Spring Holiday 2011 - Macau

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Asia » Macau
June 12th 2011
Published: June 19th 2011
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Down in the dumps?Down in the dumps?Down in the dumps?

This should put a smile on your face. It has to be one of the best signs we have ever seen. You don't have to understand Chinese, Portuguese or English, the pictures say it all.

The second half of our Spring Holiday was spent in Macau, 60 kilometers across the Pearl River estuary from Hong Kong. The ferry trip was pretty uneventful, not much to see until you actually get there. Macau consists of a peninsula and a couple of islands. The peninsula is almost part of the mainland and the two islands are practically one due to land reclamation. In the 1580s, Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci wrote "It is better to call it a protruding rock than to call it a peninsula." It was a backwater until the Portuguese set up shop in the 1500s. It went from about 3 sq. km. then to about 30 sq. km. now. Who says they don’t make waterfront anymore?

I associated Macau with gambling and therefore had little interest in going there until I read about the history of the place. I knew it was a Portuguese colony until 1999 (it was the first and last European colony in China) but hadn’t thought about how that would affect the city.

Arrival day

The approach by boat takes you under the Ponte da Amizade (Bridge of Friendship) which is a really high and long
Hotel courtyardHotel courtyardHotel courtyard

Lots of interesting fountains and mosaics.
bridge joining the peninsula to Taipa Island. The bridge is almost 5 km long and is quite impressive.

Macau isn’t very big so the cab ride can’t be too long, right? Well, it’s amazing how far it was since many of the roads are one-way. Dianne had made all the arrangements so I wasn’t sure what we were getting ourselves into when we turned down a rather non-descript alley. The cab took us part way up to the Mong Há Fort which in the 1860s was part of the Portuguese attempt to secure its colony during the time of rising nationalism in China as well as the Opium Wars. Today, the Fort has been turned into a park and a heritage hotel and tourism training centre.

The hotel is the Pousada de Mong Há and it was simply a wonderful place to stay. The rooms were large and well equipped. Not only was there wireless in the room but there was even a computer to connect to it if you didn’t have your own. I particularly liked the fact that they had mugs as well as cups. I much prefer a mug for drinking coffee, especially ones where
Indoors tooIndoors tooIndoors too

Many of the walls are decorated with these neat murals.
“The End” was painted on the bottom on the inside. I had to chuckle every time I finished a cup.

After checking in, we took a stroll around the mountain to get our bearings. It’s not that big a mountain but it is nice to have the park basically attached to the hotel grounds. We were impressed with the number of scooters in the parking lot and enjoyed watching the students jockeying their machines in and out of the lot.

Because it is a training school, the attention to detail is fantastic. We had dinner in the restaurant the first night. The sampler dinner consisted of five courses, each one just right with impeccable service. Who could resist the Lobster Cappuccino? We quite enjoyed chatting with the students and the supervisors.
Since it consists of a lot of reclaimed land, Macau is pretty flat. There are hundreds of bicycles, scooters and motorcycles everywhere, very unlike Hong Kong which is so hilly you rarely see them. It also means you can walk everywhere with little discomfort.

The Pousada de Mong Há is located just north of the historic centre of Macau and it is a great starting point
Fortress ParkFortress ParkFortress Park

After leaving the hotel, you pass through these columns and enter the fortress park. There weren't so many trees in the old days so the views would have been even better. The trees and green space are pretty nice though.
for a tour of the old city. I was amazed at the number and quality of the free guide books on the city. The main book includes maps, descriptions of all the sights and even the buses to take if you don’t feel up to walking.

Day One

We shouldered our backpacks and headed out. During our first walk we managed to see lots of old buildings, a cemetery, lots of old Churches (you’d think you were in Italy). A couple of times we just walked without checking the map only to find that items we had seen on the map that looked far away were actually just around the corner. Macau is not that big!

