Macau: More than the ‘Vegas of Asia’

April 26, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

Macau: an Asian city that sits humbly in its own uniqueness. ‘Humble’ isn’t usually the first that comes to mind when one describes Macau. It is known, most obviously, as a city filled with casinos and amazing nightlife; but there’s no dearth of information a student can find when it comes to all of this. I’ve heard an innumerable number of stories of amazing short trips HKU students have taken to “the Vegas of Asia”, mostly to enjoy the exciting party life that Macau has to offer. It’s also the perfect getaway from Hong Kong, while just being an hour away by ferry. I made my first trip to Macau last week with my family, and I was completely taken by the place – but not for the most apparent reasons.


Streets and their Beauty

Before my arrival, I had heard only one thing about Macau – its nightlife scene. I expected to walk the stretch of the Cotai Strip, and feast my eyes on the glitz I was told so much about. But there’s another, perhaps under appreciated side of Macau, whose beauty is surprisingly breath-taking. This region, nestled between China and Hong Kong, takes you to the heart of Lisboa, Portugal — but with a unique twist. The streets of Macau are filled with bright – but still subtle – pastel buildings, adorned with signs in 3 languages: English, Chinese and Portuguese. The unique European architecture is paired with uniquely Chinese characteristics. On Macau’s streets you will find traditional foods, both Chinese and Portuguese – especially those quintessential egg tarts that melt in your mouth. Next to buildings painted in every pastel shade, stand beautiful street lamps that hoist red, pink, purple flowers that brighten the streets even after sunset.

Portugal first colonized Macau in the mid-16th century, and was the last European colony in Asia. After Portuguese traders settled in the city, they administered Macau under Chinese authority in 1887, when it became an official colony of the Portuguese empire. In 1999, Portugal transferred sovereignty back to China and by 2006, Macau had become the world’s largest gambling centre. Additionally, Portugal spread its magic all over world during their 500-year imperial command: Goa in India, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Angola…the list goes on.^ Thanks for all of that, Wikipedia! :)
[“Macau.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 25 Apr. 2014. Wikipedia. Web. 26 Apr. 2014.]

The Ruins of St. Paul

The Ruins of St. Paul

My family and I love learning about a new city by exploring them randomly on foot. As our wanderings showed us, our hotel wasn’t too far from Senado Square, and the churches around it – a pleasant surprise! Our walk to the square was enriched with a path of mosaic squares, found traditionally on Portuguese/European streets. An especially breathtaking popular tourist destination is the Ruins of St. Paul, or Ruínas de São Paulo: it is all that remains of what was once one of the biggest Catholic churches in Asia (the cathedral was destroyed by a fire in 1835). Today, it towers as a dilapidated stone fortress of stature and indescribable beauty. In the same area, you will find the Museum of Macau, which was once a fort in the 16th century. It lies on the top of a hill, but while walking up to it, you can see the most amazing stone structures, wrapped safely with vines and large trees over time. The outside facade of the museum is pristine, with a large fountain, and a giant garden/verandah that overlooks the entire city of Macau. And to throw in an extra feast of culture for your eyes, not more than five minutes away and in the same area, stands the A-Ma Temple, a  famous Taoist temple built in 1488. Radiating with red and gold, the main hall of the temple is definitely a site for sore eyes, inspired especially by Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

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Amid all its conquests though, Portugal managed to beautifully amalgamate their own art into the standing art of their colonies. Macau’s history is more than just when and who the city belonged to. And today, Macau is a real “hybrid” of Europe and China: a rare mix, the only of its kind. This side of Macau, the side beyond its stereotypical nightlife image, is what I really fell in love with: a city has magically sustained a part of Europe whilst still being completely enveloped in true Asian culture.

So aside from the usual fun people intend to have in Macau, take some time out to explore the city on foot. Of course, if you have time after a day of exploring, have some fun partying too! Take a spontaneous trip there for a weekend after your exams, or before the summer kicks in. Grab a camera (or your smartphone!), and relish the beauty of the city. I know I was completely taken by the city, and hopefully you will be too. And don’t forget to tell us about your adventures (in Macau, or anywhere else!) from Easter break in the comments section below!