Published: April 24th 2008April 14th 2008
Ruins of St. Pauls
An iconic landmark of Macau; it was burned down in 1835, leaving only the South stone facade stands up. The facade brings a rich blend of western and eastern elements.
Most Americans would raise their eyebrows upon hearing the name. For us, Macau is almost as exotic as secluded Timbuktu or legendary El Dorado, but in reality, it is more accessible than those two aforementioned places.
Unfortunately, Macau is not going to be on traveler’s top list places to visit anytime soon. Its proximate location to mega polis Hong Kong dwarfs the importance of this region - and one can’t help but comparing Macau with Hong Kong. Yet, Macau holds many fascinating gems that are worth checking out - UNESCO just added its thirty historical structures and plazas into the World’s Heritage Sites in 2005.
The one hour ferry ride from Hong Kong Island to Macau Peninsula was uneventful, and I was greeted with its two official languages of Cantonese Chinese and Portuguese at the immigration. It was an interesting welcome especially if you understand neither languages - and it seemed that not many people in Macau understand English.
UNESCO describes Macau to be the lucrative port of China and a long lasting testimonial between the East and the West, a humble description to illustrate the richness of its history and culture.
Uhm, ok - a female gondola driver.
to be one of the few Portuguese colonies in Asia. The Portuguese traders landed and established a trading port in late 16th century and in 1999, Macau was turned over back to the Mainland and became one of the two Special Administrative Regions of China besides its counterpart of Hong Kong.
From what I’ve read, Macau citizens are enjoying their privileges of having the prestigious European Union citizenships through Portugal, something that Hong Kong citizens didn’t get from Great Britain when it was turned over back to the Mainland two years prior to Macau’s. As the result, many Macau citizens are moving to their European cousin and legally working throughout the European Union.
The Portuguese has left Macau with many western legacies; the peninsula is littered by many religious facilities, notable those of Jesuit Order Catholicism churches -Ruins of St Paul’s (Macau’s most famous landmark that was burned down except its southern stone façade in 1835), Churches of St. Dominic’s, St. Lawrence’s, and St. Augustine’s to name a few. As the result, Macau is one of the most important sites in Asia for Christianity, with many Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese martyrs that are associated with Christendom buried in
Largo do Senado
Black and white stripey of Largo do Senado, one of the 31 sites in Macau recognized by UNESCO as world's heritage.
churches and cemeteries throughout the city.
With many Jesuit churches around Macau, I wonder how many locals are devoted Catholic. The ratio of people inside versus outside Catholic compounds are staggering numbers - only a handful locals and even less tourists are lingering inside these spacious facilities, while the narrow streets are crowded with locals doing some shopping or hanging out around its cobbled stone plazas.
Moseying around the city, I realized how precious the land in Macau is. High rise apartment buildings out proportioned the city’s narrow streets that give the chaos look of a typical Asian city - dirty walls, caged windows and drying clothes on bamboo sticks, hanging over the streets from a tiny balcony overlooking another apartment.
Although majority of UNESCO sites in Macau are associated with Jesuit Order churches, there are other sites that has nothing to do with Catholicism - The old fortification complex of Monte Fort from where you can view Macau from its highest point, the Moorish Barrack that was designed by an Italian architect in late 1800s for police recruit training, and the ancient A-Ma temple which is titled to be the oldest surviving structure in Macau.
Grand Lisboa from Monte Fort
This is how I feel about the golden Grand Lisboa Hotel/Casino. Ready, set, FIRE!
Despite of hosting many churches, the city is far from holiness. Macau is also associated with gambling, due to its role in being the only place in China where throwing the dice for money is legal. They recently opened The Venetian Macao - one of the largest casinos in the world, with more than 350 shops and restaurants situated in many canals and malls with Italian Venice theme (and of course there is a huge casino with thousands of machines and tables filled up with exciting gamblers, smack in the middle of the complex). Walking around the Venetian Macao is an overwhelming experience; it is three times bigger than its Las Vegas counterpart and so big that ninety Boeing-747s would fit in the site.
So there is no surprise to see many people from the Mainland China flock into the peninsula to be legally gambling in Macau’s many casinos. And this was where I concluded my short journey in Macau before heading back to Hong Kong and subsequent trip back to the States.
There are more photos below