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MacauTripping Chapter 12 - Something Happened On The Day

Macau Rain

I wake up with a start and grab my phone to see if there is any news from my wife about Gunther. No texts. I do see a slew of texts from Hunter, apparently it is raining in Macau. He's been up, out, walking around and Periscoping wet Macau. I open the curtains... the downpour is intense - a true wall of moisture in the form of rain, mist, clouds and fog. I can hardly see the Wynn tower from here. I took this photo an hour later as it started to clear up.

I see an email from the animal clinic that has been forwarded to me from my wife. I open the email... contained in it is a video taken during the procedure to expel the blockage from Gunther's bladder.

The video starts with pan of my limp dog, wrapped in a red blanket with tubes coming out of him as a machine beeps in the background. It pans upwards to show our vets hand and wrist covered in a sludge of yellow crystals that have been forced out of Gunther's bladder. My wife tells me via Skype that the doctor managed to get a lot of crystals out of his bladder... he's never seen anything like it before. Gunther is "not out of the woods" but the imminent danger of septic shock is gone. He's recuperating at the vet's office and will come home in a few hours. Great news.

I get up, run through the shower and order room service. Other than pastries, coffee and beer, I have eaten one meal in 36 hours. I'm really really hungry. I phone up room service and order the American breakfast, with a bagel, a donut, coffee and a bowl of cocoa krispies. The food arrives a half-hour later.

Encore Room Service

The bagel is bready and airy - not dense and chewy. Plus you could drive a forklift through its hole. Mr. Weinberg should know better. As I'm eating, I get an email from Wynn Macau Investor Relations trumpeting the news that Wynn Palace will open on August 22. Hopefully, Wynn Palace will have proper bagels.

After eating, I pack up all my stuff - including my sweat soaked shirt from yesterday - do a final stuff check and head downstairs and check out of the hotel. I was told at check in that as part of my suite, I was eligible to arrange a one way limousine ride as long as I gave them two hours notice. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to arrange the car this morning and took a cab to Sands Macao instead. The driver was confused as to why I wanted to go to Sands Macao and not Sands Cotai Central. We buzzed up Avenida da Amizade and pulled into Sands Macao's busway where the driver stopped, popped the trunk and let me out.

Sands Macao Starbucks

No grand entrance. No lobby. No bellmen. No valets. No way finding other than a bus directory. Just a pair of double doors and - ooh, a Starbucks. After snickering at the sign, I wheeled my bags inside towards an escalator, when a security guard waved me away from the escalator towards a gift shop. Apparently, I can't go up that escalator with my bags. I wandered in the general direction the guard pointed me at until I came to a door that led to another part of the busway I was just dumped off at. *SIGH*.

I headed back to the security guard and said... "I'm looking for the hotel!" He motioned me again to go out the doors. I went out the doors. No signs. No walkways. No cars. No valets. No bellboys.... just a rope rodeo in front of a big green Sands Cotai Central bus.

Sands Cotai Central Shuttle Bus

I went back inside and asked another employee, he walked me outside and pointed towards a non-descript square of black marble... "the hotel entrance is over there." A-ha!

Sands Macao Carpet

I wheeled my bags over and voila... the entrance! A bellman tried to take my bags (I declined) and I stepped up to the registration desk. The clerk told me that my room was ready and they had upgraded me to a harbor view room at no extra cost. Great! They gave me the keys, pointed me towards the elevator and sent me on my way.

That's it... the final time I'm going to check into a hotel on this trip. The final arrival, final hotel lobby, final registration, final set of keys, final elevator and now final hotel room to explore, enjoy and photograph. I'm strangely sad about this trip coming to a close yet excited to go home - even if the flight home is going to take forever. I wheel up to my room, unlock the door and head inside.

The room is completely black. I squint at the light switches on the wall, snapping all seven of them on and off in various combinations, starting with the biggest ones first. None of the lights go on. It doesn't help that the switches are all labeled in Chinese. I go through the suite, room by room, flicking on and off light switches - hallway, closet, bathroom, bedroom, living room, bedroom, hallway, closet, living room, bathroom, hallway until I finally find the switches that turn on the lights... bolted haphazardly onto the front of a nightstand.

