This is both a PREFACE and a MENU for my Macau posts.
I will be honest with you. I love Macau. How the oriental and the occidental blend here makes my inner travel nerdism go nerdier. It feels like home, twofold: Macau’s European face recalls the world I grew up in and its Chinese side reminds me what I have sold my soul to. I was born in a middle-sized city with an old town lined with baroque and classicist facades. But that was not Southern Europe. The Portuguese Macau summons up what is familiar while still having those hints of what is exotic to me on my own continent. The weeks and months spent on learning Asia, Asian and Asiatic, the tenacity with which I devoted myself to researching every nook and cranny of the Middle Kingdom, the love I have to food – I could not feel not like home in China. I lived in Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Guanzhou, so Southern China really became my temporary home.
Of course, Hong Kong is different than Shenzhen. It thrived while the Mainland was still troubled. If the skyscrapers of Guangzhou and Shanghai are new and flashy, the Hong Kongese ones are covered with a patina of the seventies and eighties. The two worlds lived on different rules, so naturally the people and the culture diverged too. Hong Kong was opened, cosmpolitan, energetic. For me, it’s pure fascination. Add my cineaste zeal to that and it’s clear that Hong Kong was destined to become my favorite place of Earth. Macau has the same feel: that energy and – especially – that patina. Alleys of once-new architecture and rusty neons. It feels like another district of Hong Kong, a bay away, just minus the businessman rushing to their offices at daybreak and with longer history and patches of magnificent colonial architecture.
A dash through the ages: 1510s – Portuguese merchants arrive; 1557 – China leases Macao to the Portuguese; 1560s – first churches, golden age; 1622 – Dutch attack repelled; 1640s – decline of importance; 1840s – British Hong Kong surpasses Macau in trade; 1887 – Treaty of Peking grants Portugal perpetual control; 1960s – gambling starts to get big; 1999 – sovereignty transferred from Portugal to People’s Republic of China, the first European colony in Asia ends as also the last one; 2000s – American gambling tycoons’ arrival boosts economy; 2006 – gaming revenues overtake Las Vegas.
And then the future: 2049 – economic and political autonomy of Macau will end as it is due to be fully incorporated into China. But this may not happen, as keeping it as a gambling hub may be too important financially.
The history of this place is long, but its size is small. During my six visits to Macau, I was able to walk almost every street of it. Each of my stays was short, taking from few hours to a maximum of two days. All were done from Guangzhou, where I lived at the time. It was easy: just a short bus ride to Zhuhai and then crossing the border on foot. I used special student-organized bus lines (schedule is published and tickets are booked on Wechat).
The rushed nature of those visits and my greedy desire to “see everything” meant no time for decent photo shoots. The amassed gigabytes of pictures cry for sharing nevertheless. My lens captured about (rough count) 10 churches, 25 Chinese temples and 14 museums, several casinos, restaurants, beaches, mountains… Writing about it took more time than the actual visits combined.
I decided to divide my Macanese experiences into 20 separate blog entries. I hope you will find it convenient to navigate. Here we go:
- 001 Macau. Around Senado Square
- 002 Macau. Company of Jesus Sq and Monte Fortress
- 003 Macau. Hidden in central Macau
- 004 Macau. Around the St. Augustine’s Square
- 005 Macau. Barra
- 006 Macau. Cotai
- 007 Macau. Taipa
- 008 Macau. Coloane camping
- 009 Macau. Coloane Village
- 010 Macau. Coloane Mountain
- 011 Macau. Around the Lotus Square
- 012 Macau. The Guia Fortress
- 013 Macau. Around Rua do Campo
- 014 Macau. St. Lazarus
- 015 Macau. Temples on Rua Figueira
- 016 Macau. Around the Camões Square
- 017 Macau. Beyond the Camões Square
- 018 Moviegoing in Macau
- 019 Macau. Northern Macau
- 020 UNESCO World Heritage Site hunt