Christmas Day was mostly spent recovering from the night before, dancing to Christmas tunes in our pyjamas and making the most of the room-service. Breakfast was the best we’ve had yet, in part because we barely had to leave our beds to get it. This, present-giving and dancing to Michael Jackson (Dan’s Jacko-themed gifts enabled him to do this with more gusto than ever) all took place in our room, which we’d stay up until 4.30am to adorn with an abundance of baubles, oversized streamers and a mini Christmas tree – Christmas priorities. Amazing, we thought, to be able to spend Christmas with friends like this, without even upsetting the families that we left behind. Work, this is, but with many, many perks.
Later that day we played our three half-hour gigs for punters at the Venetian as usual, and all of a sudden Christmas itself seemed to have passed us by, as if the two halves of the day were at different times of the year. The evening was spent drinking in a bar in Taipa, the town centre nearby, where we watched locals gamble with dice, make a lot of noise and subsequently fall asleep in drunken stupors at their tables. ‘Downton Abbey’ played silently on the TV screens – a vague reminder of Christmas at home, but with Chinese subtitles. Stumbling back to the hotel around 5am, with the bright lights of the grand Venetian on the horizon, it was hard to believe this was the end of Christmas Day. I kept Chris De Burgh’s ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’ on repeat to remind me that it was.
Boxing Day – time for a trip to the mainland. The northern side of Macau, especially at night, is like a giant fairground; a chaotic array of neon lights sprouting out and far up into the air. Away from the casinos, dotted around the main roads and squares are reminders of the city’s Portuguese influence: grand stone buildings covered in attractive pillars and large windows. Occasionally a modern skyscraper interrupts the view directly above, with brand spanking new glass tower blocks appearing out of the roofs of European architecture.
In backstreets linger the rundown tower blocks in which locals live, or have lived, and they contrast incredibly with the flashy casinos all around them. Looking a bit closer, behind the glitz and glamour, there’s an eerie meeting of extremes, though you have to admire the effort put into it all.
Additionally, Christmas and all its lights, statues and life-size nativity scenes pervade every shopping street, mall and square. Never before have I seen so many Christmas decorations and simultaneously felt no sense of it actually being Christmas – perhaps partly because I can’t remember ever spending Christmas shopping and gambling above all else. In Macau, it seems, that’s simply all there is to do.