Macau (II) Main Peninsula

Today for the older parts of the main peninsula of Macau, hoping to find those Portuguese-looking places you probably know from guide books, the internet or elsewhere. And I did indeed find them, following the “90 minute peninsula walk” suggested by a flyer of the Tourist information.

Before I started I seeked and found the Air Macau office where I could change my next leg to Taipei easily and at no cost by one day, now scheduled for Taipei on July 4. Later, in the evening in the hotel it was actually more difficult to get the hotel stay extended. Not because they didn’t want. They even offered me a very fair rate close to the internet rate. It was more that the (experienced and very well English-speaking) clerk on duty kept insisting that if I extend by one day I would want to check out tomorrow already. Which is kinda crazy if you head for the reception at 6pm and then extend only. That would mean that you had exceeded your original check-out time already by 6 hours. But he insisted if I extend by one day then I would check out next day. I said, whatever your computer says: I want to check out on July 4. Ok, he replied, then you extend by two days? OK, ok…if that pleases the computer… 5 minutes later I remembered that I had received breakfast vouchers on first check-in and returned to the front desk, asking for breakfast voucher for the additional (one) day, showing him the voucher I still had for tomorrow. That understandably confused the poor clerk, who had already started writing two vouchers. He could not conceive where I had tomorrow’s voucher from.

AM_20070702_101521.jpg: OK….back to my 90-minute walk: It did not even require to find the tourist information first as my hotel had provided me with a load of flyers after just asking for a city map. The only thing, which did not exactly meet my needs in terms of details, was that very map I got from the hotel, focusing on shopping opportunities and being not so detailed regarding the actual streets of Macau. And there are many small ones. So I did seek for the Tourist Information in the hope of getting a better map. Well…the Tourist Information is in the yellow building of this picture, right at the Largo do Senado (note: Largo is square, not lake…), in the center of the old city. And I did get a different map, though it was not much more detailed than the Shopping Map before. At least all that was so far for free.

AM_20070702_103218.jpg: As it so chanced…there was a Starbucks only a few meters away ;)) So far the only one I saw. But the weather was terribly hot with very high humidty. So hot that I later for the first time even unzipped and removed the lower part of my trouser legs, henceforth running around in shorts, which looks a bit funny when combined with hiking boots. But it was unbearable. Look at my Caramel Frappuchino! (An iced coffee.) Although in the shadow under the archway of that yellow building it did emit small fog clouds of condense water, just by sitting there on the table, so hot and humid the surrounding air was!

AM_20070702_105918.jpg: Now for the actual walk, leading over a number of sights of old Macau with its Portuguese history. The green building is the Dom Pedro V Theater, the yellow one across the St. Augustine’s Church,

AM_20070702_110038.jpg: …which from the inside looks like this: Simple, but pleasant, and especially quite bright due to large windows letting in the blistering sun. Just in front of me a small Chinese tourist group with guide passed by the church without getting in. I was the only one inside, feeling it necessary to even greet the otherwise entirely bored guards.

AM_20070702_110443.jpg: Over all the nice Portuguese features presented here we shall not forget that we are still in China. Most streets look like this or worse. There are many Portguese highlights scattered over the town, but there are rarely two or three buildings sitting together in one spot before you need to walk another 10 or more minutes until reaching the next.

AM_20070702_111444.jpg: The famous St. Laurance’s Church. Unfortunately closed due to renovation. I have quite a luck regarding renovations…

AM_20070702_111841.jpg: Further downhill, facing the waterfront, this garden of the Macau SAR (Special Administration Region) Headquarter. Right here the first rain shower surprised me, heavy but short. The tree under which I seeked protection, did not leak much, thanks!

AM_20070702_114230.jpg: The water front is partly very nicely made with narrow promenade ways around. No cafes, though, and still more room for cars than for pedestrians, but at least there is a way.

AM_20070702_115128.jpg: The Portuguese Consulate Generale, sitting at the slopes of a hill. I later on also passed by it on the way to Penha Chapel.

AM_20070702_154756.jpg: A lot later, after finishing the 90-minute walk, I came by chance across this other Portuguese Consulate in the old city center (now I know: it is actually the former mansion of the governour, but I passed by again: It is used nowadays as a consulate). I surely understand that Portugal still maintains a representative consulate, but even two of them no more than 2 kilometers apart from each other? OK…this second one was actually quite busy with many locals running in and out.

AM_20070702_121104.jpg: Next to the Consulate General, a bit higher on the very top of the hill, sits Penha Chapel as part of the Bishop’s Palace. This picture from its courtyard looks across towards Taipa island, seeing the markant Macau Tower. This one stands some 350 plus meters tall, which is certainly not small. But still I was surprised to read that this is sufficient to be the 10th tallest free standing structure in the world. It’s not exactly beautiful either. You could go up for some views around. Or do bungee jumping from its platform at the ball, which is certainly not bad, I’d guess some 200m deep! Or, for the really crazy: There are stairs reaching from the ball up to the very top of the needle! Sure…outside! And, yea, I am not joking! For some fee unknown to me you get safety equippment and then you can climb these stairs to stand more or less free on the top of that needle. I have seen advertisment picture…they really offer it. No, I’ve not even faintly considered doing so. I did not even get into the tower just for the lift into the ball, as that is usually highly overpriced.

