Travel: Exploring Macau

On November 17th, we boarded a flight to Macau, China. The flight from Beijing to Macau was about two hours long, but like all flights, it felt more like an eternity.

We decided on Macau because we were interested in the historical legacy of the city. Even though friends warned us of its miniature size, we weren’t deterred. Some friends insisted that Hong Kong would make for a better weekend trip, but Hong Kong didn’t offer a scenic clash between East and West like Macau did.

I’m not a history buff, but I appreciate historical architecture accented by a rich oral or written history. Johnny also appreciates the same, so it wasn’t a hard decision at all.

Macau is a former Portuguese colony that was returned to Chinese authority in 1999. The city maintains its local currency, and the official language is Cantonese (I’m not entirely sure here. It could be Mandarin, but almost everyone spoke Cantonese. Not many people we spoke to spoke Mandarin fluently.) Johnny had a hard time communicating with locals, due to the huge difference between Cantonese and Mandarin. In fact, it was impossible for Johnny to communicate with them, unless they understood Mandarin or English.

I am not ashamed to admit that I was secretly satisfied by his frustration with not being understood. There, in Macau, I was the one who was better at communicating with people whose native language wasn’t my own. Johnny, on the other hand, had to learn to be patient.

Here’s a list of the places we went to. It’s important to note that even though we visited in November, the temperature was in the 70’s (Fahrenheit). In contrast, the temperature in Beijing was in the 30’s.

  • Ruins of St. Paul
    • The only thing left standing from this marvelous structure is the front wall. For this reason, it’s also referred to as St. Paul’s Facade too. Unfortunately, the church and school was destroyed in a fire, but it was once home to dozens of monks.
    • Even though only the facade remains, we both agree that if you’re in Macau, then it’s a must-see. The detail in the stone pillars is something you won’t want to miss. Toward the very top, there are carvings of the Holy Spirit, Mary, and a figure we cannot remember accurately. There are many intricate designs of skeletons, balance scales, and other interesting depictions. Ascribed upon the stone over the arching doorway are the words, ‘Mater Dei.’
    • Behind the facade, there is an open square that leads to an accompanying Museum. The museum is small, and only offers a very short walk-through. the first room holds the bones of what we assumed were some of the monks, but there are no descriptions anywhere in this room. After this room, we were able to look at many interesting artifacts encased in glass. Pictures were prohibited, but I managed to snap a few of the most interesting pieces.
  • A-Ma Temple
    • This was a very interesting place. The temple is dedicated to the goddess of the sea, who is kind of like the patron goddess of Macau. The name Macau, (A-Ma-Gau) is named after her.
    • The temple consists of many different small shrine-like structures. Once you step over the threshold, it’s almost as if you’re transported into another place–not quite Macau and not quite heaven.
    • Part of the sense of escape from the rest of Macau, is the overwhelming smell of temple incense. After visiting several temples, I’ve grown accustomed to the smell, and I love it. It’s a fresh, organic scent that I haven’t ever smelled before. This was the first time I saw spiraling incense sticks hanging from the ceilings. The giant incense sticks that were as wide as my leg were also an amazing sight to see. If we could have managed a way to bring them on the plane back to Beijing, Johnny would have wasted no time in doing so. Instead, we settled for incense sticks that were about the length of more than half my arm.
    • Here, we got our fortunes told by an old man dressed in traditional attire. I marveled at the length of his pinky nail. Johnny didn’t.
  • Monte Forte (Macau Fortress)
    • This structure sits right across from the Ruins of St. Paul. After we walked around the ruins for a bit, we decided to go there. This is a pretty cool place that lets you walk along, and sit upon the roof to gaze out at the crowd of people in front of the Facade. There is also an extremely small museum underground, but there isn’t much to see. It includes information about the fortress.
  • Macau Museum
    • This was a standard place, in my opinion. It included interesting information about general Chinese and Portuguese culture. The place has about three levels, with a plethora of information about the city, and the cultures that mixed within it.
  • Macau Tower
    • This was also a pretty standard touristy place. We only went because we ended up taking long walk by the sea where we wound up ten minutes from the tower.
    • We were looking forward to eating at the 360 degree cafe, but by the time we made it up there, even with fast passes, the place was on the verge of closing. Not to mention, for us both to eat it would have cost around $500. 500 American dollars that we weren’t willing to pay, especially not after we were led to believe we purchased tickets for it.
    • The cafe had professional and kind staff, and one of them saw to it that we could eat at another cafe (180 degrees). However, due to the horrible service at the 180 degree cafe, we decided not to stay. This cafe had been on the verge of closing as well, but the staff we ran into wasn’t as kind or professional about it. Overall, we’d rate our time at the tower as incredibly underwhelming. Tokyo Tower, and Willis tower effortlessly  top Macau tower.
  • Macau Food Festival 
    • One of the best things we did, after visiting the Facade and the Temple. There were hundreds of vendors there selling their seafood to a dense crowd of hungry people. We bought tickets that we then exchanged for super delicious seafood.
    • It was pure luck that we happened upon this festival, as we had no idea it even existed. Apparently, it may be an annual festival, and as such,we would recommend this event to everyone! If you’re a seafood lover, then this is your paradise. We were overwhelmingly amazed by all the fresh seafood.

Macau was a nice place to visit. It’s incredibly small, but there are things to do there. If you’re not a gambler, don’t worry, you’ll find something. We stayed at Emperor Hotel. It was clean, reasonably priced and had good service.

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I'm a self-proclaimed aesthete, an amateur literary critic and a history buff with a BA in Political Science and History from Wesleyan College.

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