Where time stands very still in Macau

11 06 2013

One of the many life experiences that I am glad to have had is the opportunity provided to discover a world which might otherwise have remained hidden to me – that of the magical world of Coloane Village in Macau. The village is one I first got a glimpse of, on a stopover during a whirlwind trip to Macau with nine other bloggers, sponsored by the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO), as a prize for last year’s edition of the Singapore Blog Awards. The visit was brief, but enough to give me a yearning to return to the sleepy village and its labyrinth of narrow passageways and discover it in full.

Coloane on a sleepy afternoon.

Time seems to stand very still in Coloane Village on a sleepy afternoon.

The labyrinth of narrow lanes provides many opportunities for little discoveries.

The labyrinth of narrow lanes provides many opportunities for little discoveries.

The opportunity for a quick return came with the prize I got for winning the blogging contest for the first trip, which again was sponsored by the MGTO. This allowed me not just to make a second trip, but also to time it to include two of the former Portuguese colony’s more colourful festivals and plan my own itinerary around it, such that I could have the experience of two of the faces that the normally sleepy village of Coloane wears.

Eduardo Marques Square.

Eduardo Marques Square.

Coloane is now perhaps more of a tourist destination as a stopover for the sweet and irresistible treat which the famous Lord Stow’s Bakery provides and at the same time to see Eduardo Marques Square (Largo da Eduardo Marques) and its little chapel, which is a popular spot for wedding photography. There is however certainly much more of Coloane, both the island as well as the village, for any visitor to discover.

Life in Coloane, like the village itself, seems to come very much to a standstill.

Life in Coloane, like the village itself, seems to come very much to a standstill.

Villagers watching the world go by.

Villagers watching the world go by.

Just a short bus ride from the glitz of the Las Vegas like Cotai Strip, Coloane Village, tucked away in the rolling hills of the west of the island of the same name, does seem a world apart from the strip, and where time does seem long to have stood still. Much of the village is bathed in that old world charm that Macau seems to be slowly but surely losing, wearing the look of that the blending of east and west most of the first half of the  century that has passed – when most of the village’s development did take place.

There is very much an air of the old world, just a stone's throw away from the glitz of the Cotai Strip.

There is very much an air of the old world, just a stone’s throw away from the glitz of the Cotai Strip.

A house in Coloane.

A house in Coloane.

Laid out along the shoreline which looks across a narrow channel to the Zhuhai area of China – seemingly an arm’s length away, the village’s many narrow passages reveal quaint rows of pastel shaded houses, making it a photographer’s dream. In all of this, one stumbles on Eduardo Marques Square (Largo da Eduardo Marques) where a lovely little chapel, St. Francis Xavier’s (see a previous post), can be found. The chapel once housed the relics of the Catholic saint it is named after, a saint who is very much revered throughout Asia for his pioneering ministry to an area of the world which has largely resisted the many attempts at its Christian conversion.

The view across the channel to Zhuhai.

The view across the channel to Zhuhai.

The Chapel of St. Francis Xavier at one end of  Eduardo Marques Square with a monument erected to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese over pirates in 1910.

The Chapel of St. Francis Xavier at one end of Eduardo Marques Square with a monument erected to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese over pirates in 1910.

Shutters of a shop.

Shutters of a shop.

Besides the Portuguese influence being very much in evidence, there is much that is also to be found of Coloane’s origins as a village. A walk along the northern reaches of the seaside promenade takes one along zinc walled shelters built on stilts – shelters used by the village’s folk who lived off the harvest from the sea.  Their descendants of the village’s fishermen, are the ones perhaps who sit by the shelters, keeping watch on a world which may soon pass them by.

The Portuguese influence is very much in evidence.

The Portuguese influence is very much in evidence.

A passage through the village.

A passage through the village.

Zinc shelters on stilts can be found along the water's edge at the northern reaches of the village.

Zinc shelters on stilts can be found along the water’s edge at the northern reaches of the village.

Across the road there is more evidence of the once thriving trade. The tiniest of temples – the Sam Seng or Kam Fa temple which is dedicated to the goddess Kam Fa can be found. The temple traces its origins to a time some two hundred years ago, when a statue of the deity brought to the village by its fisher-folk.

Smoke trails from incense coils at the Sma Seng Temple.

Smoke trails from incense coils at the Sam Seng Temple.

A window into the past.

A window into the past.

Just up from the temple lies Coloane Pier (Ponte Cais de Coloane) around which several other reminders of the village’s past awaits. One is a coal tar coated anchor mounted on a circular pedestal close to the pier’s front. It is more however, the sight of salted fish on sale, which provides that link to the past which does sum the origins of the village up. Originally known as “Salt Stove Bay”, it was also where sea salt was farmed, as well as being a fishing village.

An anchor mounted on a pedestal near the Coloane Pier provides a link to the village's maritime past.

An anchor mounted on a pedestal near the Coloane Pier provides a link to the village’s maritime past.

Salted fish on sale also provides a link to Coloane's origins - the village was where sea salt was farmed as well as a fishing village.

