The World of Chinese - - Editor's Letter -

Yes, it's a den of sin and vice—but what is there to do with the kids? Learn more about Ma­cau's his­tory, Por­tuguese ar­chi­tec­ture, and In­di­ana Jones trivia with David W. Kay as he tra­verses China's gam­bling mecca with kids in tow.

Peer­ing through the ru­ins of St. Paul’s Cathe­dral, an iconic fa­cade that jus­ti­fi­ably serves as one of Ma­cau’s most in­stantly rec­og­niz­able tourist at­trac­tions, you can, if you po­si­tion your­self just right, catch a pro­found glimpse of the “real” Ma­cau. Framed by one of St. Paul’s stone door­ways, the city’s sky­scrapers glim­mer al­lur­ingly in the dis­tance, a strik­ing jux­ta­po­si­tion that neatly sum­ma­rizes the core ap­peal of this for­mer Por­tuguese colony. In Ma­cau, you see, the sa­cred rub shoul­ders with

the sin­ful, the high-brow walk hand in hand with the low, and the city’s in­tox­i­cat­ing mix of Mediter­ranean mys­tique and Pearl River Delta divin­ity is un­for­get­table.

How­ever, whereas most go to try their luck in roulette and rib­aldry, I was un­sure how Ma­cau would be with two hy­per­ac­tive ru­grats in tow. It’s a play­ground for adults with cash to burn, yes, but can this city of se­rial sin keep the fam­ily en­ter­tained? In short, yes. Though it’s fa­mous as be­ing Asia’s Las Ve­gas (which is an un­der­state­ment be­cause it far sur­passes Ve­gas in terms of gam­bling rev­enue), it’s also a city of his­tory, cul­ture, and leisure—if you know where to look.

Ma­cau is in­un­dated with top-class ho­tels, from the iconic ge­o­desic dome of the Grand Lis­boa Ho­tel & Casino—an eye-catch­ing struc­ture that re­sem­bles a gi­ant lotus leaf and in­cludes a much-lauded Miche­lin Star restau­rant—to funky old-town ex-flop­houses that still re­tain the gritty glam­our of the city’s glory days. Ma­cau has some­thing for ev­ery­one, ac­com­mo­da­tion-wise.

For fam­i­lies look­ing for a haven of tran­quil­ity amongst the city’s bus­tle, the rea­son­ably priced Grand Lapa Ho­tel comes highly rec­om­mended, not only for its won­der­fully leafy and peace­ful out­door pool area, but for its lo­ca­tion and cour­te­ous staff. In the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity of the Grand Lapa there are a num­ber of play­grounds and small restau­rants on hand, in­clud­ing the lovely Dr. Car­los d’as­sumpção Park, which stretches all the way down to the Pearl River es­tu­ary, af­ford­ing lovely views of the cityscape.

Ma­cau by Foot

If you plan on stay­ing in Ma­cau for just two or three days, then you’ll want to try and cram in as many of the city’s mul­ti­tude of at­trac­tions and sights as you pos­si­bly can, which in a city of Ma­cau’s rel­a­tively puny size is re­ally not much of a prob­lem. In fact, most of the city’s ma­jor tourist at­trac­tions are within walk­ing dis­tance of one an­other, which is great news for peo­ple who like to take in the sights on foot, ex­plor­ing lesstrav­eled nooks and cran­nies as they go. A good place to be­gin your walk­ing tour of Ma­cau is at the foot of the afore­men­tioned Grand Lis­boa Ho­tel & Casino, which will give you and your fam­ily a glimpse of the city at its most brash and glitzy. The Casino Lis­boa is my per­sonal fa­vorite casino in this area; it’s a charm­ingly retro struc­ture with an iconic or­ange and white tilde façade that ra­di­ates an ice-cool kind of 1960’s gam­bling glam­our. At night the area flicks a switch and be­comes

a kalei­do­scopic panorama of gaudy neon and flash­ing LED.

From here, vis­i­tors can take a short walk along the splen­did Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, also com­monly known as San Ma Lo (新马路), to­ward the famed Largo do Se­nado, a square known for its dis­tinc­tive black and white tiled floor and sur­round­ing colo­nialera Por­tuguese build­ings, which com­bine to cre­ate a unique scene. In fact, Mediter­ranean-style tile mo­saics and de­tails are a ma­jor fea­ture of Ma­cau’s over­all aes­thetic, from the hand­some public path­ways lit­tered with in­ter­est­ing tile cre­ations to sun-kissed white and blue road signs that you’ll see dot­ting the roads and al­leys. Fac­ing the square is the rather grand Leal Se­nado (“Loyal Se­nate”), which is one of Ma­cau’s most im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal build­ings. It got its name from the leg­isla­tive body that sat here dur­ing Spain’s 60-year ten­ure over Por­tu­gal in the 1600s. The loyal group re­fused to rec­og­nize Spain’s sovereignty over their home­land, and af­ter Por­tu­gal re-claimed its in­de­pen­dence, King João IV or­dered a heraldic in­scrip­tion to be placed in­side the en­trance hall, which can still be seen to­day. With plenty of space for the kids to run around, Largo do Se­nado is a good place to take re­fresh­ment and pause, as a num­ber of at­trac­tive restau­rants vie for your at­ten­tion and hard-earned Ma­canese pat­aca. Sur­rounded by at­trac­tive pas­tel colo­nial-era struc­tures, the square re­ally does trans­port you back to the “old coun­try.”

