Trapped between whores and casinos
I had never ever been interested in going to Macau but this time there was, at least apparently, no other choice. Back in 2007 I had experienced the nightmare that it is to arrive in Hong Kong with a bicycle and I wasn't willing to repeat that, let alone now there being two of us. The only reason why we had to go through Macau was because that's the place where the cheapest flights for the Philippines take off from, they are indeed really cheap. That, coupled with the fastest issuing of the Philippine visa at the cheapest price in the region and the fact that, opposite to Hong Kong, you are actually allowed to cycle in Macau, it made the place hard to resist. What I didn't know at the time of arranging the flight is that we would fall into a trap and as the saying (in Spanish) goes, the cheapest ends up being the most expensive in the end.
It took us 12 exhausting hours to complete the 135km that separate Guangzhou广州and the city of Zhuhai珠海sitting across the border from Macau. The road was pretty much a continuation of what I had been experiencing the days before arriving to Guangzhou广州, an endless continuum of factories and evil traffic. Many of those images that can be seen in some investigative reports in the west about the poor working conditions going on in china can be seen live here, right from the road. Or what it is actually more terrifying, one can only see a small bit of it and that very small bit is already terrifying itself. Factories filled with lines and lines of workers probably sitting all day there working double or triple shifts, their housing sitting either right above or right next to the factory. It is only left to imagination what living like this must be like, in this industrial megacenter of the planet. The lives of the very people that work anywhere from 8 to 18hs a day to make real those objects that not only the very few in the world will be able to consume but also those super cheap mass market products that find their place somewhere across the globe. It is a saddening experience and it brings me down to see the degree of inequality that the Gods of the economy of our days promote and strive so so so hard to defend.
It took us only 40 minutes the next day to cycle to the border where from the very beginning, problems started to arise. I walked my way to the Macau immigration officer booth to have my passport stamped. He obviously welcomed me with that typical ass face that these guys are so hardly trained to hold in front of their “customers”. While I stand on these queues I can't always help but wonder how many years of ass face training these dummies have to go through to become so numb and bitter....Anyway, I got there, handed him my passport and he went:
mmm...Argentina? Where is your visa?
Mmm my what? What visa? Do I need a visa for Macau? I get 90 days free in Hong Kong and I need a visa for here (ie this shitty place that I'm about to get to?)
Yes, Argentines need a visa.
(WTF you gotta be kidding I thought to myself) So I went, alright, hold on, no problem and I pulled out my joker card, -the one that I always use when my main passport fails-and I handed him my Italian passport. There you go, I will use this one, I'm sure I don't need a visa as an Italian.
And unlike the rest of the planet where some coherence is preserved for certain things, he suspiciously looked at it up and down and from beginning to end, called his superior, consulted each other and they go:
You can't use this passport, it doesn't have an exit stamp from China. You should go back to Chinese immigration and have it stamped.
I took a very deep breath, very very deep breath and I refrained myself from starting a conversation about the idiocy of what he is suggesting me to do and I gently replied:
Sir, I reside in China as an Argentine, not as an Italian. How do you think Chinese immigration will put a stamp on a passport that has never ever had any trace of having been in China? Especially when I just stamped my own passport, the one that has my resident's visa in the country.
I heard silence instead of a coherent response and I went AAAUUUUUUMMMM..... Unfortunately, these guys don't have any single gram of the brain left for anything other than some memorized “logic” written in some stupid book with instructions, therefore they both pretty much arbitrarily concluded that I wasn't allowed to use my Italian passport and that either I used the Argentine one or I should go back to China. Only 3 days away of our flight to the Philippines I was already imagining myself having to run back to the nearest city in China where I could get a stupid visa for this stupid pseudo-country, when the officer interrupted my thoughts and said:
proceed to that window please and get your visa.