The Portuguese influence is seen everywhere even though less than 2%!o(MISSING)f the population is Portuguese. Many of the buildings seem more Mediterranean than Chinese. The tiles in Senado Square make you feel you are in Europe. I think my favourite spot on the first day was the Mount Fortress. Built by the Jesuits in the early 1600s, it was a key defensive post in the struggles with the Dutch. The views are great. The Museum of Macau is now located
Bike parking lotsBike parking lotsBike parking lots

There are rows and rows of bicycles, scooters and motorcycles everywhere. We often wondered how the people at the "back" of the lot got their bikes out.
on its grounds and is a great visit. Lucky for us, it also housed a restaurant as it was a long way back down the Mount to other facilities.

After a day of sightseeing, we passed by the edge of the casino area. Gambling is the biggest industry in Macau but we managed to give it a miss. We had identified a restaurant for dinner but it was still too early to eat so we decided to find a coffee bar. We had heard McDonalds had started serving cappuccinos and there was a pair of Golden Arches nearby so off we went. Lo and behold, right beside it was a Pacific Coffee, our favourite chain from Hong Kong. Bliss.

Dinner was at Salmar’s and a nice way to end the day. Except the day wasn’t over. We were still downtown and our hotel wasn’t. Out came the map and we plotted our way home. Macau is a great place to walk, even at night. The stroll home was very pleasant.

Day Two

We decided to take the hotel’s free shuttle bus down to the other end of the city and walk back. The Maritime Museum was
They're off!They're off!They're off!

When a light changes, the race is on. Haven't seen this kind of cycle traffic since our Italian adventures.
full of models and descriptions of maritime life with lots of English. The A-Ma Temple dates from the 15th century but replaced an even older temple. It is dedicated to the goddess who protected a large commercial ship. And there were more Churches! Considering how small Macau would have been back in the 1600s, it is hard to believe how many Churches there are.

The highlight (so to speak) of the walk home was the Gaia Fortress and Lighthouse. The Fortress was built on the highest point in Macau about the same time as the Mount Fortress (and most of the Churches; these guys were busy). The lighthouse was built in 1864 and is still used. Fabulous views. There is a gondola to whisk you up to the top of the mountain but it wasn’t marked on our map. The small map we were using on this part of our journey wasn’t too clear about how to get to the top. We ended up at the top before we found the gondola! But the views were great (Did I say that already?)
With my monocular I was able to spot the second old cemetery we wanted to visit. We
Treated like royaltyTreated like royaltyTreated like royalty

When we showed up for dinner at the training restaurant on our first night in Macau, we were seated in the lounge with a complementary drink. One of the managers assured us the servers were in training but the food was prepared by "real" chefs!
found a sign pointing to the gondola so we thought we might as well take it down. The gondola was at the other end of the Mountain peak. When we got to the bottom, we had to walk all the way back to the other end of the mountain to tour the cemetery. Of course, it is walled and the only gate is on the other side of the huge area. Luckily we like to tour cemeteries, so it was worth it.

By the time we got back to the hotel , we were ready to put our feet up and have a light supper. Unfortunately, it was Friday and that is Buffet Night at the Pousada. Apparently the buffet is a favourite venue for locals. We were too tired to go elsewhere so joined the happy throng. We’ll just take a little of everything, we thought. There were so many interesting choices we still ate too much. But, like everything else here, it was great. When we came out, it was such a beautiful evening we went for a walkabout through the Mong Há fortress park. Wow!

Final Day

Our last morning included checking out and
Flower stallsFlower stallsFlower stalls

On our first walkabout, these stalls were everywhere. It certainly made the trip through town a pleasure.
taking the free shuttle to Taipa Island, the other main section of Macau. We went to visit Jody who used to be our upstairs neighbour here at Maple Leaf. We got a tour of her new school which is across the street from a huge casino complex including several hotels and casino. We also toured the Venetian which is made up to look like either the Venetian in Las Vegas (but bigger) or Venice itself. We carefully skirted the casinos and satisfied ourselves with enjoying the scenery. It is all indoors but the ceilings are painted to make you think you are walking on sidewalks on an evening in Venice. There are even three canals with singing gondoliers.

We got to the airport 3 hours before our flight because Macau and Hong Kong flights to China are considered International. The Macau airport is big and bright but not that many flights use this new airport built out into the ocean. We were way too early and our flight was an hour and a half late leaving. Sigh. But that shouldn’t be a problem because we had a 3 hour window in Shanghai. Unfortunately, the weather in Dalian was so
New and used?New and used?New and used?