Rested and well-nour­ished from egg tarts and other lo­cal del­i­ca­cies, you can then take a rather lovely walk to­wards Ma­cau’s piece de re­sis­tance, the famed ru­ins of St. Paul’s Cathe­dral, and take in a num­ber of charm­ing, idio­syn­cratic sights along the way. One such sight is the the Igreja de São Domin­gos, a gor­geous, lemon-col­ored 17th-cen­tury Baroque church that sits just to the rear of Largo do Se­nado and is one of many fine re­li­gious struc­tures you will find in Ma­cau.

Form­ing a de­li­cious jux­ta­po­si­tion with the opu­lent Por­tuguese man­sions and gar­risons found around Largo de Se­nado—and hand­ily en-route to the Ru­ins of St. Paul’s—is the snap­pily named Rua da Feli­ci­dade, aka Ma­cau’s Street of Hap­pi­ness (福隆新街). Along this short and nar­row al­ley you get an au­then­tic glimpse at how the city’s Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion lived in the midst of what was, dur­ing the 19th and early 20th cen­tury at least, a bustling, full-blooded Por­tuguese colony. Here, in stark con­trast to the sunny pas­tel tones and elab­o­rate façades found else­where, the build­ings are uni­formly light grey and bril­liant red, ac­cen­tu­ated with fine wood­work de­tails and in­scrip­tions that re­count largely for­got­ten lo­cal le­gends. The an­tithe­sis of new Ma­cau’s shiny malls and casi­nos, the Rua da Feli­ci­dade of­fers a look at how or­di­nary peo­ple once lived in this most in­trigu­ing city.

While the Street of Hap­pi­ness’ ar­ray of lo­cal snacks and souvenir shops may put a smile on your face nowa­days, back in the day it was more sala­cious pur­suits that gave pun­ters rea­son to cheer, as the Rua da Feli­ci­dade was Ma­cau’s res­i­dent red light district. A bona fide den of in­iq­uity, the street was home to pros­ti­tutes, gam­blers, boot­leg­gers, and much more be­side, the knowl­edge of which adds an­other level of mys­tery to this rick­ety, uniquely mem­o­rable thor­ough­fare.

When you fi­nally make it to the Ru­ins of St. Paul’s—al­ready feel­ing oddly fa­mil­iar with the view no doubt thanks to its ubiq­uity when­ever one Googles Ma­cau—the lo­ca­tion’s beauty is nonethe­less undimmed. Set at the top of a hill that com­mands fine views of the snazzy mod­ern Ma­cau sky­line be­yond, the ru­ins ra­di­ate a pro­found, stoic kind of power that stems from not only the site’s in­her­ent re­li­gions con­no­ta­tions, but from the fact that, de­spite


all the changes tak­ing place right un­der its nose, some things re­main un­changed. In this sense, the ru­ins of­fer a fas­ci­nat­ing win­dow into an­other world, to a long-gone era.

Built be­tween 1602 and 1640, the struc­ture was once one of the largest Catholic churches in Asia, but as Ma­cau’s stand­ing in the world waned in the 19th cen­tury, the build­ing was de­stroyed by a mon­ster typhoon in 1835. To­day all that re­mains is its mag­nif­i­cent façade. In­tri­cately carved by Ja­panese Chris­tians, the site is quite rightly the jewel in Ma­cau’s glit­ter­ing crown, and any visit to the city ought to in­clude a good hour or so at the ru­ins, tak­ing in both the mar­velous artistry of the church it­self and the won­der­ful views of Ma­cau that stretch out be­yond. More­over, if you time your visit right, you’ll find your­self in an ideal place to watch the sun­set be­fore jump­ing in a rick­shaw to head back to your lodg­ings (and to get those lit­tle ones into their pa­ja­mas).

In­di­ana Jones and the bairro de são Lázaro

For film buffs out there, Ma­cau also serves as the back­drop for the open­ing scenes of 1984’s In­di­ana Jones and the Tem­ple of Doom, in which Dr. Jones finds him­self in a glitzy old Shanghai nightspot look­ing for that blasted an­ti­dote. Ma­cau was cho­sen as the lo­ca­tion for the film’s open­ing bit by di­rec­tor Steven Spiel­berg thanks to its nar­row streets and colo­nial-era ar­chi­tec­ture that, back in the early 80s at least, bore strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties to pre-world War II Shanghai.

