Macao, May 30, 2013
Paul picked me up at 10:30 for a coffee before sending me to the ferry terminal heading to Hongkong airport. As I was busy giving him a hard time on his serious man-in-black outfit, he pointed out at a massive golden statue by the river and asked me if I knew who that was. It’s the statue of a lady with a lenient face, but it did not cross my mind at that instant who exactly she was. “Not sure” I said. Paul raised his eyebrows in astonishment. For a moment there I thought I had commited a crime.
“It’s Lady Bhuda, my dear! How could you not recognize Lady Bhuda being a Chinese and a Vietnamese?” “You mean that’s Kwan Yin?” I snapped back. “That does not look at all like Kwan Yin, man. That must be your Macau version!” Paul bursted out laughing but quickly paused when I posed the next question. “Tell me, what is she doing there by the river, all by herself, in Sin City?”
There was no answer. Maybe one of the god fathers in this town got all twisted one day and thought he should show his mayflies some compassion? For 40 years, the casino industry here was monopolized, until 1999 when Macau was “rightfully”returned to mainland China. Since 2002, 5 more casino licences have been issued, making it a total of 6. The industry has been absolutely thriving. Newer, better, bigger casinos mushroom up on this land. And as I bid adieu to Sin City, greyish construction cranes are shadowing the city as new projects continue to blossom. After Wynn Macau, Sands China, Galaxy Entertainment Group, SJM Holdings, MGM China Holdings, and Melco Crown Entertainment, this town can surely hosts a few more to service endless number of mainlanders rushing here to erase past memories of the tough old days and to take a sneak peak of an unknown future.
In a land of 1 million, half of which locals and the other half workers from surrounding Asian nations, the locals still get a hang of the industry under the protective local law allowing only Macau citizens to work in the gaming industry. Outsiders can take care of the rest, mostly services for gamblers. Just like monopoly being terminated 10 years ago, protective law won’t be able to keep up with this rate of development. The once winter-heaven-for-birds has turned concrete, leaving a tiny pond un-noticed amidst bullying structures, striking lights, and buzzing shuttle buses….
People come and go. Money comes and goes. Power comes and goes. Only Kwan Yin stands there, head down, trying to keep her prayers alive for the people of this city, and for all the broken dream seekers, here in Sin City….