On our recent visit to Hong Kong, my family decided to spend a night at Macau. Macau is considerably different from Hong Kong and so, we didn’t hesitate to hop on to China Ferry (133 HKD) bound for Macau. The trip from Hong Kong (Kowloon) to Macau was short; it lasted only for one and a half hours. Upon arriving at Macau though, we had a difficult time finding a taxi cab driver who could understand English directions.
Our hotel, Casa Real, was very near the port and the Fisherman’s Wharf. When we got there, we were ably assisted by a kababayan. The hotel’s interiors were hmmm tacky and gaudy. The bedroom though was impressive and the bathroom was well-appointed and spacious. When we arrived at around 12:45, Mama and Papa told us to rest and stay in our room while the two of them get us our lunch. It took them quite some time though! They returned at past three already! They said, however, that they got back rather late because they just had one of the best meals they ever had while we were on vacation! They raved about the steamed pomfret they ate and also the other dishes they ordered. Well, they brought us their left-overs sadly!
Immediately, we all left the hotel and headed for some sight-seeing in the Largo do Senado area. That entire area there was a beautiful district full of Portuguese colonial structures. Imposing and attractive, the structures sported different colors and gave off the aura that it was as if one was in Europe. It was an entirely different feel from Hong Kong. Of course, what would be a trip to Macau without having one’s photo taken at the steps of the Ruinas do Sau Paulo (Ruins of St. Paul).
On the way to the landmark, we made our way up the narrow winding streets that were lined with souvenir shops, eateries selling different pastries, delis selling Chinese tapa and also ubiquitous kiosks selling porkchop buns. The amazing thing with the Ruins is that once you’re at the end of that narrow street leading up to the once-imposing church, the view one gets is simply spectacular. It’s as if you’ve reached heaven. The Ruinas is actually the remaining facade of the church-college complex build by the Jesuits in the 1600s which was razed to the ground in 1835. It is an example of how Intramuros could have been preserved with its many church facades left actually intact after the “Liberation” of Manila in 1945.
When we left the ruins, we stopped by a small noodles stand at the foyer of an apartment run only by a husband-and-wife team. At the very moment we saw that it was a simple affair, we decided to try the products. We ordered wanton noodles soup, beef tendons noodles soup and beef and wanton noodles soup. We were not disappointed. IT WAS AMAZING. The broth was hot, the beef succulent and tender, the wantons rich in flavor and full of stuffing. And of course, it was dirt cheap! For 17 Macau Patakas (it’s 1HKD=1 MP), a bowl of that couple’s soup is worth the try.
From there, we made our way to the present Cathedral of Macau (St. Paul’s used to be Macau’s Catholic Cathedral). Being a former Portuguese colony, one can enjoy an abundance of beautiful baroque churches in this area of Macau that are all beautifully (not to mention, tastefully) preserved and maintained. When we got back to the main square, all the old colonial buildings we all lit up thus giving a very romantic feel to them. Macau obviously knows the great potential of preserving and tapping into its cultural heritage.
While going around, I noticed too that almost all the signboards and posters have Portuguese translations. In fact, before the Chinese characters, the Portuguese translations always would come first. I found out that less than 1% of Macau’s people still speak Portuguese. I then remembered the similar situation here in the Philippines were Spanish speakers are but a select few in the population. However, what Macau does is actually maximize and boast as well as maintain their Portuguese heritage through the constant use of Portuguese. It is used everywhere, and so, locals and tourists alike would always have this sense of Macau’s heritage as a former Portuguese colony. In Manila, it was also the same up until the 40s when advertisements, news headlines, street names and even businesses’ names were still written in Spanish alongside English and Tagalog translations. I think it would be a great thing not only for tourism but also for our efforts to preserve of culture to employ, once again, the Spanish language.
We capped the night by paying Macau’s iconic The Venetian a 3-hour visit. I enjoyed shopping there what with Brookes Brothers and Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren, my three favorite brands, all under one “Venetian” roof! The hotel was really expansive and almost tiring but it was entertaining to say the least to actually see a canal running through the area with a matching gondola. The facades that form the different Venice-inspired buildings really looked authentic and convincing. From there, we took a free bus going to The Sands where our hotel was located nearby.
We left Macau early the next day for more Hong Kong adventures. But Macau for all of its flaws (it can be boring, you know?), can make it up to any visitor with its diverse cuisine inspired by Portuguese, Indian, Chinese and African cooking, its casinos (IF you’re the type who gambles) and the unique cultural heritage of the place. The old edifices as well as the signboards in Portuguese are undoubtedly appealing and worthy of any traveler’s attention.