We decided to spend the day exploring the northern part of Macau. The region is split into two pieces of land, which are accessed via bridges. The northern piece of land is known as Macau town, and the southern piece of land is split between Taipa island (where we were staying), Cotai (the hot-shot Las Vegas strip) and Coloane (a historical village), all of which make up the Special Administrative Region that is Macau.
Our hotel shuttle dropped us off at Casino Grand Lisboa, which is one of the bigger casinos outside the Cotai strip. We exchanged some money in the Public Bank of China, which has the best rates for converting euros. We got Macau Patacas, which weren’t actually necessary since Hong Kong Dollars are accepted all over Macau (and are the only currency accepted in casinos).
Our first stop was Largo do Senado (Senate Square). The Portuguese influence was apparent almost immediately in the architecture and design of the Square and the surrounding streets. It was clearly a meeting place for a lot of people – the crowd was immense.
St. Dominic’s church was just down the road from Senate Square. It was not very large, but very quaint. It’s been standing since 1587, and it looks beautiful.
The street that lead to the Ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral was filled with shops on either side, with people selling all kinds of food, beverages and souvenirs. It felt as if all tourists in Macau were in that street, and once again I was struck by the number of people who lived in such a small region.
The ruins were at the end of the street, atop a small hill, and cannot be missed. The entire Cathedral was destroyed – all that remains is the front wall. The ruins are one of Macau’ most famous landmarks today.
After getting some dim sum for lunch lunch in a Chinese restaurant around the area, we took a taxi to A-Ma temple, which is the oldest and most famous Taoist temple in Macau. Built in 1488, it just doesn’t look that old!
The incense coils were the highlight of this temple. I have never seen incense coils wound round and round like this before! As the incenses burned, the ashes were collected below. It really was beautiful.
We then explored the streets surrounding the temple, which included the Maritime Museum (which features an exhibition and an aquarium), the Barracks for Goan soldiers in Moorish architecture, Lilau square (a neighborly village courtyard for the surrounding houses) and Mandarin’s House (the biggest house in what used to be the village).
We took a taxi back to Grand Lisboa Casino, where we boarded our shuttle back to the hotel.