Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Day 5 recap - Hong Kong -> Macau.

The afternoon was spent looking for a package to china. Unfortunately these, when bought together with a full tour is prohibitively expensive, on the order of $1500. I also checked the possibity of buying only the tickets and doing everything myself. The price was about $750 for my desired route. So I decided that I am going to buy a package to Beijing for 5 days and then come back to Hong Kong and go somewhere else in Asia. I am thinking Thailand, maybe some other place. The package to Beijing cost me about $350 including air and hotel.

During my day of travels in Hong Kong I had the opportunity to try out the 2 remaining forms of transportation available in the city: the tram and the taxi. Both were comfortable, though the tram has now become my favorite means of transportation in Hong Kong. Its cheap - .25c, it goes all across Hong Kong island, thus letting me go to almost any place in Hong Kong. It has 2 stories, something I have never seen on a tram before...

After making my reservations I took the tram down to the ferry. After I made the reservation I had some time, and since I was already splurging I got myself a hotel in Macau for $60. I took the ferry to Macau, which took about an hour. Just as I was settled in my seat, I had to get off the boat through crowds of chinese gambling addicts and go through immigration again and get another stamp on my passport. The other passengers were definately in a hurry to get off, although it might be possible that its just simply a Chinese cultural norm to get on and off planes and ferries as if your seat is not really reserved until your ass is safely planted in it. I noticed that on the flight from Tokyo, the Chinese had lined up to get on the plane a long time before boarding and continued to stand there in line until allowed on the plane.

I have never understood why people do this, because its not only the Chinese that are guilty of this. It doesn't really get you in the air any faster! If you get on now or in 20 minutes, your seat will still be the same and the plane will still take off at the announced departure time. I prefer to sit down and wait until the line runs down so that I can walk from my seat in the departures hall to my seat on the plane without having to stand in line. Likewise, getting off the plane it seems entirely unreasonable for anyone except those carrying only hand luggage to rush to get off. Has anybody ever actually arrived at those damn luggage carousels and seen their luggage come out instantly? No! it always takes at least 10 minutes for the bags to start coming up and your bag will be the last one! (the same idea applies to waiting at passport control. if you run towards the little booth or not, you are still entering the same country and you will still have to wait for your bags next to the carousel. Bloody wankers.

Hmm.. bit of a tangent, so anyways. Once in Macau I walked past the big casinos - the Sands, the Fortuna and the Lisbao on my way to my hotel. The hotel turned out to be very nice as was the room. This was one of the first times I had stayed in such a nice hotel when travelling. After taking a shower I went down to do some gambling.

The Lisbao casino, considered the flagship casino on Macau is very finely furnished in quasi-Las Vegas fashion. The first thing that I did upon walking in, as I have been doing many times upon entering any place in Asia is to scan the crowd and look for white people. This time there was a confused group hovering in a corner trying to figure out the games that people were playing. Frankly I have no idea how most of these games are played. Some look like dominoes, others are just plain weird. The most popular game seems to be Baccarat, with the most tables and with people sitting and jotting down the results of the evening's games. Trying to find some pattern in a completely random game I guess, or using a "system" that is sure to overcome the fact that the odds are always in the casino's favour. Good Luck. There is in fact such a system, but it requres ridiculous amounts of work and is then only capable of increasing your odds of winning in blackjack by a couple of percentage points. If an average game of blackjack has a casino edge of half a percent, a good cardcounter will sit down at the table when he has the edge. In any case this is impossible in the Macau casinos because the deck is reshuffled way too often for any card counting to cut the odds and also because the blackjack rules are terrible, giving the casino probably at least a 1.5 percent edge. These rules include the fact that the dealer does not check for blackjack at the beginning of the hand and that you can only double on an 11 (A CRIME!). These rules alone are enough to kill the hopes of any cardcounter.

In any case, I played and after winning a bit at first I started losing and for my 2 days spent in Macau I lost about 150 patacas which is roughly $20.

After leaving the casino and getting a bit lost in the process I wound up in the casino's little mall. As I was looking for the exit it dawned on me that dozens of beautiful Asian girls were trying to get my attention and the attention of any guy that came by. After finding the exit I went down to another casino - the Fortuna. They were supposed to have a lounge where I can get some drinks. On the way I heard a familiar language. It was coming from groups of white girls that were standing on the corner, also trying to get the attention of passing Asian gentlemen. They looked depressed and indignant and could hardly hide their disgust with their surroundings and whats worse of all they simply were not capable of smiling. These were the exotic white Russian prostitutes of Macau.

After failing in finding the Fortuna lounge I went down to the pub area. In this area I sat down and had a beer. The other people were all playing a strange game that looked like yatzee. I asked somebody and they explained to me that this is basically a drinking game based on poker. 2 people roll five dice. The person that can assemble the best poker hand - pair, 2 pair, 3 of a kind, 4 of a kind wins. The loser must obviously drink. I moved on to a different bar where a bad rendition of bad American songs was being sung by what seems to have been a Filipino band. There was a Gwyn Stefani song in there somewhere. After a couple of beers I went home.



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