AM_20070702_121120.jpg: Nearly same point of view, but looking lower and a bit more to the right: I have not figured out what that actually is, but I later walked along the tennis courts reading something like “Military Tennis Club” or so. Don’t know if the entire rose compound belongs to this military club.

AM_20070702_121310.jpg: Let’s not forget that I climbed this partly steep hill (“im Schweiße meines Angesichts” as the German would say, allthough it was more like “mit viel Schweiß in meinem Gesicht”, which simply means “having a lot of sweat in my face”, but is a standing term for any kind of hard work, but today it was meant literally) to reach Penha Chapel. Here we go! There were varius wedding picture activities going on. (For the non-Chinese readers: The Chinese have this crazy habbit of copying western-style wedding ceremonies, but at the same time overdoing it; their wedding pictures are all posed and are done weeks in advance of the actual wedding, usually involving an entire day of driving around [I have seen a tour coach full of dressed ‘wedding couples’ in BeiJing], changing dresses, and posing in front of pittoreske backgrounds; the resulting picture book is then ready on the actual wedding day, laid out for the guests to browse, and has nothing to do with the wedding ceremony as such; complete fake…) I was still too kind to take a picture of the wedding couple in the church while posing for the photographer, but the three people you now see at the front of the church are actually one of the couples plus their photographer and they study the just made picture (the bride unfortunatelly hidding behind the photographer). What has that to do with memories of the wedding??? If they don’t like the picture then they’d just pose again….and again….

AM_20070702_121420.jpg: The church from the outside.

AM_20070702_121637.jpg: Still on the very same hill, but now looking more or less north. “China over there”, as a souvenir seller announced to me. Which is right: Across the small band of water is GuangZhou province of China’s mainland. Don’t forget…a peninsula is not an island because it has connection to the mainland, so the mainland can’t be far away… 😉 There actually is a “Border Gate” in Macau’s north, which happens to be the terminus for many bus routes, but it can be crossed. Maybe I get there one day…I’d still like to see how the handle the change of traffic from left-sided (Macau) to right-sided (China mainland). I had the typical English-Chinese mixture chat with some souvenir sellers who complained about having no business, but had realistically no hopes either that I would buy any of their kitsch. But at least I gave them a 5-minute change in their day-long silence.

AM_20070702_122138.jpg: Futher down the road, slowly going down-hill, a few attempts of modern villas. Doesn’t exactly fit…

AM_20070702_122730.jpg: Can’t exactly say what this is either, must fullfill some governmental purpose looking at the Chinese flag. But at least they preserved the original Portuguese structure and especially the bright color typical for the preserved Portuguese buildings here.

AM_20070702_124124.jpg: Detail of an otherwise shabby house at the water front, next to a hospital. These blue-tiled Christian scene was the only eye-catcher.

AM_20070702_125821.jpg: The Gate of Understanding, a monument to Sino-Portuguese friendship. Looks like China and Portugal need to urgently revisit their understanding: The gate is in a pittyfull state, no longer accessible to tourists (and at an inconvenient location for tourists anyway), overgrown with grass, some pillars holding the bridge tilted…

AM_20070702_125909.jpg: The gate in combination with nearby Sai Van Bridge, then at least looking monumental, though the grass still leaks inbetween the pillars.

AM_20070702_131500.jpg: A Ma Temple, erected by the first fishermen settling on the island. It is believed that the name Macau comes from “A Ma” after a number of sound changes.

AM_20070702_131831.jpg: At the very top of the temple grounds are these two miniature figures (no taller than 10cm), but still they receive worshippers.

Again here hordes of tourists, which are dropped off by tour coaches.

AM_20070702_133111.jpg: Next to the A Ma Temple is the Maritime Museum. Given its outer appearance I doubted if I wanted to enter it, but eventually did and without regrets. First of all it is very cool in there… 😉 then it is just 10 MOP$ (10 MOP$ ≈ 10 HK$ ≈ 10 RMB ≈ 1 Euro). It’s not big, but has some really nice exhibits, here an example of what mussels look like after 1 to 5 years in a mussel farm.

AM_20070702_133404.jpg: Many models deal with fishing techniques: How do the nets/hooks work, how cooperate several ships if necessary.

AM_20070702_140122.jpg: A model of an old Chinese wheel-driven ship (remember: China was a great sea nation for just and only 3 or 4 decades). The ship has a total of 23 weels (don’t know why this is an odd number…but so that inscription says), which as you can see are driven by men at handles in the ship’s body.

