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11 October 2011

Macau – Beyond the Glitzy Casinos [Part Two]

AirAsia Social Media team

By AirAsia Social Media team

So I’ve strike off 10 heritage sites from the Historic Centre of Macau which means 15 more to go! What’s next in the list – it’s no other than the famous Senado Square!

Now before I share about Senado Square, allow me to share why I think Macau is an unique place – it is the harmonious co-existence between the past (historical buildings)and current (modern buildings) where both blends in such a harmonious way that you do not feel that the buildings are not meant to be located in the same area or right next to each other.

That’s how I feel when I reached Senado Square (Largo do Senado) which are located in the centre of Macau’s business hub. A popular venue for public events, the square was also swarmed with people at any given time (I was there in the afternoon and evening, the phrase of “mountain people, mountain sea” is the perfect description of the scene :-P).

Walking on the traditional Portuguese cobblestone pavement while eye-feasting on the pastel-coloured buildings gives a bubbly and cheerful feeling – how can one not feel happy while being in Senado Square!

If you’ve visited Macau before, you would notice that there are quite a number of wave-patterned stones. According to a friend whose an expert in Macau, she explained that it actually represents sea waves and it represents the city’s maritime era in the past.

If you love cultural and shopping – Senado Square is perfect place for you with the rows of fashion labels (Giordano, Swatch, Levi’s etc) famous snacks (almond cookies, dried meat, peanut candies, pork burger etc) and international food eatries (Mc’Donald’s, Starbucks). Okay, enough of the modernity!

From Senado Square, I visited St. Dominic’s Church (also known as St. Domingos Church) where the first Portuguese newspaper – A Abelha da China (“The China Bee”) was published on Chinese soil. The church was founded in 1587 by three Spanish Dominican priests and was originally built in wood before it was rebuilt with stone in 1828. In my personal opinion, this church is one of the most attractive church with its bright yellow and green colour (you can’t missed it when you are in Senado Square).

If you love religious history, on the upper floor of St. Dominic’s Church is the Treasure of Sacred Art where contained a rich collections of artifacts such as ornamented canonicals, gold objects, religious paintings, statues etc.

My next stop is my most anticipated stop – the Ruins of St. Paul’s! As I walked past by the long stretch of shops in the narrow street, I wondered how would the facade of Ruins of St. Paul’s fits in such small space?? But like Alice in the Wonderland – the view ahead seemed to spread open like a horizontal wallpaper and there it is, the most iconic heritage site of Macau.

And this also means, it is swarmed by tourists like me and all busy clicking their camera and phone shutters away……. it wasn’t easy to find a spot to take picture where I can’t see a single tourist at this place. Haha~

Just before the steps of Ruins of St. Paul’s, you will notice a bronze statue of a Western-looking boy and a Chinese girl – known as “The Friendship Statue” (not sure if this is the exact name but that’s what my friend told me), apparently it symbolizes the friendship between the West and East. Although, I do wonder why must it be a boy and a girl? *grinned*

Built around 1602-1604, Ruins of St. Paul’s is what remained of Church of Mater Dei and the ruins of St. Paul’s College which stood adjacent to the Church. Both buildings were destroyed by fire in 1835. Why is this site my most anticipated place to visit is because long, long time ago, okay, maybe not that long, I watched a TVB drama series that uses Macau as the story backdrop. Hehe :-P

What I am going to say next, might get me killed but I was a little disappointed to find out that the facade is all there is for the Ruins of St. Paul’s. Of course, there is the Museum of Sacred Art & Crypt where the archaeological excavations of the site, paintings and remains of martyrs of Christians killed in 17th century but there weren’t sufficient information or the description are hardly visible (funny thing is only English descriptions weren’t visible). But my utmost disappointment is that when I came back and do more research on Ruins of St. Paul’s – I realized there’s a possibility that I missed out the actual Museum of Sacred Heart and Crypt T_T.