The path we took through the historic part of town took us past many stores like this. We can't imagine how they can find their inventory.
foggy that our plane couldn’t get out of Dalian to pick us up. We didn’t get home until after 1:30 am. Luckily, it was Saturday night so we had Sunday to recover. Unluckily, our bags didn’t make it. Even worse, our driver wasn’t there. By the time we finished with the baggage people , there was almost no one left in the airport. We were afraid there wouldn’t be a cab.

I guess there were flights even later than ours as there were still half a dozen cabs waiting. The first cab we tried took us but he didn’t seem to realize where we wanted to go. Cabs don’t like going to Jinshitan late at night. Too much time lost deadheading back. This guy kept pointing at the hotels in the area as if he thought we wanted one of them. I kept trying various pronunciations of Jinshitan then Kaifaqu when it seemed I finally got close enough to reality that he knew where we wanted to go. I was practically falling asleep but couldn’t afford to in case he really didn’t know where we were going. All’s well that ends well. We arrived home.

But all was
Protestant CemeteryProtestant CemeteryProtestant Cemetery

Dianne was dying to visit this cemetery. There are three cemeteries listed on the tourist map. I am mildly puzzled why these are shown on the map.
not well. There was evidence that we had little visitors. Rats! They appear to have come up though the sink pipe. This pipe is a long story in itself. A little clean up, a cap over the drain and it was bed time. 2:30 a.m.

Sunday afternoon a driver showed up with our bags. Life is great again!

What now?

We get to stay home and rest for a couple of weeks before heading off to Qingdao! It’s a tough life but someone has to live it!

Remember, you may have to scroll waaaay down to see the last pictures.

Additional photos below
Photos: 34, Displayed: 29



But then we like to roam cemeteries, reading tombstones like this and wondering what the lives of these "ordinary" people must have been like.
Who'd'a thought? a Church!Who'd'a thought? a Church!
Who'd'a thought? a Church!

Not one but many in Macau. Incredible number for such as small area. In Europe, not surprising but China? Many were built in roughly the same time period.
Ruins of St. PaulRuins of St. Paul
Ruins of St. Paul

The cathedral was built around 1600 and destroyed by fire in 1835. It is remarkable that this facade kept standing until the 1990s when it was declared a national monument and reinforced. The people in the matching T-shirts are handing out Christian material. Religion is dead?
Part of Macau's colourful pastPart of Macau's colourful past
Part of Macau's colourful past

Not all the churches are dull stone facades. Many have the bright exteriors associated with a Mediterranean culture.
Senado SquareSenado Square
Senado Square

This colourful square has been the centre of Macau urban life for years. While we were there they were setting up for a conference "1911-2011 From Revolution to Reform" with many outside displays, a large stage and a lot of seating. A sign told us much of the conference was in English!

I haven't seen one of these for years. Didn't see any English books but I had left my card at home anyway.

Dianne looks pretty chipper while she rests her weary feet during our first day's walkabout. Mind you, we were only about half way through our journey at this point.
Grand Lisboa Casino HotelGrand Lisboa Casino Hotel
Grand Lisboa Casino Hotel

At 856', it is the tallest building in Macau and it dominates the newer area of the city. If you look at the hotel's web site you wonder how much money some people actually have. Gambling is BIG business here.
Sigh. I packed my notes!Sigh. I packed my notes!
Sigh. I packed my notes!

My notes on Macau went into the crate for shipping back to Canada. I forget the name of the complex this tower was in. We found it on our walkabout before dinner in the old town. The colours were beautiful.
Hotel breakfast roomHotel breakfast room
Hotel breakfast room

The breakfast room was big and bright, the staff friendly and the selection great. We chatted several times with a Chinese couple who have been living in the United States for years. They had some very interesting observations on the changes in China since they left.
Parking lot woesParking lot woes
Parking lot woes

The lot was full. What's a guy supposed to do? This chap parked his bike, literally bounced one of the existing bikes out of its spot, moved his into the back and then bounced the original bike back into its spot. Off to class.

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