Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Day Four – 22o 12' 20" N , 113o 32' 43" E, Macau, China

Hmmm, strange bedroom. Which means I've shifted again while I slept. Looks like standard-issue hotel fare. I could be anywhere.

I get up and cross the room, completely unprepared for the urban jungle that greets me as I pull back the curtains. Ugly, post-modern cubes brush against ornately-carved mediterranean style townhouses, the whole a strange blend of old West meets new East, the huge jutting spire of a large tower reaching for the heavens in the distance. Pulling open a drawer in my bedside cupboard I find what I'm looking for - a hotel information booklet. You find these things in almost every hotelroom bedside drawer in the world. This one is emblazoned with the words Grandeur Hotel, Macau. South-eastern China, then, it seems.

30 minutes later I'm washed, dressed and in the lobby and it is simply a matter of handing over my American Express card and I'm all done and ready to go - $597.24 HKD (Hong Kong Dollars) or £40GBP poorer, it has to be admitted. Before I leave however, I spend a few minutes perusing the various brightly-postered notice boards in the foyer, each one vying for my attention (and money-spending power!). Nothing really catches my eye - organised trips aren't my thing really - although some of the trip destinations look tempting. I think I'll take a walk and see where I end up.


The large open area I find myself in a short while later is quite unlike anything I've yet seen on my travels. I'm in Largo Do Senado (Senate Square), an intricately-tiled space from which I can see several impressive buildings, including the Leal Senado, the Santa Casa da Misericordia and also Sao Domingos Church. Any one of these three buildings would be impressive on it's own, but to have all three in such close proximity is simply a joy. The square itself is full of people, from animated tourists festooned with all kinds of visual gadgetry to local people, chatting and enjoying the morning sunshine. Looking down the many side-streets leading off the square I can see markets, shops and row upon row of dusty mopeds.

Crossing the square I enter the Tourist Information offices and am given directions to the nearest bus stop. After a 20-minute bus ride which offered some stunning coastal views, the air-conditioned minibus pulls up outside the grounds of the A-Ma Temple, set at the base of some imposing cliffs.

I lift a small booklet from a heavily-decorated table set in an alcove just inside the main gates and as I make my way up one of the many winding paths set around the cliffs I begin to read.

Over 500 years old, the A-Ma temple is dedicated to the Goddess A-Ma. According to legend, A-Ma, a poor girl looking for passage to Canton, was refused by the wealthy junk owners but a lowly fisherman took her on board. A storm blew up and wrecked all but the boat carrying the girl. On arrival in Macau she vanished, to reappear as a goddess, on the spot where the fishermen built her temple to pay homage. Many disciples gather here on 23 March every year (the birthday of A-Ma) to pay homage and pray for good fortune. At this point in my reading I have to break off - I'm too absorbed by the many engravings and sculptures that adorn the cliff-side.

The day is getting warm now as the sun approaches midday - on the bus on the way back into town I see the outside-temperature thermometer reads 25oC (77oF). The bus pulls up at a stop on Estrado Adolfo Loureiro and, seeing a sign for Lou Lim Iok Gardens, think that this might be a relaxing place to sit in the shade for a while and cool off.

I find myself suddenly transported to a landscaped wonderland of European and Chinese plants surrounding an ornately columned and arched mansion. The plants are a riot of colour and profusion all thriving in many different settings - lotus ponds, pavilions, groves, grottoes, twisting pathways, ornamental fountains and curiously-shaped doorways to nowhere. A wonderful atmosphere of stillness and serenity permeates this place. If, as I did, you can find a corner without too many tourists you'll find yourself not wanting to leave and before you know it 2 hours will have passed. But, alas, all good things must come to an end, and finding my appetite growing I decide to hone it to sharpeness with the 30-minute walk required to take me back to Largo do Senado.


Walking down the substantially-titled Avenida do Conselheiro Ferraira de Almeida, I see lots of street vendors selling such things as egg rolls and bean flour cookies with lots of different fillings/toppings (e.g. seaweed, pork floss, almonds, peanuts) and it's a real struggle not to give in to temptation. I succeed, however and soon I'm sitting in a cafe on Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro (short street-names are hard to come by in this part of the world, it seems!) where the princely feast of Water Crab Porridge, Steamed Eel with Black Bean Paste and Deep Fried Fish Balls costs me $200HKD (Hong Kong Dollars), which is about £13.40GBP (British pounds). Yum yum!


Struggling to my feet I set off once more, deciding that after this I'd better think about finding a hotel for the night. Unsure where to head, I set off along the Rue de Sao Domingos, my feet seeming to find their way of their own accord to the magnificent ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral.

These ruins with their superb statues and engravings are considered by some to be Christianity's greatest monument in Asia. Originally completed early in the 17th century by exiled Japanese Christians all that remains today is the facade of the church, along with it's mosaic floor and approaching steps. The rest of the church was destroyed by fire during a monsoon in 1835.

It seems I've been here but minutes when around me the world shimmers......


Anonymous Anonymous said...

your excellent photos bring back good memories of my trips to macau in 2001 and 2004. everytime i see something about macau, it attracts my attention. macau is one of my favorite cities in the entire world. its cuisine is unbelievably good. my favorite place is a macanese or portuguese restaurant called "o porto interior" ("noi gong tsaan ting" in cantonese) located at rua do almirante sergio, 259b. the portuguese tarts (pou taat) at margarite's and lord stow's are wonderful, too. macau also has fantastic hiking on coloane (lou waan). i can't wait to visit macau again soon.
david (dalung)

1:46 AM  
Blogger The Digital Daytripper said...

Thanks for your comments, they're greatly appreciated. I always love to hear from people that know the area I've "visited".

10:11 AM  

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