Since Macau Museum (Museu de Macau / Museum of Macau) and Mount Fortress are located nearby the facade I decided to check it out. On the way to the museum, I passed by the archaeological site of St. Paul’s College where the first western style university in the east once stood, along with the statue of Italian Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci.

Due to time constraints, I didn’t managed to enter the museum or explore the whole of Mount Fortress but I did managed to spent some time at the top platform of Mount Fortress which offers a view of the cityscape and also check out bits of the historical artifacts which are on display just outside the museum’s entrance.

Here’s a little background of Mount Fortress – situated on a hilltop to the east of the Ruins of St. Paul’s, it was constructed by the Jesuits from 1617 -1626, it was the city’s strongest defence point during the Dutch attack in 1622 and was turned into first residence for the governors of Macau. Within the fortress is the Macau Museum where Macau’s history and cultural heritage are preserved.

From Macau Museum, I went ahead to Na Tcha Temple which is located just beside Ruins of St. Pau’s. It is a relatively small (8.4 metres long and 4.51 metres wide only!), the simple but traditional temple dedicated to deity Prince Na Tcha (also known as Nezha/Na Zha/ Nata). It is built in 1888 and as it is situated in the prinicpal Jesuit area, the temple is one of the perfect example that showcased Macau’s unique multicultural identity :-)

Right next to the temple is Sections of the Old City Walls. Honestly, I would have missed it if it wasn’t thanks to my friend who nudged me that the wall is the surviving segment of the city’s defence structures which was built around 1569.

Along with my good old “bus no.11″ (otherwise known as my pair of legs), I headed to the next stop – Lou Kau Mansion. Home to a prominent Chinese merchant, Lou Kau , this mansion also represents the diverse social profiles in the principal Jesuits area. Believed to be built in 1889, the traditional grey brick two-storey building has a symmetric arrangement which it is organized in a three-by-three grid of spaces.

The house although are heavily Chinese influence in its structures. there are also subtle western influences, like rose window in one of the rooms. In present day, the mansion also held art performances from time to time and artists are also invited to display their artistic talents inside the mansion compound.

From the mansion, I headed back to Senado Square to visit the last three heritage sites on my list – Holy House of Mercy, Cathedral and Leal Senado. Actually it was more of it, “go, stop, take photos and move” when I arrived at Holy House of Mercy and Cathedral T_T

A quick background on The Holy House of Mercy, it was established by the First Bishop of Macau in 1569, is a charity organization modeled after the oldest charitable organizations in Portugal. It was also Macau’s first western-style medical clinic and other social and welfare needs for citizens of Macau that still functions to this date.

And another quick background on Cathedral – believed to built in 1622, Cathedral holds an interesting fact – the building was originally constructed with Taipa (compound material consists of soil and straw) and in the later centuries, it was restored twice in 1780 & 1850 (damaged by typhoon in 1836) where the church have monolithic subdued appearance as the exterior is clad in Shanghai plaster.

And finally…. I make my way to Leal Senado :-D Built in 1784, this building was the city’s municipal chamber, a function that still remained in present days. The name Leal Senado which means Loyal Senate derived from the title “City of Our Name of God Macao, There Is None More Loyal” bestowed by Portuguese King D. John IV. Although it is still functioning, visitors may go in to the gallery and courtyard garden to see the beautiful neoclassical design and its original master walls and primary layout.

Sadly, as the remaining heritage sites were a little far and time was not on my side, I had to forgo visiting St. Anthony’s Church, Casa Garden, Protestant Cemetery and Guia Fortress :-(

But this does not mean that I’ve ended my story about my journey in Macau! Yes, there is Part 3 where I will share few places of interest and some of the delicious food that I tasted in Macau.Here’s a sneak peek of Part 3:

Stay tuned for it! For now, check out the photos for Part 2 on Facebook album @ http://on.fb.me/nfeh7t

P/s: If you’ve missed out Part 1 of my journey, you may read the blog @ & check out the Facebook album @ http://t.co/34cAPbAc

Cheers,
SP (AirAsia Social Media Team)