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Crowds unlimited

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image Paulo Coutinho

In 30 years living in this city, I’ve never seen anything like it.
It’s not the overwhelming sight or the behavior and patterns of the crowds walking by in downtown Macau this time of the Chinese calendar. It’s the unprecedented crowd control that authorities implemented, making a mere 20-second crossing of a street a 12-15 minute journey, all the while being squeezed like a lemon by the hordes.
I did it myself. It took me 12 minutes to go from the BCM building corner to the main branch of BNU where Avenida da Praia Grande intersects San Ma Lo alias Av. de Almeida Ribeiro, also known by local Chinese as Prosperity Avenue – stretching from the old Lisboa roundabout to Pier 16, you have to admit they have a point.
Police set up one-way passages to control the crowds delimited by barriers and managed by an army of officers at every corner and crossing in a measure meant to avoid collisions between the crowds walking in opposite directions on the same walkway – as they usually do the rest of the year.
It was a wow! experience, I tell you.
So, the journey goes like this: from the BCM corner you cross to the other side of Av. Infante D. Henrique, and walk south on Av. da Praia Grande, pass by Café Solmar and cross the latter street to the Old Court building. Then north you go towards the San Ma Lo intersection at Senhor dos Passos’ processional pace, in the flow, barely needing to put your feet on the ground. Take a deep breath, and now head west along San Ma Lo up to the Leal Senado crossing to the Largo. While crossing look to your right and, yes, there you have quite a sight: traffic, plenty of buses at a virtual standstill, and the crowds moving extremely slowly and patiently both sides of the street. Then, of course, you walk down from the centennial plaza to BNU corner. 12 minutes in all for a mere 20-30 seconds crossing (depending on how lucky you are with traffic lights).
As the Times reported yesterday, “By 5pm (on Monday), 270,000 people were recorded crossing the border through ports and harbors of Macau.”
During the festive CNY holidays over 2.5 million would have crossed the borders of this tiny region.
The question is how many more tourists and their negative impact on inflation, traffic and environment can this city, this people endure. The question is how and why is this growth beneficial to the majority of the population, the small businesses and our quality of life. Is it worth living in a place like this?!
The question is, also, what kind of experience visitors take with them from travelling here, being ordered to walk like cattle in the middle of historical Macau. Is this a place to return for sightseeing, to bring families, to relax and enjoy holidays?!
I’ve been to Hong Kong too during the holidays for a very short one-night stay. On Sunday, I walked around and that city too was ‘possessed’ by mainlanders. I read and heard the news, the locals complaining, some voices begging authorities to freeze the “solo visa scheme”. Well, I’ve seen crowds, huge crowds, at some point clashing literally into one another.
And I was personally run over by baby strollers twice. You heard me –  baby strollers.
That’s odd, I know, but I can assure you, nothing beats Macau’s “cattle walk”.
And that is why, once again, I’m here advocating a radical solution: the big move to Cotai. Now that all casino operators have or will have properties there, it’s the smart thing to do.

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paige dixon 11/02/2014 16:15:20
I could not agree more, it is indeed intimidating.
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Aries Un 10/02/2014 08:13:55
The Macao citizens would just keep suffering not only the disaster but also those ineffective measures put forth by the government while the issue of over-influx of mainlanders was left unattended.
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