segunda-feira, 4 de março de 2024

"Monte Carlo of the Orient" - revista Clipper Maio 1963

Julie Smith assina o artigo de 4 páginas publicado na revista Clipper (da Pan Am), em Maio de 1963. Eis na íntegra o artigo com o título "Macao: Monte Carlo of the Orient". O jogo, claro, é um dos principais destaques...
Anyone who has ever yearned to play opposite Peter Lorre in a late show thriller should pack his trench-coat and dark glasses, forge a document or two, and take the next plane for Macao (also spelled Macau) on the South China Coast. 
Waste no time, for this tiny Portuguese province, long a den of Oriental iniquity, is beginning to mend its wicked, wicked ways. Old Asia hands who knew the cloak-and-dagger intrigues of Macao in the palmy days before the war, rub their eyes in disbelief. Gone are the opium parlors. Gone, too, are most of the vice lords and soldiers of fortune. The Street of Happiness (Rua de Felicitad) no longer does a thriving trade in doll-like Chinese servants, sold into slavery at birth. The fishing junks in the pond-size harbor are no longer in the news for smuggling oil and gold out of Canton. Gambling, a way of life in Macao, is no longer out of control. The fan tan dens on every corner have disappeared, and the large casino operates under the eye of the law. 
Macao’s efforts to put on its Sunday best stem directly from a clean-up order issued by Commander Pedro Correia de Barros, who took over as governor several years ago. (Current governor is His Excellency, Lt. Col. Antonio Adriano Lopes dos Santos.) 
The province, as glutted with people as Manhattan (a quarter million, mostly refugees from Red China, are packed into its six square miles), needed drastic action to bolster its shaky economy. The accent nowadays is on diverting tourists from bustling Hong Kong, 40 miles across the Pearl River Estuary. Steamers of the Hong Kong-Macao Line plow across the waves from Hong Kong in three and a half hours. The proximity of Macao has prompted Hong Kong businessman Stanley Ho to negotiate a franchise to make the province once again a gay, but not garish, resort. Evidence of the new look in Macao is not hard to find. Take a spin around the port in a trishaw.
Many hot meals are served up in the street as young and old hustle here and there. Continued from preceding page how efficiently the place is being policed by swarthy officers in white armbands and puttees. Walk down the tidy, narrow streets and through park squares of oleander and bamboo. There, by the seaside, is a new school. Up on the hillside is the modern hospital. Moored along the waterfront is the floating restaurant, towed over from Hong Kong and equipped with gaming tables so diners can try their luck between egg roll and almond cookies. Now being built against a terraced background of pastel houses are two large hotels designed to cater to the fastidious tastes of an international clientele. The newest inn in Macao at the moment is the Vila Taiyap with ten spacious rooms, garden, pool and fine cuisine. There are also the Macao Inn, a tiny Portuguese pousada, and the Bela Vista, an old establishment with a superb view of the bay and the green hills of China. Anyone nostalgic for the bad, old days will lament the building of a plush European casino to replace the tawdry Central Building operated by the legendary Mr. Fu Tak Yam before his option expired. The Central — with its spittoons, gas mantles, sing-song girls, and round-the-clock betting on five floors — was a favorite locale for mystery writers. At the casino, everyone takes a flutter in the hope of gain. Patrons range from the “amah” (servant) in black pajamas with infant strapped on her back to the tycoon dropping ashes from his scented cigarette down the front of his gold-brocaded tunic. 
Gambling has always been carried on with such fury that westerners used to refer to the colony as “the oldest-established, permanent, floating crap game in Asia.” Fan tan, Large and Small and mah-jongg are popular games with the Chinese. In fan tan, the croupier, who resembles a placid Buddha, shovels a pile of white collar buttons onto the table, and using a long wand, removes four at a time. Bettors guess whether four, three, two, or one buttons will be on the table at the end. The game is childishly simple, but the thrill of winning or losing is both long-delayed and maddening. Besides standing around the gaming tables, gamblers can stand around a railing on a floor above the croupier’s table and watch the action below through a hole in the floor. Wagers are placed in a basket and lowered down; winnings come back the same way. Except for indicating with the fingers which number is to be bet no conversation is necessary, so the game is a favorite with tourists who do not speak the language. More complicated is Large and Small, also known as Big and Little, which is played with three dice. The croupier holds the great, bell-shaped dice cup high in the air, rocks it back and forth three times and sets it back on the felt-covered table. The rasp of a buzzer halts the betting, the cup’s black lid is snapped back, and the sing-song chant begins: “Saam, ng, luk,” meaning three, five, six. Bets are made on any number from 4 to 17, high and low, three of a kind, and numerous other combinations. A few step up to collect their winnings, and the others, clutching a few grimy patacas, move away. The machine-gun rapidity with which the Chinese rattle and click the ivory squares in their mah-jongg games frightens away most amateurs. Mah-jongg is to the Chinese gambler what poker was to the Mississippi River man at the turn of the century. The more sophisticated games, played for high stakes by the big spenders in Europe, will be introduced in Macao when the new casino is completed. Tourists will then be able to sample the pleasures and perils of roulette, chemin-de-fer, and baccarat. No one so far has suggested importing any one-armed bandits, although the simplicity of the slot machine would appeal to the Chinese, who cannot afford to risk much. 
