Macau. Coloane camping
Camping in Macau. Sounds unreal? You imagine Macau as a small city stuffed with splashy casinos casting shadow over old colonial architecture. Correct. This is pretty much how it looks like on the peninsula. But there are also the islands.
Taipa must have had a small town feel before the Cotai Strip was constructed, mirroring the Las Vegas Strip and bringing crowds and crowds and crowds. The other island though, still remains calm. Coloane is dominated by a green mountain surrounded by villages and beaches. There is enough green area to forget about the urban extravaganza just few kilometers to the north. It offers some modest trekking oportunities – they pale in comparison to the hundreds of kilometers of walking trails in Hong Kong, but it’s better than nothing. The beaches are tiny but quite lovely. When I realized that this area exists, I was thrilled and started to check if there is any information about people camping there. The examples I’ve googled were not promising, but the world belongs to the brave, doesn’t it?
CHEOC VAN 竹灣
I set off from Guangzhou with a tent in my backpack. This wasn’t my virgin visit to Macau, but it was the first time I went beyond Praia Grande – the bay that separates the peninsular and the island part of the city. I filled my stomach in Zhuhai before crossing the China-Macau border, took the free shuttle bus to the Galaxy resort in Cotai, watched a movie, used some wi-fi and left the complex after sunset.
Getting out of the megacasinos area takes a while, then the route runs along Estrada do Istmo. Originally, it was a causeway linking two islands, now turned into a street. There are no buildings around so it was like walking into darkness. On my left I passed a water reservoir and on my right a golf course. Next was a modern residential buildings area. Here, I checked the map on my phone to find Estrada de Seac Pai Van. This street has been named after the bay (石排灣) that existed before it was filled with land, casinos, golf course and all. The road takes a curve to bypass the hilly area, then passes the vicinities of Coloane Village, goes a little bit up and then down again, to the Cheoc Van beach 竹灣海灘. It all took about an hour.
This beach is really small. There are some trees and benches and a small building with public changing rooms and toilets. I did not pitch my tent here because of the many lamp posts – I preferred to find a darker place so I continued walking up the Estrada de Cheoc Van.
Half hour later, I reached the Hac Sa 黑沙 settlement, where there is a bigger beach surrounded by a residential area. It was late and the town was asleep. I walked around but didn’t find a satisfactory spot. It’s too urbanized. I retraced my steps to a small roadside park nestled somewhere between Hac Sa and Cheoc Van. It had benches and some outdoor exercise equipment. Several cars passed, casting beacons of light scanning through the darkness, but I was able to find a place in the rear corner and behind the trees that was relatively hidden from those penetrating rays. I felt out of sight enough to sleep comfortably until dawn without thinking about the passing vehicles. The fact that this was also an outdoor gym meant that the slumber should not last long enough to encounter the elderly residents flocking to flex their muscles.
I woke up, packed and walked back down towards Cheoc Van. On the way I took photos of a Christian sculpture next to Centro de Conferencias de Cheoc Van building.
I continued that day with a thorough exploration of Coloane Village. To read more about it, click my separate Coloane Village article.
HAC SA 黑沙
That camping went successful, but if you ask me where to pitch a tent in Macau, I would certainly not recommend that particular spot. There must be some better places up the mountain, on the Coloane Hiking Trail. But to find it you would need to do some walking. Much better option is what seems to be the only legal campsite in Macau, the Hac Sa Beach camping. It is fenced and has BBQ facilities and toilets. The crucial thing: you need to call ahead (telephone number: 28337676) or arrive early enough, between 12:00 and 17:00. That is actually why I pitched wild during my first try. When I revisited Coloane Island several months later, I already knew about this rule. I arrived early and secured my spot by checking in. There is a guard that will ask you to leave your signature in a special book.
To get there, take any city bus (paid) to Hac Sa or a shuttle (free) to the Westin Hotel near the beach. There are two places with such shuttles: 1. the ferry terminal (convenient if you are coming from Hong Kong or if you are already in Macau and visiting around), 2. City of Dreams resort in Cotai (convenient if you are already around Cotai or if you are coming from Zhuhai – cross the border and take the free shuttle to the City of Dreams first, then wait there for the shuttle to Westin).
Hac Sa 黑沙 is a relaxed village/town separated from the rest of the island by the Coloane Mountain. The beach is the best in Macau, but do not expect anything big or exceptionally beautiful. The residential area has some tall buildings, so naturally there are also some shops but there is no big supermarket. Another tip: you may want to use the wifi in the Westin Hotel lobby.
The fact that the camping area is fenced gives you a feeling of having a temporary home. I went for a walk on the beach to catch the evening breeze and did some people watching around the barbeque stalls near Hac Sa’s key local bus stop.
There are also restaurants. I checked their menus and interiors, for both pure pleasure of seeing and smelling and to choose a place to go later in the evening. Restaurante do Parque Hac-Sa seemed reasonably priced and had an interesting pub-like feel. I returned for a meal. Their offer is a mix of Portuguese/Macanese cuisine and international fare, including borstch. The menu is long and heavy with seafood dishes which is of no surprise for a beachside restaurant. I ordered a glass of wine and a plate of African Chicken (galinha à Africana, 非洲雞), a Macanese classic. I tried to research why the dish is named after the Dark Continent, but I failed to find an unequivocal answer. It may seem that the recipe must be centuries old and date to the time when the Portuguese navigators swang back and forth between Africa, India and China. But the best articles I’ve found (including this one) suggest that it was created in the mid-20th century. What leaves no doubt is the fact that it became popular and even hailed as Macau’s national dish. Its execution varies from cook to cook and the grilled chicken sometimes just about swims in the curry-like sauce. This restaurant’s incarnation is way drier, perhaps bringing it closer to Mozambican Piri-piri Chicken.
KA HO 九澳
After that try, Hac Sa became my favorite place to base myself in Macau.
One time, my plan was to get from here to the Cotai casinos on foot, passing through Ka-Ho Village. Hac Sa is about 2 kilometers from Ka-Ho, from where there is another 3 to the megacasinos. I packed my tent and set off early in the morning.
The village of Ka Ho 九澳 occupies the northeastern tip of Coloane. Its Chinese name, “nine inlets,” was actually one of the monikers given to the whole island before the name “Coloane” was coined by the Portuguese. It is one of the least developed parts of Macau. The inhabitants belong mostly to one clan, Chong, which settled here in 19th century. They may be soon gone as eventually either the urban sprawl or the tourism/gambling tycoons will get here.
I dropped by a small shrine near the bay. Sam Seng Temple 三聖廟 takes its name, “Three Saints”, from the three deities worshiped here: Hung Shing 洪聖, Kuan Tai 關帝 and Tam Kung 譚公.
It was still early when I got to Cotai. The mammoth-sized casino resorts were shining in the sun. I took a bus that took me over the Praya Grande Bay, back to Macau, where I continued sightseeing as heatedly as always.
For more articles click the Macau category.