Saturday, February 12, 2011

Macau or Macao? Mancanese!!

Macau was fantastic.  I loved Macau. I said that I wouldn't go back to Hong Kong in my past post but Macau I'd go back to in a heartbeat.  It's a small island that has the same protectorate status as Hong Kong. Meaning, it's technically part of China but it's still very different and has a higher degree of autonomy.

There is a lot of residual European presence, if not in the population then in the environment. About 200,000 Portuguese live in Macau as it was once a Portuguese colony. The portion of the population that are of Portuguese and Chinese descent are called Macanese (which I find fun to say), as is the food that was influenced by both styles.  It's a small in area, only 11 square miles, but rich in culture. 
beautiful buildings in the town square
In two days we saw nearly all the sites there were to see, whether we were really keen to see them or not.  The big draw in Macau are the casinos.  They seemed to loom over the entire island. While interesting at night when lit up, I am not sad to say I didn't go in and gamble.

The blending of old and new, European and Chinese was fascinating to me. The signs in Hong Kong were in Chinese (usually Cantonese) and English.  In Macau they were in Cantonese and Portuguese. The architecture was reminiscent of Lisbon but the colors were brighter than I remember.  Several Jesuit and Catholic churches, a big Jesuit school which was the first European approved college in Asia, all with arches and detailed facades. St. Paul's is only a facade now as the church burned down in a fire, during a monsoon. The facade was all that was left and it deteriorated until most of the island was declared a UNESCO Heritage site.
The crane on the loop is Chinese symbol but the building on the right, and St. Paul's through the middle are definitely Portuguese.
The food was excellent.  I ate, let just say many, egg tarts while in Macau.  Most are comparable to the pasteis de Belem from Lisbon.  There is a local version called a butter tart that isn't nearly as good.  For five to seven pataca (they are about one for one with the Hong Kong dollar, which is tied to the USD at 7.77HKD/1$) each, the tarts were a steal.  Really all the food we had while in Macau and even in Hong Kong was good. I don't think there was anything I wouldn't have again.  There were something we did eat again, like the tarts and Dim Sum in Kowloon.
Macau was full of temples and juxtaposition. There was a cemetery too. I didn't realize I was such a fan but I am.  They interest me for a variety of reasons.  Churches, temples and cemeteries I guess.  I did note in all the cemeteries in this trip, how short the life span then was.  There were quite a few children and lots of folks under 35.  I was also struck by one headstone that said "aged 22 (about)" and by the one below.  No cause of death, as some gave illness or accident at sea.  This one just states "Fell Asleep". I never thought of sleep as a permanent condition but it probably explained many deaths that they couldn't explain any other way.

The Chinese cemeteries were unlike any others I'd ever seen.
A few more photos and then I'll bid you adeus.
A big temple on the southern tip of the island where people used to pray to the goddess of the sea for safe return of their sailor family members.
This is the Dom Pedro theater. One of the first in Asia that hosted many kinds of performances.
One last note; we stayed at a hostel in Macau.  Hostels were difficult to pre-book as there aren't many on Macau, most lodging is fancy hotels for business men.  We found one that was quite old and booked for one night.  A horror movie was shot there some twenty or thirty years ago. Tell me what you think of the place:

Eerie, no?


  1. Hey. Nice photos! Not totally sure, but I THINK that the written characters in China are standardized, so even if people can't speak to each other from opposite sides of the nation, they can write to each other. So the signs would have been written in Chinese.
    I think. I heard that somewhere.

  2. Easy to see why they filmed a horror movie here. Fortunately you didn't describe it to me while you were a guest. One more thing for the mom of an expat to worry about. Be safe!