I slowly walked back towards the city center for a coffee and then consulted all the material I had for a reasonable restaurant. Near the A Ma Temple had been 2 or 3, but I didn’t want to walk all the way back, and it wasn’t close to the hotel either. There were indications about restaurants being in Rua S. Domingos and Rua Central. But in the first one I found none at all, and the second had only a number of Chinese eateries. Walking up and down the streets I started to become desperate again…not the same story as in ChengDu, please! I came across Japanese and even Shanghainese restaurants, but what I wanted was a Portuguese, that’s what I’m here for! I finally found one along Alameda Dr. Carlos D’Assumpção. As it was a little early I headed further on, wanting to see this Kun Iam statue, not exactly knowing what kind of importance Kun Iam plays. But sudden really heavy rain stopped me next to a place called “Cafe Latte”. What a coincidence 😉 They had cozy tables and seats in rattan-design (through made from plastic) outside under an arcade, well protected from the rain. I sat down…and nobody came to take my order. Some minutes later a nearby table having the same problem was successful in getting the attention of a waiter. But I had to stop him on his way back otherwise he would have passed by me again. And then this Chinese guy didn’t understand my attempt (in 3 languages…) to try to order a cafe latte. I was even pointing to the name of the cafe, which inside looked more like a Chinese eatery. After some back and forth he seem to have understood something like coffee. Well…in god’s name…just bring me anything with caffein…surprising, though, that a place called “Cafe Latte” wouldn’t offer cafe latte. Nothing happened for another 10 minutes and I was already counting down to leave when another waiter came with an extensive drink list. And, voilà, cafe latte and cappuccino. I ordered a cappuccino, which only another 10 minutes later really arrived…about half an hour after I had sat down. Well…rain was still pouring, the cappuccino surprisingly good, though a trifle light.

After a shower at the hotel and changing into my best available dress (which isn’t much…but at least the better of the two hiking trousers, which unfortunately also is the warmer one, and a polo short, i.e. something with a collar) I entered the restaurant I had picked earlier. And was the first one at something like half past 6… But before I could even make my choice other people also started to come in. The place itself very stylish, well decorated, a ‘real’ restaurant, a place you could imagine in Porto. Except, certainly, for the Chinese staff. I ordered Caldo Verde (a green vegetable soup) and something made from codfish as codfish seems to be a popular dish in the Portuguese/Macanese cuisine. Upon inquiry I was told “that is sufficient for one person”. The Caldo Verde wasn’t bad, and green unlike Holiday Inn’s, which was red. But I am wondering if mostly using sea weed is the proper way of preparing Caldo Verde… The dish of codfish was actually some kind of potato/codfish baked pie, which wasn’t bad either, but I could hardly taste the fish. And as I was by no means filled I ordered a desert. Some cappuccino creme. If that was supposed to be an ice creme, then it was too warm. Otherwise it was too cold…probably not fully unfrozen…and tasted like nothing. Somehow cold and yet dry. As great as the surroundings were, I wasn’t satisfied with the food.

I had a quick beer (Guinness from tap!) at a bar at the waterfront and then went back to the hotel to do my daily update. I sat down in the lobby bar with a beer and my laptop and had this article half-way done when another guest, an Englishman, sitting at the bar addressed me after his last neighbour had left. We started a fairly intelligent talk about this and that, here and there…business in China, Formula 1, beer, casinos, politics…the usual bar talk. It went on and on, and at midnight the hotel lobby bar closed. Another guest passing by suggested another bar outside the hotel and as my companion wanted to get rid of his remaining Macau money he invited me for a beer out. Well…there was another bar next to it, which also had beer, another yet 2 more bars…and all needed to be tested. There were other bar guests to talk to, there were certainly quite some bar girls around…I managed once to pay, but usually it was him…it got later, the quality of talks dropped a bit as we got drunk, but was still quite OK I believe. Somewhen around 2am (we had drunken our way back to the beginning of the row of bars) I got somehow annoyed about something, can’t exactly remember the details, but I left the bar alone and walked back to the hotel, concentrating hard to walk halfway straight…it must have been 2:30am when I reached my bed. I was even still so smart to hang the “Don’t disturb” sign outside my door…and didn’t get up on the next day before 1:30pm…no bad headache, but still quite a hangover. The body was still busy digesting all the alcohol (in the end it wasn’t just beer but also Cubra Libre, one of the other guy’s favorites), leaving not much capacity for other essentials like thinking or balance keeping.

Understandably, I didn’t finish this article before next evening 😉

And now I just had a very hard time finding an affordable hotel in Taipei, costing me hours of internet search. Something must be happening…the budget options are all booked on one or the other day…means: My short day today (03-JUL) in Taipa I will describe with tomorrow’s update only. Hope I get that done at all…I will arrive in the Taipei hotel only after 10pm or so.

Today’s Lesson: Great surroundings are no guarantee for good food. And ‘one’ beer can knock you down quite a bit.

Categories: AsiaMacau

Originally Created: 07/02/2007 02:56:20 PM

Last Edited: 07/02/2007