Macau is a city with two faces. On one hand, it is the famed Las Vegas of the East, where the thrill of beating the dealer at the blackjack table lures wealthy tourists from mainland China and neighboring Hong Kong to try their luck. But on the other hand, there is a side of Macau rarely explored. A side filled with charismatic fortresses, churches and culture of its former colonial master, Portugal. One such site is The Historic Centre of Macau, which spans eight historic squares filled with classical colonial and oriental buildings. Unearthing Asia explores the notable highlights of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Senado Square has been the centre of Macau since the beginning, and plays host to many public events and festivities. Within the square are several notable architectures, such as Sam Kai Vui Kun (Kuan Tai Temple), Leal Senado Building and Holy House of Mercy. The Kuan Tai Temple is situated on the site of the old Macau bazaar, a very important trading centre during the Chinese commercial period in Macau. After the decline of the bazaar, the temple rose to importance in the area.
The Barra Square faces the Inner Harbour, and its front part is constructed from famed Portugese mosaic. The tiles are laid in a wavy pattern to mirror the flow of a nearby river. Within the square is A-Ma Temple, the oldest and longest surviving building in Macau. When the first Portugese settlers arrived in the 16th century and asked for the name of the place, they were told “A-Ma Gau”, the name of the temple instead. This was then transcribed by the settlers into the Portugese Macau.
St Augustine’s Square
This square brings together several notable sites, including St Augustine’s Church, the Dom Pedro V Theatre, St Joseph’s Seminary and Church, and the Sir Robert Ho Tung Library. The Dom Pedro V Theatre was the earliest western-styled theatre in China, and was originally built to commemorate Kind Pedro V.
Lilau in Portugese means “mountain spring”, and this used to be the principal source of water in Macau. Within the Lilau Square are the Mandarin’s House and Moorish Barracks. The Mandarin’s House was the residence of the famed Chinese thinker Zheng Guanying. The Moorish Barracks nearby was built by the Italian architect Cassuto, but curiously shows Islamic influence in its design.
Ruins of St Paul’s
The Ruins of St Paul refers to the facade of what was originally the Church of Mater Dei built in 1602-1640. Destroyed by fire in 1835, the Ruins also refer to the ruins of St Paul’s College, which stood adjacent to the Church. As a whole, the old Church of Mater Dei, St Paul’s College and Mount Fortress were perceived as Macau’s “acropolis”. Today, the Ruins of St Paul are one of Macau’s most famous landmarks, and in 2005 were officially enlisted as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Unearthing Asia is a travel zine focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. Don’t miss out on the best cheap holiday ideas and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of top attractions in Ho Chi Minh City.
Here are some snaps from my previous side-trip to Macau while I was in HK. Didn’t get to see too much of the city unfortunately, time dictates that I only spent a day-trip there, and truth be told, I was running out of money as well. Thankfully, Macau boasts free shuttle buses aplenty, tho only towards the glitzy parts of town (casinos).
About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. A graphic and web designer in its previous incarnation, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now, he’s settled down for the time being and focusing his efforts as the editor of an Asia travel zine, Unearthing Asia.
I won’t even try to confess that I’m a foodie – I just am. So it was no surprise to anyone, including myself, that the biggest part of my agenda for my recent visit to Macau was simply to eat. All day long. Having visited both Brazil and Portugal, I’m well aware of the various types of Portuguese food and was eager to see this translated in Macau kitchens. Here’s my breakdown of the perfect day of chowing down on the best of Macau’s cuisine.
What’s better way to start the day than with those absolutely scrumptious egg tarts. You’ll find these everywhere in Portugal and in Macau, about ever 10 feet or so. It’s hard to say if there’s any difference, and I had quite a few so I speak from experience. Grab two or three and eat them while they’re hot – at most places they are takeaway snacks so find a corner of the nearest square with a good few. Add an order of coffee to go to wash it all down.
They always says that milk is good for you, so why not visit Macau’s milk bar, Leiteria i Son. It’s right on Largo do Senado – look for the small cow sign and head into the venue which is just underneath. It’s an open, relaxed space and you’ll be ushered to a seat with a friendly smile; ask one of the staff for an English menu. The bar serves up two types of treats; the first being small bowls of egg custard, similar to the filling of the egg tart. You can have these either warm or cold; I suggest cold just to provide some contrast to the hot egg tart. They also serve up “milkshakes” – these are made with milk whipped and frothed with a fruit of your choice. Served in a metallic jug, these are some of the tastiest smoothies you’ll find in Asia.
Caravela (Mata e Oliveira, no. 7) is a great place to experience Portuguese-inspired cafe culture. The part-bakery, part-restaurant setup of this café gives it the feeling of an old world coffeehouse, not unlike something you’d find in Paris, but with a huge dose of Asian zest. The daily set menu is a steal and includes a soup, main, and dessert. Bread is homemade and the short menu is lovingly prepared to order.
Wander around any of the shopping streets and you’ll be offered some of the dried meats on display at the front of many of the snack shops. Take advantage of these free tastings to see what meats and what flavors you prefer. There will be an employee that will cut the meat to the size you want; I suggest buying a few smaller strips of different flavors to get a bit of variety. My favorite is any of the pork ones, although a warning that anything which says spicy means they do indeed pack a punch!
While it may sound touristy, there is a good reason why Fat Siu Lau is Macau’s oldest restaurant. They’ve been serving up tasty Macanese dishes since 1903 and to this day you can still get a fantastic meal for a very inexpensive price. If you can stomach it, try the roasted pigeon, which is flavored with a 100-year old secret recipe. Keep in mind most restaurants shut in the afternoon and do not open until 6 or 7PM.