Shenzhen, China: March 23, 2012
I’ve been in China for 29 days now and that means it’s Visa renewal time! At this point, I had to leave the country, and come back in order to keep my tourist visa valid. I had thought this meant going to visit Korea or Japan, but I’ll more than settle for a gambling Mecca that takes in more annual revenue that Vegas! That’s Macau (or Macao, there are many spellings) The ferry from Shekou station in Shenzhen directly to Macau is crazy due to high winds. It’s near sundown. Swells make the boat rise and fall, consistently sending violent spray into both sides of the upper deck we’re on and covering the full-length picture windows that separate us from the salty sea. My friend is on the verge of sea-sickness the whole time. I’ve always had good sea legs. The trip feels like it might be a bit of a test. A trial to go through to earn the weekend of sun and sin that lies ahead. I can’t decide if this is just day-dreaming or if I really perceive the ferry crossing as an omen. Another huge wave sends spray up well over the top of the boat and white spray covers the windows. My buddy asks if I think he should go to the bathroom in case he vomits. With the way the boat is moving, violent and unpredictable, I tell him I think the last place he wants to be is a confined bathroom, and that he should try and hold out. There are seasickness bags for a reason.
The taxi to the StarWorld hotel is a blur of wild Casino’s shaped like volcano’s, pyramids, Buddhist temples and the “WaterCube” from the 2008 Beijing Olympics arena. I’m so rapt that I don’t notice we’ve been driving on the other side of the road until we arrive at the hotel, and the driver pulls in the wrong way. I pick my chin up off the ground to walk through the hotel doors. But it doesn’t stay there long… In the middle of the lobby there is a set of 3 absurdly hot, dancers cranking out choreography and horrible lip-synching. Easily over 6 feet tall, on top of the 6-inch heels, they are wearing. Covered in gold dust, and wearing something close to an Egyptian cheerleading outfit? I’ll process that later.
The word comes down that the party we’re looking for in on the 8th floor. It’s the 1st Birthday of a Chinese Billionaire’s son, and he has literally spared no expense. Paying for his guest’s travel and accommodations, renting out a casino. And even leaving $400 USD in chips for you when you check in! A quick change in the bathroom and a minute to check our bags, since we don’t have a room yet, and we walk straight up to the party floor.
Mrs. Li and her husband Mr. Tian greet us at the reception. The hall is the entire floor of the Star World Casino. A massive room with 20-foot ceilings, all open in the center, with giant red curtains hanging on the walls. There’s lights, and confetti, and welcome gifts, and food, and cigarettes everywhere. There are singers on stage, and waiters hovering near every table, handing out the champagne and white wine. There must be forty or more tables, each with seats for 12 in front of a huge stage with banners and lighting. It’s a shame I only have pictures of the stage because the room is amazing. This guy has probably spent more for his son’s 1st birthday than every birthday party I’ve ever been to combine.
We’re seated between Chen, an ex-football star, and Hue, a Hong Kong hedge fund manager. The host is a news anchor from Hong Kong and he is on stage now keeping everyone lively. Everybody I speak to from Hong Kong is English fluent. Something I should have expected but surprises me. It will take me another 5 years to actually get to Hong Kong myself. The evening is end to end spectacular. They have huge celebrities singing and well-wishing on stage, a magic show and some of the best food I’ve had in my life! Suckling pig, scallops, shark fin soup and a fish on every table that cost $2000 by itself. Looking at the food and number of people, my friend and I calculate that the spread must have cost $350,000 USD, not including booze. Near the end of dinner, my heart sunk, and my mouth dried up instantly when I got singled out by the magician on stage as the only white guy in the room. A perfect target to pull on stage and make a spectacle of in front of 1000 Cantonese and Mainlanders. Most of his tricks were pretty standard, but his final was to take my card, throw it into a bag of lemons, shake it up, and then slice one of the lemons open, revealing my card. Pretty mind-blowing, I just wish that I hadn’t been so nervous and could have enjoyed it more. Being on stage made me sweat through my shirt…and we’ve only been here 3 hours!
Tomorrow (pictures then are much better )- Day 2 of being in Macau. The rest of that night…and my next day.