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Travel Logs September 2015

Compulsive Traveler

Not to Miss Sites in Macau

By Sandra Scott

Gambling has been legal in Macau since the 1850s and it has grown to be the “Vegas of the East.” It has become a gambling Mecca for the Chinese. There are 33 casinos with the Venetian Macau being the largest; in fact, it is the largest casino in the world.

Since the earliest of times, Macau, located at the mouth of the Pearl River, has welcomed travelers from around the world. In 1557 Macau became part of the Portuguese Empire. In 1999 it was handed over to the Chinese and is now a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China – a status similar to that of Hong Kong. Macau is where East meets West with a blend of both worlds. For such a small place there is a lot to do and it is changing fast.

  1. St. Paul’s: On a hill in the heart of the city is the iconic façade of this 17th century church. It is all that remains of the first Jesuit church and college in China. It was destroyed by fire in 1835. It is customary to throw coins into the top window of the ruins from the stairs for luck. The Museum of Sacred Art in the church’s original crypt contains silver altar pieces and paintings.
  2. Monte Fort: The fort was built by the Jesuits as their headquarters and as defense against attack by the Dutch. Today it houses the Museum of Macau with exhibits that depict four centuries of Macau culture with emphasis on the bi-cultural character of the city.
  3. Senado Square: Senado Square with wave-patterned stone mosaics and a Mediterranean flair is the heart and historic center of Macau. It is now a pedestrian walkway with shops and restaurants. Visit the 17th century St. Dominic’s Church, an example of baroque architecture with Portuguese influence.
  4. A-Ma Temple: It is one of the oldest temples in Macau having been construction in 1488 to commemorate Mazu, the sea goddess who blesses fishermen. It was a Portuguese corruption of the name “Mazu” that led to the name “Macau.” There is a four-level prayer pavilion and a diorama of the legend of A-Ma.
  5. Kun Iam Ecumenical Center: The picturesque building is located on a man-made island connected to the mainland by a causeway. The dome with a lotus-shaped based is topped by gleaming bronze statue of Kun Iam. Walk clockwise around the building listening to the music, then enter the building to meditate and feel the concentration of energy.
  6. Historic villages: Get the feel of old Macau with a visit to one of the historic villages such at Taipa and Coloane. This area is rapidly being developed but there are still quiet pockets of colorful colonial architecture. Strolling along the narrow streets and lanes of the lovely old district, you’ll see historic buildings that offer a glimpse of Macau’s old-time village life.
  7. Eating: Foodies will love Macau’s mixture of Portuguese and Chinese cuisine. There are great restaurants in Taipa, Coloane, and in the historic center. Try Caldo Verde (green vegetable soup), followed by Carne de Porco a Alentejana (pork from the Alentejo province of Portugal), with a Portuguese wine which is quite reasonable.
  8. Shopping: Shoppers will find just about everything and find it less expensive than other places in Asia. There is a weekly Islands’ Fair on Sunday in Taipa that sells traditional crafts, souvenirs, and many other products. The best place for items that only come from Macau is one of the museum shops.
  9. Entertainment: There is everything from golf to Chinese junk tours of Macau Harbor. Enjoy hiking, swimming, bowling, karaoke, horse racing and a variety of nautical sports. Visit during one of their many festivals that reflect their multicultural heritage such as Chinese New Year and Senhor dos Passos during Lent.
  10. Try your luck: Gambling has been legal in Macau since the 1850s and it has grown to be the “Vegas of the East.” It has become a gambling Mecca for the Chinese. There are 33 casinos with the Venetian Macau being the largest; in fact, it is the largest casino in the world.

 

Sandra Scott travels the globe recording the top attractions at every destination.

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