Aside from the gaming tables, Macao has other thrills to tempt the tourist in search of adventure. Take a stroll near Barrier Gate, the so-called “hole in the bamboo curtain” at the neck of the Macao Peninsula. Here, along a sandy road lined with flame trees, dark-skinned soldiers wearing red fezzes face Chinese sentries in their padded khaki tunics. Through the Gate roll food supplies from Red China on apple-green rickshaws, bamboo poles, and bicycles. The border opens now and then for a funeral procession — someone whose last wish was for burial with his ancestors in China. The guards, however, always on the alert for trickery, open all coffins for inspection. Despite the Reds’ vigilance, Chinese seeking escape from the bleak life of the communes continue to pour in. Some, they say, arrive hidden in crates of produce, others swim across under the noses of Red gunboats in the harbor. One daring Chinese farmer made his break stashed inside the motor of the bus that rattles back and forth between Macao and Canton, 60 miles to the north. The friendly Portuguese sentry who closes the Gate at sundown each night remarks: “We do not recognize Red China. So, technically, the Gate leads to nowhere.” Over all these reminders of world tension hangs the siesta-like spell of sunny Portugal. 
The province at first glance wears the face of the Mediterranean and the charm of a sleepy port along the Estoril. Banyan-shaded mansions, trimmed with pastels, white fretwork, and dark shutters, reflect their colonial origins. Here and there are bits and pieces dear to the mother country — a bust of Vasco da Gama, the Barracks of Sao Francisco, the grotto of the epic poet Luis de Camoes, the portrait of Prince Henry. 
“We must be flexible,” said one official, summing up the philosophy of the colony, “bending like a bamboo to keep Lisbon, Peking and ourselves happy.” Having walked this sort of tightrope since 1557, Macao has managed over 400 years of peace, prosperity and pleasure. A deeper look reveals that behind the delicate veil of Portuguese protection, Macao is 99 per cent Oriental — bursting with the sights, sounds, and smells of China. Narrow downtown streets are festooned with laundry and Buddhist prayer flags; filled with the cries of noodle and lotus-root vendors, .the jingle of pedicabs, the clop of wooden clogs, the whack of tiles, and the high musical shrieks of mah-jongg players. 
Shops display such medicinal wares as dried snakeskins and powdered tusks; others offer delicacies like sharks’ fins, brittle and flat as pancakes, and the Oriental pièce de résistance, lacquered duck. A good many refugees from the regime of Mao Tse-Tung are now employed by the Kuong Heng Tai Firecracker Company which, for reasons of safety, has its factory on the island of Taipa off the Macao coast. Macao, in fact, is the world’s largest exporter of firecrackers with the United States buying well over a quarter of a million dollars’ worth a year. Other people in the colony eke out a living from farming, fishing, and factories producing tinware, cotton shirts, matches, and incense. The fishermen, incidentally, who once made a good living in the waters off the Chinese coast must now pay the Reds for the privilege or have their vessels seized. This bumpy spit of land (less than three miles long and one mile wide) plus two tiny atolls is a part of the Chung Shan Peninsula of Kwang-tung. Its harbor and strategic setting have made it a favorite “plum in the Asiatic pudding.” The Dutch tried to move in, Britain wanted it (but consoled herself with Hong Kong), and the Japanese offered to buy it.
other flag but the Portuguese, however, has ever waved over this oldest European settlement in the Far East. The historic past of Macao is reflected in its old churches, monasteries, convents, and chapels, dating back to the days when Macao was an important base for the spread of Christianity. Notable is the baroque facade of St. Paul’s Church, built by Japanese Christians in 1602. When the church was destroyed by fire in 1835, no one bothered to rebuild it. Residents now claim that Macao will remain Portuguese as long as this facade remains unharmed. Still standing, too, is the Moorish villa which housed Dr. Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Chinese republic, during his exile in 1912. 
Another classic is the Temple of Kum Yam, dedicated to the goddess of mercy and built during the Ming Dynasty. Chinese gamblers stop here to pray for luck and have their fortunes read before heading for the casino. Out in the courtyard of the temple grounds is the stone table where Caleb Cushing of the United States and Viceroy Yi of China signed the first commercial treaty between their two nations in 1844. Macao at this time was a thriving hub for the China trade. From any side of this lopsided landscape, Red China is visible a few hundred yards away, separated by a narrow channel of water known as the West River. Just a stone’s throw across the river is the Red Chinese village of Wanchai, where the lights are out long before midnight. The Macao waterfront, in contrast, is brilliantly aglow with green flood lights, and shops remain open until all hours. A duty-free port, Macao tempts tourists with bargains galore in ivory, teakwood, porcelain, filigree, tiles, and above all, jade. Food stores are well stocked with a variety of imports — Danish hams, Dutch cheese, French pate, Campbell’s soups, Portuguese wines, and liquors. There is an international air, too, in the night clubs, where Eurasian girls in high-collared Chinese gowns twist with men in tropical whites or turbans. The fortunes of Macao are on the rise for the first time since the Communists came to power in China. The swashbucklers who knew the place in the salad days might be amazed, but Macao is now on the honest road to prosperity. Considering its value to the Chinese as a “window on the west,” the odds are favorable that the luck of the colony will not run out.

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