Friday, December 25, 2015


I have been to forty countries. Many people think I am happy with the number. No, I am not. I have not been to Africa Proper and South America yet. And many people who have not been anywhere outside of the country think that I have traveled a lot.

But believe me I had to because I was invited to attend international film festivals, seminars and conferences that allowed me to travel a bit, other than to go to America to study for a while and visiting some other countries at leisure.

And the one question that I have often been asked is: Which is the worse country I have ever visited?

I had not wanted to offer any answer to this sort of question because I could see a lot of things that are interesting in any of the countries I have visited. Many guessed, India, which I have visited three or four times. No, not India.

Now after visiting Macau, my answer is it. It is Macau. And here’s why. I had gone there four days to do some filming.

I had never expected this to happen in such a country, where there are not many ATMs around. In Malaysia there are many ATM or automated telling machines everywhere especially in the petrol stations.

I could not pay the hotel using the cards I had, so I thought I would get some cash at the ATM. There was none around. I saw a Shell petrol station but there is no ATM in it.

There is one at the ICBC, which is a major bank in Macau but when I put in my ATM card the machine just swallowed it.

Their ATM is placed in a small room at the side of the bank and to go it one has to climb a covering at the lower part of the door which is about three feet high, and the reason for them to have this unusual fixture is to discourage anyone from robbing the ATM.

This will immediately not allow anyone to climb over it, if one is not so healthy and not so young either. But I was able to get over it and push my ATM card in their machine which swallowed it.

And the day was a public holiday so I was not able to do much but to wait for the bank to reopen the next day.

And when I complained to the bank about my card having been ‘stolen’ by their ATM I was told that they would send it to my bank in Malaysia, which they never did.

The reason why their ATM swallowed my ATM card was because their system could not recognize the card. But it was supposed to take any ATM cards. They did not place any warning at their machine on the dangers if one uses a card that is not accepted by their machine.

This is Macau. And this being my first visit to this country, became almost a nightmare for me.

Fortunately, I had some money in the Malaysian currency but the hotel only accepted American dollars and no other currency.

So I had to find another place to change Malaysian ringgit into American dollars, but there was no moneychanger around.

I had to enter a casino and change my Malaysian ringgit into American dollars at such a high rate.

And not enough with this, when I arrived at the airport, I was stopped by a female security officer who with some female officers directed me to follow them to a room where they checked my luggage.

From the looks on the woman’s face I could tell that being the only non-Chinese visitor to her country I could be a convenient excuse for her to show that she and her colleagues were indeed working.

I had never been stopped by any security officer at any airport in the many countries I had visited until I got to Macau which is the worse country I have ever visited.

My advice to the Melayu from Malaysia is: Try to avoid visiting Macau as much as possible.

There is really not much for any Melayu to see in Macau, so it has not yet become an interesting tourist destination.

Even Hong Kong has also not become an interesting tourist destination for the Melayu.

I had to go to Hong Kong few times but it was for some specific reasons and not to visit the country.

It was a convenient transit stop for me which I did after visiting Tokyo so I decided to stopover in Hong Kong few days.

The other time it was for me to work at a film laboratory there.

If you have to visit the country go in a packaged tour where everything is organized for you so you do not need to deal with ordinary issues that you think are petty but here in Macau they are not.

They don’t even have ATMs everywhere like they do in Malaysia and where you can seek direction or ask for information from anyone who is able to offer it to you freely because many can speak in English.  

There are not many people in the streets in Macau who speaks English. I had to stop some Filipinos working there to seek direction and information. The locals only speak in Mandarin and not Portuguese despite it being the official language here.

Lucky for you there are some Filipinos who work as maids and also in the service industry who you can ask for information.

But still I wouldn’t mind returning to Macau having said all the nasty things about this small country, but only if I have to, if I have certain things to do there.

There is nothing for me to see there but it can still be a nice place to return to for a short visit, but this time I will be better prepared to deal with the situations I had to face with the first time I was there, hoping that this time they would not want to stop me at the airport for security check which can be embarrassing and unnecessary.  

Having been to Lisbon and Portugal twice before I found Macau to be a small reflection of the city and also country except that no one spoke in Portuguese in Macau and there is a bit of it on television and the billboards.

There is a small group of Chinese from China who operate stores in Portugal. But I could not see any Portuguese living in Macau. They may be some who have Portuguese blood in them, but they are not the type who would be up and about that one can see or notice in the streets. 

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