My first Asian city on this trip was Hong Kong. This travelogue begins with Macao because the full roll of film I had taken in Hong Kong was ruined by an incompetent photo shop employee. The owner apologized profusely but the 37 shots were lost nonetheless. I have been in Hong Kong twice before and have some old photos so I might yet post some pictures of the place someday. Macao is similar in function to Hong Kong but it differs by a charming touch of colonial Portuguese trimmings. Actually I think it is more than trimmings, to me, the people appeared more laid back and contented, almost as if they had time to enjoy life which is not the case in Hong Kong.
Most people reach Macao via Hong Kong which has much better air connections from all over the world. Several ferries run the 65 km. distance at different speeds and prices. These Turbo Cats do it in less than one hour for 50 US$. They are fully booked on weekends when an army of gamblers invade Macao.
It is fitting that the first shot of Macao be that of a Casino, there are many to suit all styles and pocketbooks. I visited one of the floating casinos just to see the show. It was interesting because there were chance games I had not seen before. What surprised me most was the young age of the gamblers! The place I visited must have been specialized for most players were rich teen agers from Hong Kong wasting their parent's money.
Macao will return to China in 1999, 442 years after being ceded to the Portuguese in 1557. This fine building is not that old but it was the seat of the local government for a long time before housing the Macao Library and some municipal offices. The "Largo do Senado" square where it stands used to be the center of Portuguese Macao. The wavy black and white stone pavement is similar to that I have seen in another ex-Portuguese city, Rio de Janeiro.
Macao's Portuguese legacy is still more evident than Hong Kong's British origins because the rate of growth has been slower here. That is changing however and these colonial buildings around the main city square are threatened by high rise office towers as the fever of China's growth spills over the border from Zhuhai.
Behind this European facade lies a warren of picturesque narrow streets filled with pedestrians and bicycle riders dodging the occasional car as they go from shop to shop and haggle on price. I will show a photo of the main street of this Chinese area after four more pictures of Portuguese traces.
Most remnants of Portuguese colonial architecture, like this stately home with its high ceilinged large rooms and elegant balcony, are hemmed-in by drab modern buildings.
On a hill in the center of Macao still stand two vestiges of Portuguese domination, a fort and this ruin of a majestic cathedral dedicated to Saint Paul in 1602. Both were built by the Jesuits who controlled Portugal's colonial expansion at that time.
This is the "Fort of the Mountain" built on the highest hill to impress the Chinese and to protect Portugal's holdings from competing Dutch imperialists.
The Portuguese were masters here as the British were in Hong Kong but the population always was and still is essentially Chinese. The original temple built on this site to honor the goddess of seafarers A-Ma dates from the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644). Boat people still come here to ask for protection from storms at sea.
This is the main street of the old Chinese Macao hidden behind the Portuguese facade of the Largo do Senado. It is quiet very early in the morning but fills up quickly as shoppers flock to the neighbouring alleys.
I just could not resist taking a shot of these appetizing glazed ducks hanging in the storefront of a shop getting ready for the day's business.
On the left, the doorway with the yellow pillars leads into the Hospedaje Vo Peng where I slept a few nights on a very hard bed.
This is a Lorcha, a type of cargo boat traditionally used on the Pearl river up to Guangzhou and beyond. Behind is Macao's maritime museum
This busy street, lined with sea terminals and floating casinos on the waterfront side, is named for the Lorchas that used to tie-up here.
Today, business dominates Macao as it does Hong Kong. The charming Portuguese architecture, the quaint "old China" alleys and even the exciting casinos are being replaced by office buildings... Romantic Macao is a thing of the past but its economic future is bright. The process of change is accelerating and it will rejoin booming China in two years.