Macau: More than just casinos

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Senado Square

7 September 2013

Macau is a ferry, an hour and roughly around 160 HKD away from Hong Kong. I rocked up at 10am and bought a ferry ticket (no reservations needed) at the HK-Macau Ferry Terminal 3/F Shun Tak Centre. Fortunately for me, Macau makes a pleasant day trip but unfortunately for Macau, I fall into the category of tourists who only linger for a day and thus don’t spend much.

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One of the many mural paintings besides A-ma Temple that reminds us of the Portuguese and Chinese influences on Macau

Both Macau and Hong Kong are SARs (Special Administrative Regions) of PRC (Mainland China) and since they are under the policy of “One country, Two systems”, they maintain their own legal system, customs, police etc. China is one of the few countries in the world that was not governed by a foreign ruler however to say that she was never colonised is somewhat incorrect since the reason for Macau and Hong Kong to eventually becoming a SARs is due to their past- a weak China seeing cities fall into the hands of the foreigners and thus governed by them. The British governed Hong Kong after China’s defeat in the Opium War and Portugal took over Macau. Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 and Macau followed two years later.

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Macau is densely populated and has a population of around 600,000 people. She is a stone’s throw away from Mainland Chinese cities such as Zhuhai and Shezhen.

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Looking at Zhuhai from Mount Fortress

Many people from Guangdong and Fujian migrated to Macau some 700 hundred years ago and Macau only started to develop when the Portuguese landed in the 16th Century. The Portuguese paid an annual rent to keep Macau and self-administration was not achieved until 1840s. The Dutch also wanted Macau and after being defeated by the Portuguese, they left. Portugal took over, after China’s messy defeat in the Opium War, and after many more revolutions and civil wars, treaties were signed and talks were held which led to the Chinese government assuming formal sovereignty over Macau in December 1999.

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Taking a shot at the hideous building that is Grand Lisboa (casino)

Macau is best known for being the Las Vegas of the Orient due to all the colourful casinos and that strong gambling culture. Personally, I find it distasteful and casino is just a waste of space and money. I can never wrap my head around those who visit a place just for the sake of gambling. I was on a different mission. I must experience Macau’s past and present and that can only be done through the World Heritage Stroll, which starts at A-ma Temple and ends at Casa Garden. This route is designed for those who want to see the historic center of Macau.

Incense coils hang in A-ma Temple with new construction in the background.
Incense coils hang in A-ma Temple with new construction in the background.
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A-ma Temple

A-Ma Temple is an important place of worship for the fishermen and existed before Macau came into being. There are arches, pavilion and halls in the temple.

Walking past the Moorish Barracks allowed me to enjoy the neo-classical style of the building that once housed Indian regiment from Goa who were in Macau to reinforce the local police force.

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Passing Lilau Square (one of the first Portuguese residential quarters in Macau), were also several churches dating back to the 1600-1700’s.

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St Lawrence’s Church
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Dom Pedro Theatre

Dom Pedro V Theatre (with 300 seats, it still remains a venue for important public events and celebrations)

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Ruins of St Paul’s

Ruins of St Paul’s- the façade of the ruins of St Paul is symbolically an altar to the city and one of the most iconic images of Macau. Mount Fortress- as the city’s principal military defence structure was equipped with ammunition and supplies to endure a siege.

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Last glimpse of Macau

Sometimes when you walk around a foreign city on your own and maintain a sense of curiosity, the city opens up completely and quietly whispers her past and stories in hope that you’d stay longer. It was splendid- since I saw the heritage, cultural and historical sites without noise and distraction from big “take-a-photo-then-leave” tour groups.

 

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