When I vacation in Hong Kong, I rode a ferry that connects mainland Hong Kong and Macau. I relaxed in a seat for little over an hour as the boat sped across the bay. Then I left the ferry and breezed through customs. I heard many stories of Macau and the famous gambling mecca in the east. The Portuguese established a colony on Macau and influenced its culture and history, which the historic downtown still reflects.
Macau, an Island off the coast of China, was ranked the 4th highest GDP per capita in the world at $82,400 in 2013. However, I found the extreme divide between the wealthy and poverty shocking. Wealth surrounds the billion dollar casinos with their dazzling, flashing lights and dancing water fountains, but most people live in cramped, decaying apartment buildings surrounding the city. On the raining days, pollution and fog shrouded the city with eerie clouds as pollution drifts from the industries of mainland China.
I saw wealthy Chinese dropping thousands of Hong Kong dollars on the baccarat tables - the game of gentlemen in Asia, made popular by the James Bond movie. I thought about playing several rounds until I saw one person placed seven square chips valued at $1,000 Hong Kong dollars each (about $133 each). As I walked around the casinos, the tired workers rarely smiled. Wealth from the casinos is not trickling down to the people.
- Macau is one of the smallest regions in the world with 11.39 square miles.
- The currency is the Macanese pataca.
- Macau is a special administration district of the Chinese government.
- In 2013, the population was estimated at 591,900, making Macau the 167th populous country in the world.
- Portugal returned Macau to the Chinese government in December 20, 1999.
- Main industry of Macau is gambling.