Hard to believe that it’s been a year since we first left.

If you were to turn the clock back 365 days, I’d have not yet been to Macau, Hong Kong or any part of China. As of today, I’ve visited Macau twice, been fortunate enough to experience Hong Kong as a day-tripper, and got stuck in Shanghai for several days longer than expected.

I can’t wait to go back.

I’ve thought about Macau or Hong Kong every single day since I’ve been back in the United States. Here’s why.

I was fortunate as a kid to travel around Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia. My parents were travelers and my brother and I got to tag along. I saw the pyramids in Egypt, the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the Parthenon, and more. For whatever reason, I’ve always found history to be all-consuming. Being able to see those sites was an amazing privilege and I am very grateful.

Looking back, I feel like my introduction to China is similar to my introduction to Las Vegas.

I was 17 the first time I went to Vegas and I was introduced to a city that would capture my imagination completely. Of course, I knew the basics just from pop-culture (this was the late 90s, pre-Bellagio) but that was about it. I didn’t know the names or the history other than some inaccurate movies.

Between the ages of 18 and 25, I would visit every chance I got. I had a job that sent me there a few times a year for conferences. Even though I couldn’t drink or gamble at first, I would relish those trips and even go on my own, building the RateVegas.com website and starting to write the Two Way Hard Three casino design blog. Nobody took me seriously.

People ask me often why I care about Las Vegas. They ask the same question about Macau. The obvious assumption is that I’m a big gambler.

I do enjoy gambling — craps, roulette, sic bo, and the occasional slot machine — but it’s really not my driver. I’m completely enamored by the business conditions that allow these places to exist. Where else can you build a $4 billion hotel with only 1,700 rooms but in Macau? Nowhere. It makes no sense anywhere else and at Wynn Palace, the hotel I’m thinking of, the rooms are all top-notch.

The economics of gaming allow for hospitality palaces to be built in some otherwise odd corners of the globe, and I find that fascinating.

I left Los Angeles International Airport for Macau late June 2016 with my best friend. We flew first to Shanghai Pudong, not knowing that we’d eventually get to know the airport quite well.

Our initial landing into Macau was dramatic. We flew over majestic Hong Kong and then arrived in Macau. We made a wide arc, circling the famous casinos on both the Cotai Strip and the peninsula.

We landed without incident. Despite being tired from a long day, I was very excited. It felt amazing to be on the other side of the world.

We did the standard dance through customs and immigration and were ready to get onto a bus (as is the standard in Macau — all casinos have free busses from the transit hubs). I fiddled with my new local SIM card most of the way while Chuck was shooting photos. He was always better at being present in the moment than I was. I was focused on fucking Wi-Fi.

We both got off at Wynn Macau. He was staying across the street but I think the combination of wanting to be a good friend (he had been to Macau before and wanted to be sure I was okay) and also air-conditioning convinced him to follow me inside. It was hot as fuck.

I checked in without incident and I made my way upstairs (I was worried about international CC bullshit but it was fine). My room at Wynn Macau was standard so nothing special but I was struck by how similar it was to the rooms in Las Vegas. The kind of spot where if you closed the shades, you’d never know you were in China. Over the course of my stay, I often woke up at night and forgot where I was.

Chuck took a few photos and then headed off to his hotel which was across the street (well, sort of — he had to go under a tunnel type thing and haul his bags — bummer).

I was on my own. My body clock was totally screwed up — it was late afternoon in Macau but for me it felt like it was four days since I slept. I was tired. I stayed up as late as I could — ordered some food from room service that was great — but then passed out. I was in Macau. I had made it.

Zzzzzzzzzz.

To Be Continued

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