Macau, more than just casinos

Macau is equal parts Asia and Portugal with a little bit of Las Vegas thrown in. Macau was, until 1997, a Portuguese outpost. You could not seek a more authentic Portuguese flavour outside of the country itself.

The old city of Macau is densely packed with apartments and colonial era buildings. Cotai across the harbour, on the other hand, is dominated by casinos and hotels. It is here that the former island of Taipa is linked to Cotai by reclaimed land. A more relaxed Macau can be experienced in Taipa Village.

Taipa has a curious mix of Chinese and European architecture, from yellow stucco walls of the Church of Our Lady Carmel to the Taoist Pak Tai Temple. But nothing stands out more from the colonial era Chinese fusion than the Feira do Carmo, an open air marketplace of Roman columns and Chinese tiles surrounded by a wall topped with an oriental dragon. Whilst this is a reminder of Portuguese colonial presence, it also embraces local Chinese culture.

The Taipa Houses Museum is a set of buildings which once housed colonial era officials. The set of stepped two storey buildings sit on the shore of a small lake, painted in a shade of pale green, looking decorative with white eaves. The most interesting is the first house, restored to its early 1900s appearance. It is comfortable and practical as one would expect for an official of that era.

Taipa Village is interspersed with narrow streets lined with shops and several Portuguese restaurants. Walking through Taipa Village is reminiscent of taking a stroll through a small town in Portugal, with its low-rise buildings, restaurants and cultural attractions reflecting its colonial past. We dined at Antonio, a restaurant opened by a Portuguese ex-pat in the late 1990s. the eatery could not be more Portuguese if it tried. This is a small corner of Portugal in Taipa, a quieter part of Macau, away from the casino hustle and bustle, yet close enough for an inquisitive walk. It seems that food truly has no frontiers, such was our dining experience.

Many famous new Casinos have sprung up in Macau. The Venetian Casino, The Galaxy, The Wynn, The Sand Macau, Lisboa Casino…the list goes on. These casinos have not only done their part in boosting Macau’s economic growth but also contributed in changing the skyline. As we explored the streets, we could see that each casino has their own unique display to distinguish itself from others. All of them are competing with each other to attract potential customers. For those going to Macau, I strongly recommend you spend time away from the casino to truly understand what Macau is truly about.

However, if you are a fan of old world architecture, then the old city of Macau is where you should concentrate your efforts, starting with the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral. This place is not only famous for its unique architecture, impressive but also many memorable historical milestones. The Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral is more than a piece of old wall. The façade was completed by Japanese laypeople and local artisans under the direction of Italian architect Carlo Spinola. The church is built of marble with intricate Jesuit carvings. The front includes the five floors, on the walls of each floor are covered with statues, the right and left has columns made by stones.

Not far, Senado Square is a tourist favourite. Largo do Senado is the majestic main square surrounded on all sides by Baroque and Portuguese style buildings. The square itself is a paved town square. It is in the downtown area of the city containing an extensive array of shops selling a myriad number of items ranging from clothes, jewelry, pharmacies to an assortment of mouthwatering snacks.

The fortress is pretty cool. Fortaleza do Monte or Fortress of Our Lady of the Mount of St. Paul is a fort in Santo António in Macau. It is the historical military centre of Macau. This is a high viewpoint of the city! I love viewpoints, whether it’s an observation deck, the top of a mountain, or even a fortress.

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