If you’re so in­clined, you can kick off Day Two of your Ma­cau ad­ven­ture by tak­ing a short cab ride to the lo­ca­tion used as the ex­te­rior of Club Obi Wan (lo­cated on Praça de Ponte e Horta on the site of the Best Western Ho­tel Sun Sun), in­side which Dr. Jones got into all kinds of trou­ble with Lao Che and his shady hench­men. Although the lovely lime green build­ing used in the movie is now a bland chain ho­tel, it’s still worth vis­it­ing as, in my book at least, some of the movie’s magic still lingers in the air.

To see more In­di­ana Jones lo­ca­tions, head to­ward the nearby San Ma Lo, where the re­sult­ing car chase through “old Shanghai” was filmed (i.e. “Hey Lady! You call him Doc­tor Jones!”). While in the neigh­bor­hood, you can have a spot of Por­tuguese lunch in the de­light­ful MS Blos­som Cafe near the Best Western Ho­tel Sun Sun and op­po­site a small city park.

Since you will have cov­ered all the most fa­mous Ma­cau spots on your first day, the best thing to do on Day Two is to sim­ply fol­low your nose and ex­plore on foot. That is what my fam­ily and I did and were re­warded with an area of star­tling beauty named the Bairro de São Lázaro (望德堂坊). This el­e­gant, tree-lined col­lec­tion of bunting-fes­tooned down­town

blocks is per­haps one of Ma­cau’s best kept se­crets, loved more by lo­cals than the tourists who some­times strug­gle to see be­yond the twin lure of the casi­nos and the Ru­ins of St. Paul’s.

Wan­der­ing around, mar­veling at the al­most per­fect, yel­low-tinted street scene as dap­pled sun­light dances on the ground, it truly is hard to be­lieve that you’re in Asia and not in some sleepy Mediter­ranean aldeia. Elab­o­rate, clas­si­cal façades cast long shad­ows on black and white tiled squares, and even the street lamps here are works of art. On the Sun­day that my fam­ily and I vis­ited the area, a bustling arts and crafts fair spilled out onto the pedes­trian streets, and a group of im­mac­u­lately turned out school chil­dren sat in the sun per­form­ing a clas­si­cal recital.

Lo­cated in this stun­ning area is the Al­ber­gue da Santa Casa da Mis­er­icór­dia (or Al­ber­gue SCM), a shaded, pic­turesque walled court­yard sur­rounded by gnarled ivy-cov­ered trees and yet more im­mac­u­late Por­tuguese-style build­ings. A cul­tural hub for Ma­cau’s Por­tuguese roots, you’ll find a small art ex­hi­bi­tion space here that usu­ally houses free art shows as well as a neat lit­tle shop spe­cial­iz­ing in Por­tuguese prod­ucts called Marcearia. More­over, if you want a tra­di­tional Por­tuguese meal, the lo­cal restau­rant Al­ber­gue 1601 is very pop­u­lar—and there can be few bet­ter places to re­cline and en­joy a nice glass of red whilst the kids run around the shaded court­yard in the whole city. The dis­cov­ery the Al­ber­gue da Santa Casa da Mis­er­icór­dia was one of the high­lights of the trip.

As your short trip comes to an end, close by is the Vin­tage Mar­ket, a trea­sure trove-like vin­tage store jam-packed full of cool threads, retro knick-knacks, and funky gifts. Owner Ter­en­tius Jorge Chan, a fash­ion­able young man with a love of all things sepia and nos­tal­gic, rep­re­sents a new gen­er­a­tion of in­ter­na­tional-minded Ma­cau res­i­dents who com­bine a deep love of their home city with wider ap­pre­ci­a­tion of pop cul­ture from Ja­pan, the United States, Eu­rope, and be­yond. Next to Vin­tage Mar­ket is a shop that spe­cial­izes in vin­tage fur­ni­ture and is also run by Mr. Jorge Chan. Look­ing for unique gifts to take home? Well, look no fur­ther.

Let’s face it, fam­ily or no, you will want to step into a few of the casi­nos if for noth­ing else than the am­biance and tales to tell. From the im­pres­sive Wynn Ma­cau, an opu­lent, bronze-tinted glass mono­lith that sits on the mouth of Nam Van Lake (which in it­self is worth vis­it­ing if only for its lovely tree-lined shore­side public boule­vard) to the im­pos­ing Ma­cau Tower, which af­fords un­beat­able views of this won­der­ful city, Ma­cau’s mix of the old and the new, of the fu­tur­is­tic with the his­tor­i­cal, makes a city ex­cur­sion here one that you and your fam­ily will re­mem­ber for years to come.

As with many small, dense cities, you will al­ways feel as if you are inches away from some­thing novel and truly spec­tac­u­lar. Ma­cau’s lim­it­less ar­ray of charms makes it a unique, his­tor­i­cally rich, and sur­pris­ing city in­deed.

Largo do Se­nado Square

Bairro de São Lázaro

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