Sands Room Nightstand

I want to meet the guy who thought this was a good idea.

Sands Harbor Panorama

View from Sands. Outer harbor Ferry Terminal, Fishermans Wharf, Friendship Bridge and the construction of the bridge to Hong Kong.

I explore and photograph the room, then set out to prepare for tomorrow's departure from Macau. I take everything out of my bag and try to eliminate as much excess weight as possible... culling the reams of stuff I've acquired and repacking everything, neatly and efficiently. I put some clothes aside for the flight and packed the rest into deep freeze chamber I wouldn't touch until I was home.

Sands Macao Lobby

My other task for the day is to write postcards to my friends back home. I headed back the front desk to procure postage. Last trip, the Venetian's front desk ran my postcards through their postage meter... convenient, but getting a postcard covered in strange stamps is much cooler. The desk clerk told me I should go to the post office in Senado Square to buy stamps - the other side of the peninsula! In that heat? Preposterous!

As if I was trapped in a Wes Anderson movie, the desk clerk picked up the phone and dialed the concierge, 25 feet away. They conversed openly and via the telephone, within earshot of each other, with the concierge saying to the desk clerk "I will handle it, send the guest to me." The desk clerk hung up and said "our concierge will be happy to assist you in finding postage."

I walked 25 yards to the concierge desk (table on the left in photo above).

The concierge greeted me "how may I help you today?" Snickering, I played along.

"I've got some postcards and would like to purchase stamps, where can I do that?" "That would be no problem sir," he replied. With a motion of his arm, a bellman automagically materialized at his side. The concierge bent down and whispered instructions into the bellman's ear. The bellman turned to me and said "This way sir." He then physically walked me out of the hotel, across the busway and back to the aforementioned gift shop, making chit chat the whole way. "Is this your first visit to Macau?" is the ice breaker question here. When we arrived at the tiny gift shop, he instructed the employees that I was interested in purchasing stamps and postcards. How about that for service?

It took me a few trips back and forth to the gift shop to procure the right ratio of stamps to postcards. Each postcard requires two 3 MOP stamps to post to the United States about ~$2USD. Once I got everything together, I set out to writing cards, discovering that my once great penmanship has devolved into confused rooster scribble. An hour or so later, I brought the cards to the concierge who promised to have them mailed... including the ones where I talked shit about The Venetian Macao.

Now, all I have left on my Macau task list is to continue poking around Sands Macao then explore some of the older Macau casinos directly on the other side of Avenida Da Amizade - Golden Dragon, Oceanus, Casa Real, Galaxy Waldo, Lan Kwai Fong (formerly Casino Kingsway) and survey what may have happened to Casino Jai Alai. This is the final, final frontier... a last epic trudge in a series of epic trudges embedded within the largesse of this epic trans-global trudge.

When I was done poking around the casino floor and upper levels of Sands, I head down the escalators and tumble outside into the most intense wall of humidity I've encountered. The rain has stopped, but unfortunately most of it has turned into atmospheric vapor. My camera is completely fogged up - all of my lenses, internal mirrors and sensors. iPhone, GoPro, glasses and my underpants all fogging up too. I find a bench and call a time out in order to let the cameras acclimate to the humidity, periodically wiping off the condensation.

Sands In The Fog

After about 45 minutes staring at Sands Macao's pathetic fountain show waiting for my technology and the elements to reach equilibrium, the cosmic meaning of this moment is revealed to me.

2007

Like the oft told story of a desparate bluesman, standing at a crossroads waiting for inspiration and/or a meeting with the devil, I stood there at the Rotunda de Cotai. Behind me, my room at Venetian Macao and eight days of Macau discovery. Off in the distance, over the giant dirt patch (now Galaxy Macau) I see the neon sign of Galaxy Grand Waldo (now The Broadway) flickering through the haze. I squinted through the sweat and gave a hard look forward. I could see it... another adventure filled with wonder and treasures. It's just over there!

I turned back.

There will always be another adventure. Even death is an adventure.

