prices also fell dramatically since the last time I bought furniture there in 2001 -- at least by half. From appearance it looked like many of them didn't carry much genuine antiques either, and some shopkeepers admitted as much. "We can custom make it for you," they added, which kind of lost the allure of a piece being "antique".

It seems all the good stuff had been snapped up and the pieces with severe cracks or bad paint jobs were left behind.

For me this afternoon was a sad commentary on what has happened to Macau -- it has practically lost its charm as a laid-back city where one could wander around the small winding streets and pick up curios as a fun souvenir. At least those were my fond memories of Macau over 10 years ago.

It is now overrun with mostly mainland tourists and the city is, like Hong Kong, catering to their tastes at whatever cost to its unique culture.

1 comment:

  1. we all have to succumb to the power of the people-the chinese people.