The missing essentials

Monday, February 14, 2011
Issue 1234, Page 2
Word count: 670
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

It is frightening – at least to me – to learn that Macau received over 800,000 tourists during the seven-day Lunar New Year holiday in China. It’s as if you can see this small city’s population suddenly jump 2.5 times. Hopefully the Government is aware of the problems for the local economy derived from this seemingly positive figure.

As usual, I spent the recent Chinese New Year holiday with my family in Hong Kong. I came back to Macau on Sunday and there was no better word but “overcrowded” to describe the situation downtown. It didn’t catch me by surprise though, as I had already noticed an increase in the number of people in the shops and streets in Macau a couple of days before we entered the Year of the Rabbit. Anyhow, I’m sure residents in Macau won’t understand less than I do.

Local media have already reported some people complaining about the “four difficulties” during the recent holiday – finding a taxi, a restaurant that was opened but not packed and a hotel room with a reasonable rate, as well as crossing the border without lining up for hours.

I really question how Macau can turn itself into a world travel and leisure hub.

If an increase in the number of tourists in Macau means that it becomes harder for locals to get on public transportation and find a place to fill their stomachs without fighting for a table, I’m afraid in the near future, harmony may no longer be maintained in this society.

Of course it’s the Macau Government’s responsibility to improve the city’s infrastructure in order to deal with the tens of million of visitors who flock to the territory every year. Mainland tourists’ strong purchasing and gambling power is no doubt an important driving force for the local economy. These are the people who the Macau Government will never close the door on.

People of Macau understand how necessary tourists are to boost the economy, but if the Government is unable or refuses to do anything to enhance the city’s capacity to receive visitors, locals may eventually be left with no choices and may prefer to have fewer tourists coming to spend money in Macau.

The poor quality public transportation has long been an issue that has “plagued” Macau. The problem gets even more notable and irksome during each long public holiday. The already insufficient taxi services becomes more “precious” and thus certainly gives some taxi drivers the opportunities to choose customers and take those who go to a destination far enough or are willing to pay extra on top of the normal fare.

Complaints? But who cares? A taxi driver was honest enough and told me that they are “used to passengers complaining to the bureau about them”. Well, that says a lot already for sure.

Many people feel that getting around by public buses is not necessarily a better experience and I’m reluctant to defend it as sadly, I’ve seen too many rude bus drivers already.

That day when I returned from Hong Kong I was carrying a suitcase, a bit bigger than the hand-carry size, and tried to take the bus home from downtown Macau. The bus driver used his hand to obstruct the Macau Pass reader and asked me, not in a polite way, to take the bigger bus or a taxi instead because “passengers have complained to the bus company that the drivers let people with luggage get on the [small] buses”.

I told him the bigger buses didn’t go to where I wanted to go and it was impossible to find a taxi during that period. I was not happy with the way he talked to me but I had no choice and almost needed to “beg” him to let me on. Even some passengers were trying to help me and persuade the driver. I was allowed to get on the bus eventually, but was forced to listen to him continue to moan and complain for the next couple of minutes.

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