2016

These crossroads - Rotunda on Cotai and this bench outside of Sands - are one in the same, but I'm different now. I can hear music in silence, see the shadows in the dark, taste history in the present and understand the meaning of the words between the whispers. Macau has taught me that I should be saying less and listening more, feeling more and playing less, living more and being less.

In my quest to find Macau, Macau found me.

The time has come for me to put down my reporter notebook, pack away my gear and live without a lens. I wiped off all my equpment and cleaned the sweat off of my camera and glasses, removed SD cards and batteries then packed everything away neatly in my bag and went back to my room.

I'm A Fan Tan Fan

Tonight is our last night in Macau. To celebrate this great trip, John, Hunter and I have made plans to dine at the Copa steakhouse at The Sands. I headed down to the casino to locate the restaurant and grab a beer.

While wandering the casino floor, I came across the most amazing game - Fan Tan. Fan Tan table is divided into two halves - a betting layout, and a blank felt surrounded on two sides by plexiglass. The betting layout is glass and contains spaces labeled with various betting options. Bets include individual numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 plus two and three number combinations of those four numbers. A dealer monitors the betting layout, paying winners, taking losers and telling players when betting for each round is closed.

Behind the blank felt sits a dealer. In front of the dealer is a pile of 100 or so small yellow shirt buttons (no joke). The dealer takes a metal cloche and drops it upside down over a portion of the buttons, pushing the cloche out into the center of the felt and protecting the remaining pile of buttons from view of bettors. After bets are closed, the dealer takes the cloche off of the buttons and separates them with a small wooden stick into groups of four. The buttons that remain is the winning number. Bettors who bet on combinations with that number are paid, the rest lose.

It is a very simple game to understand, yet infinitely fascinating to watch and play, particularly when you observe the reactions to the people playing it. There are always groups of "rain men" who hover around the felt, counting the buttons and calling out the winner as quickly as they can, always beating the dealer. You might think that counting buttons would be the most boring casino experience ever... but it proved to be one of the more exciting winner reveals I've experienced other than the rush of a hot dice table.

Sands Macau Beer

After observing a few rounds of Fan Tan, I headed to the Sands' casino bar Xanadu, known for having stellar nightly entertainment. They also accept the drink ticket that came with my hotel room welcome folio. This is probably the first time that I've ever used drink tickets at a casino.... I always forget that I have them. I ordered a Macau beer. The bartender brought over a bowl of complimentary potato chips. About 10 minutes later, Hunter arrives, pulls up a stool and orders a drink, followed by John. With a great degree of fanfare, a quintet of outrageously thin Russian showgirls saunter on stage, dance and lipsync to a piped in audio track for 20 minutes then leave. I excitedly tell the guys about the Chinese Button Game, they're intrigued and we walk over to check it out and do some betting. John and Hunter were both mystified by the wonder of Chinese buttons.

John Chuck Hunter

John, me and Hunter at Sands Copa.

We head upstairs to the Copa room, walk in and sit down in a booth under a black and white photo of John Coltrane. Dinner was great as was the conversation - recorded for inclusion in our podcast. I won't go into the details.. you can listen to our whole dinner discussion right now.

After dinner, we headed upstairs so John and Hunter could check out my room. We ended up hanging around in the living room for an hour talking about politics and technology plus a half-dozen other non-Macau subjects. I'm blown away by how informed, intelligent and thoughtful the both of these gentlemen are. If we are indeed judged by the company we keep, I'm hanging out with the right people. Sharing this trip with John and Hunter has been nothing short of wonderful. They're two of the nicest, most thoughtful and fun people to be around.

Hunter Fades

Hunter starts fading out on the couch... it is time to say goodbye. We engage in a group hug and go our separate ways... John to MGM Macau and Hunter to Starworld.

I take a shower and get in bed. Texts from home say that Gunther had a good night's sleep and seems no worse for wear. I'm relieved. Thanks to the miracle that is airline travel and the International Date Line I'll be home "tomorrow."

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Comments & Discussion:

Chuck - Just wanted to say that I've really enjoyed firstly the podcast and now these articles. Not sure I'll ever get to Macau but really feel that you brought people along with you in a lovely way.

What a ride!

A punishing schedule to say the least, but thank you!

Relieved to hear that Gunther is getting better.

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