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Writing about Fake, Over-the-Top Venice

By 24/09/2008writing

I am not writing about Venice, but about The Venetian, a casino hotel in Macau.

I have been here since yesterday, and so far, I’m quite taken with the experience, attracted and repelled at the same time.

The casino, of course, is out-of-bounds for cameras, so I have no pictures. To me, the overwhelming first impression was of a colorful fish market, only without the stench and the noise.

The red, blue, green tables surrounded by concentrated, bored, expressionless or excited faces, the variety of blinking screens, the stained glasses, the shiny red chandeliers, the painted dragons starkly at odds with the attempts at Italian frescoes in the rest of the hotel, the large number of slot machines with elderly couples or single young girls, the “Ruby room” and sundry other smoke-filled rooms marked “High limits”. Fascinating. Especially because I am a gambling virgin, without even the slightest clue about the workings of a slot machine.

Writing about Fake, Over-the-Top Venice

Writing about Fake, Over-the-Top Venice

The sheer size of the hotel is mind-boggling, it includes the casino, shopping malls, innumerable halls, galleries, convention centres, walking the whole place should take a day and more….I took a walk this morning, and here’s a slide show of some pictures. There is a “canal” on the third floor amid expensive branded shops, where pretty real-looking gondolas are handled by authentically dressed gondoliers, who break into snatches of Italian songs like “O sole mio…”. The songs echo over the water, there are coins at the blue bottom, and the gondoliers row under a smattering of Venetian bridges. Quaint, in a way. Makes me long for the real Venice, though.

I love how they have done up the walls, the windows with flowers, and the effect of the blue sky. Not over-the-top. But the carpets, garish lights, and bright frescoes are laughable and strangely impressive at the same time.

The amount of money that must have gone to build this place, and must go towards towards maintaining it is mind-boggling. The only thing that is scarier is that the place must be running at a profit, and the fabulous amounts the house must be winning to make it so. All those poor faces at the casino, becoming poorer still.

My camera unfortunately does not work very well in night light, and inside this hotel, it is of course perpetual night….exaggerated further by the typhoon that made landfall last midnight, bringing with it lots of wind and rain. At midnight I saw the rain going in circles, it was even raining upwards.

The Venetian has a lot of artificial warm yellow light about, with too much of gold decoration, too many paintings and carpets about the place for my taste: in a way, the false plastic flowers that line the fake Venetian windows sum up for me what Macau is all about: contrived beauty.

The good part is the food court has delicious (and cheap) stuff, my dinner last night was sensational. Add to that a suite that overlooks a garden and swimming pools, and the Rai Italia channel on TV, and I can almost entertain myself.

The husband is busy with meetings and conferences, and I’m practicing Italian, writing a bit, dreaming a lot. Of course, blogging. Life could be better, but so far I’m happy with the way it is right now. Back to writing.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • elybessy says:

    It’s nice to read you have fun there and above all you can watch Italian TV, maybe should be better don’t listen the last news about my country, but it’s better speaking about something else. Usually I don’t like fake things, fake place, fake bags, etc, but I know Venice is the most copied city in the world and it’s honour myself, but I think every country should be maintain own individualty and if I go to Macao I wouldn’t find another Venice, but I would find something new about this place or something original about this country. Maybe the only good thing is strolling in clean streets, enjoing a trip by gondola without paying much money ( in real Venice costs a lot!).
    By the way, this is a good opportunity for native people to enjoy a new city or a new place without getting airplanes, to afford transport strike, etc.

    I suspect it costs a lot to hire a gondola here too, and you are in a fake canal inside a shopping mall. As I said before, this place makes me want to experience the real Venice all the more.

    Ti correggo il tuo Inglese su e.mail.

  • Makes a person wonder why anyone visits the genuine article anymore, eh?

    Gimme the genuine article any time. I’m leaving tomorrow and it is not too soon, I can tell you that.

  • Kym says:

    That sounds both fun and then a little overwhelming, too.

    It is both. Like Darc said, there is enough money here to run a country. Feels strange looking at it, especially at a time when a lot of people are losing their lives savings in a different kind of casino, the stock market.

  • indigobunting says:

    Loved this, in part because I secretly want to check out the Venetian in Las Vegas (I’ve never been to Vegas) because I love Venice so much and this has the potential to be both cool and cheesy. Or awful. I’d just like to see it!

    Have a good time!

    Apparently, according to those who have been to the one at Vegas, this one is identical, down to the details of the suites we are staying in. Cheesy is the right word for all this grandeur though, so you are not missing much….but you are right, it is an experience, of a sort.

  • DarcKnyt says:

    Glad to hear from you! Yes, those Las Vegas-style themed hotels can become astounding in their scope and attempts at grandeur, can’t they? Amazing. And they cost enough to start a small country, and make enough to run a medium-sized one. Mind-blowing.

    Have a good time, and I look forward to more of your crisp journalism. Makes me feel like I’m there. 🙂

    Happy to take you along. To tell you the truth, I’m a little bored now.

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