Macau. Most people haven’t even heard of the place: a former Portuguese colony on the southern coast of China established as the first permanent European toehold in the Far East back in 1557 and the final foreign stop on my amended round-the-world trip (Seoul doesn’t count, as I was only transiting for eight hours; though I did get to shower in the lavish Korean Air business class lounge and meet up with this sexy sista at Krispy Kreme in the Gangnam District for a short 60 minutes).
Long since overshadowed as a trading and financial center by urbane and much-larger Hong Kong, only an hour’s ride east by high-speed ferry, Macau has reinvinted itself as a combination Lisbon-Las Vegas, with its collonnaded colonial quarter framed by monumental, neon-lit casino resorts. Peopled mostly by mainland Chinese in search of capitalist-country incomes and sprinkled with a few expat Portuguese working in the still-lucrative legal sector and assorted Brazilian showgirls, Russian and Australian ballroom dancers, and Romanian strippers who cycle in and out as casino entertainment (of course, I was there the one night the strippers had off), Macau has the distinction of being the first and last European possession in China, having been handed back in 1999, two years after HK. Under the “One China, Two Systems” plan that also allows HK to flourish with a large degree of independence, Macau still bathes in the collective glow of flickering lights, glamorous floor shows, luxury retail, and palacial gaming halls.