A sunny day in Macau

6 08 2016



With an afternoon free, I had decided to spend the day in Macau. “I’m not expecting much,” I had told a Hong Kong friend the night before. “I know it’ll feel pretty much the same as here.”

“No”, he replied, wide-eyed. “It doesn’t.”

He was right. Macau felt different. It was in the narrow streets and the shiny scooters everyone rode as a result, the five storey apartment blocks with their elaborate, sometimes curved metal grilles. And it was in the more relaxed pace and the blue sky which shone down, unobstructed for the most part by skyscrapers. There were temples, crumbling art deco mansions painted pink and green and neat, pocket-sized squares and gardens shaded by huge old banyan trees, prosperous-looking shopping strips, and everywhere, the beautiful evocative Portuguese street names.

It took an hour, 160 HKD and a passport check at Immigration to get from Central to  Macau’s Terminal Maritimo, and from there I took a short hop to the Three Lamps district around the Rotunda de Carlos da Maia. I was planning to explore the small residential streets of the Northern part of the Old City, removed from the throngs of mainland tourists and glitzy world’s fair architecture of the Southern sector, around the iconic ruins of St Paul’s Church and the flamboyant casino towers. It was a plan that paid off.

I sought out the local Burmese restaurants. Surprisingly, I had learnt, the city has had a large Burmese migrant community since the 1970s and this was its heartland. I had come for a famous Burmese dish – pig’s brain soup – at the Estabelectmento de Comidas Toung Kin, a restaurant famous for the dish. I couldn’t find it though – I suspect it has closed down – so I plunked down at an other nearby “estabelectmento de comidas birmanese” with a plate of 20 pataca noodles and then headed out to wander the backstreets contentedly.

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Nearby I found this beautiful old art deco theatre, surely the coolest still standing in either of the Special Administrative regions, the Cinema Alegria (or, happiness). It still screens movies, mostly Cantonese blockbusters, between two ornate local temples. Out the back a ragtag street vendor market was packing up, with toys, statues of gods and Mao, a wedding dress, ceramic figures of crawling babies and calligraphy scrolls.

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I rooted around for a bit, took a pitstop at the shady tropical Jardin Luis de Camoes and then wandered South, emerging into the elbow-to-selfie-stick scrum at St Paul’s Cathedral ruins, down a claustrophobic alley lined with tourist stores selling beef jerkey and containing about half of Hunan, and down to the bus stop where I glided by the fantastic shapes of the casinos, with their bizarre and whimsical architecture and huge scale, back to the ferry.


Lots to explore on the next trip!




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