Thursday, July 18 2019


A Land of Two Cultures

Exquisite architecture, epicurean cuisine and extravagant nightlife characterise these tantalising lands. Vandana Rana travels to magnifi cent Macau to trace its rich history, culture and heritage.
Located on the western bank of the Pearl River Delta and downstream of Guangzhou, Ou Mun fascinated the Portuguese for trade back in the 1550s. The land was a part of the Silk Route where ships set forth for Rome, laden with silk. The port city took no time to become a major centre for trade between China, Japan, India and Europe. In due course, the Portuguese renamed the city Macau, which is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and is now emerging as a world-class tourist destination. The Portuguese did not only expand their business in Macau but they also broadened their cultural horizons – the Macanese society is the best example for this. The infl ux resulted in a lot of Portuguese natives spending a large part of their lives here and to get settled and accustomed, they married local Chinese women. This resulted in a new generation known as the Macanese.
Beginning with the fl ight to Hong Kong and then the further ferry journey into Macau, all your travel stress melts away at the sight of the beautiful, neat and clean city lined with both high-end and traditional shops, lush green parks and Portuguese-style, pastel-hued architecture. The tropical climate is a cherry on the cake as it makes outdoor activities all the more pleasant. We started our journey by visiting the A Ma temple. The A Ma is known as the Goddess of seafarers. The temple is located at the entrance to the sheltered inner harbor of Macau. The chants of mantras and the tradition celestial music had us lost on a divine journey for a while; and the highlight was an opportunity to see the A Ma festival.
Thereon, we decided to delve deeper into the roots of the city and the apt place to start was the Macau museum. The museum highlights the bicultural character of the city in terms of festivals, social customs, cuisines, the arts and sports. Just a few minutes away in the middle of the old city, one must visit the ruins of St. Paul’s church. This illustration of history was designed in the early 17th century by Italian Jesuits with the help of Japanese Christian stonemasons. Later in a fi re, the entire architecture was destroyed and now only the façade is left with an elaborate staircase structure. This refl ects the history of Christianity in Asia.
We next explored a 360-degree view of the city at the Guia Fortress Lighthouse at the neighbouring island, which is still functional. Located at the peak of the peninsula of Macau, we were greeted with a gentle breeze as we made our way here through a cable car ride with stunning views of the fl oral gardens around.
For those who love adding a dash of adventure to their travel, the 338-metre high Macau Tower is an ideal place to begin. Walk around the tower to witness beautiful views of the Pearl River Delta or simple adore it from the observation deck built in glass – a perfect spot to gaze the city. And then, jump! The sky jump from this tower would be one of your wildest experiences ever.
One must visit, Senado Square, which has been the civic hub of the city for centuries. Furnished with beautiful fountains at the heart, the place essentially refl ects a Portuguese vibe. At the one end is the Municipal Affairs Bureau and on the exact opposite is the Holy House of Mercy, resting here since the 16th century. At the far end is the Dominic’s church, a spectacular example of baroque architecture with a magnifi cent altar and highlighted with wooden ceilings. Here, luxury international brands rub shoulders with local shops.
Macau is connected to mainland China and the islands of Taipa, Coloane and Cotai through three bridges. Taipa is probably one of the most beautiful cities you shall ever visit. The entire city is lined with architecture the colour of marshmallow, and bright fl owers in full bloom dot the streets. Coloane Island on the other hand is a perfect place to spend tranquil vacations. Known as Macau’s countryside, the area is circled with green hills and valleys and idyllic beaches. For added recreational activities, the beaches have facilities for sports including tennis courts and swimming pools. Or you can hire canoes and go exploring, or windsurf to your heart’s content.
Known as the Las Vegas of Asia, Macau boasts of luxurious hotels and casinos. One of them is the Venetian Macao Resort Hotel, an expansive property that astonishes you with its creative and magnifi cent ambience. From Gondola rides to luxurious shopping, you will fi nd everything here under one roof. The 35-storey property with almost 600 grand rooms is one of the largest here. The glass exteriors refl ect the hues of the South China Sea and the swell of the ocean surf.
In terms of entertainment, you have plenty of options – the House of Dancing Water, Dragon’s Treasure, Macau’s Giant Panda Pavilion and Fisherman’s Wharf are to name a few. The House of Dancing Water is an aqua show inspired from Chinese roots. At Dragon’s Treasure, the visual and sound-based show with sensory effects illustrates the story of the dragon Pearl and its mysterious power. These shows are especially ideal for kids. At Macau’s Giant Panda Pavilion, get up close and personal to these delightful animals. Fisherman’s wharf is an entertainment hub open at all hours of the day. From favourite fashion brands to various delectable dining options, you will stay busy here.
The city features plenty of glamorous casinos, which operate 24 hours. Macau has a large range of games including baccarat, blackjack, roulette, boule, fan tan and the universal favourite – slot machines. Connoisseurs and beginners gamble alike, trying their luck at winning.
Alongside the diverse cultural offerings, Macau’s gourmet cuisine will impress food lovers – there are many Portuguese, Italian and American-style teashops sprawled in the city. Try the crispy, melted Pastel de Nata egg tart, walnut cookies, sesame and peanut chikkis. The Portuguese infl uence is refl ected in many restaurants here and all of them serve the beloved Portuguese cuisine Bacalhau. Wine lovers should defi nitely sample the high quality Ribatej (red) and Joao Pires (white). The city also has a Portuguese wine museum where we experienced various wines that were sweet and sharp, red and white. Chinese cuisine is no doubt popular here but most restaurants serve mainly Cantonese.
As we prepared to depart after experiencing the multi-faceted and mystical Macau, we are sure that this journey would be one of the best that we have ever had.
The famous Venetian hotel at Macau.
The ruins of Saint Paul’s church designed in the early 17th century.
Entrance to the temple of A Ma, the goddess of the seafarers.

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