Salted fish on sale also provides a link to Coloane’s origins – the village was where sea salt was farmed as well as a fishing village.

Turning right past the pier, I hear the sound of animated voices which punctures the calm and quiet on what was a sleepy afternoon. The voices are ones which come from a small crowd gathered in front of a building which has retained much of the flavour it must have had under the Portuguese. The women each bore loads of detergent and liquid soap, providing a clue as to why they had congregated by the building – one used by the Customs (Alfândega).  The loads they bore were typical of mainland Chinese headed home, as the women must surely have been and were probably standing in queue to purchase tickets for the ferry across to Zhuhai.

Benches line the wall of the Customs building which transports one straight into the colonial era.

Benches line the wall of the Customs building which transports one straight into the colonial era.

Coloane in the mid 20th century - taken off an exhibition of old photographs at the village square.

Coloane in the mid 20th century – taken off an exhibition of old photographs at the village square.

The road by the Customs building narrows running up an steep enough incline to have me huffing and puffing. It was an effort that was rewarded by the sight of rather a sad looking shack of wood and zinc.  It is under this structure, one of several which dot the coastline as it runs north-east, where the sheltered slips and berths of an abandoned boat yard can clearly be seen along with chains and blocks dangling seemingly precariously from age worn wooden beams. This again, provides a reminder another side of the village’s past. The village had once had the proud distinction of being one of the main centres in the Pearl River Delta area for traditional wooden boat and junk building.

The sheltered slip of a abandoned boat yard. The village was a main centre for traditional wooden boat building in the Pearl River delta.

The sheltered slip of a abandoned boat yard. The village was a main centre for traditional wooden boat building in the Pearl River delta.

While there is of course much more to Coloane – I got to see a gaier and festive side of it during the Tam Kung Festival (of which I will devote another post to), it is this side I was able to discover that does appeal most to me. Coming from a part of the world where there is little left to remind me of a beautiful world that did once exist there, it is always nice for me to find a place such as this which does show how progress and the gentler side of life is able to co-exist.

The Tam Kung Temple.

The Tam Kung Temple.

Advertisements




Macau on a high

16 09 2012

That it was going to be an interesting 4 day trip to Macau, there wasn’t any doubt. What with it being my very first trip there, plus the added bonus of being in the company of nine very highly spirited bloggers, two members of the omy.sg team and a representative from trip sponsors, the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO). It all began on a Saturday morning with what has to be my last check-in at the Budget Terminal (it is scheduled to close on 25 September 2012). A very smooth and hassle free flight of just over 3 hours on flight sponsors Tiger Airways, one of two airlines that flies direct to the territory and the only one that has daily flights there, was all it took, and we soon found ourselves walking down the ladder right onto the tarmac of Macau’s very unique airport on the sea.

Boarding the Tiger Airways flight bound for Macau. Tiger Airways is the only carrier which flies daily to Macau (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

Inside the very comfortable cabin of the Tiger Airways Airbus A320 (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

It didn’t take long before we found ourselves taking in the gorgeous views that any drive across the Friendship Bridge offers and in no time we were dropped off at the hotel’s doorstep. The hotel that we were staying at over the 3 nights, the Grand Lapa Macau, a five-star hotel in the Mandarin Oriental group located close to the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal on the Macau Peninsula, is a luxuriously decorated resort hotel which is set in a very relaxing garden setting. Having checked –in, there wasn’t time to really appreciate what the hotel offered until later, as with some of my new-found friends and travel companions, we decided on looking for a quick bite – something that perhaps set the tone for the culinary adventures that lay in wait.

The room in the Grand Lapa Macau which I found myself in (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The beautiful setting of the Café Bela Vista in the Grand Lapa where breakfast is served (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

Too many choices for our Y-blogger Joey – as some of us decided to grab a quick bite before heading out (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

First bite – the much talked about Pork Chop bun (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

Having momentarily satisfied cravings that were to accompany me for the rest of the trip, it was time to set off for the first adventures that the MGTO had in store for us. This was to take us on a high – up the heights of the tallest structure in Macau, Macau Tower, which soars to a height of 338 metres and is currently the 20th tallest tower in the world. It would be at the tower where we were to have dinner at the tower’s revolving restaurant, the 360° Café and also where we were to catch the opening of the 24th International Macau Fireworks Display Contest at the tower’s Outdoor Plaza.

Macau Tower at a height of 338 metres is the tallest structure in the territory (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The tower is a truly fascinating place – a lot more than just an observation tower that offers magnificent views of the Special Administrative Region and Zhuhai in mainland China and the Pearl River Delta, but a location that offers dining, entertainment as well as convention and exhibition facilities as we were to discover in the company of Money, which took the form of a Macau Tower representative named Money.

Macau Tower offers excellent views of Macau and the Peral River Delta.

We first had an introduction to the Grand Hall in the convention centre located next to the base of the tower. The Grand Hall is a huge hall that accommodates up to 1800 people for seminars and 1000 people for banquets which can be divided into 8 smaller halls. There are also private rooms arranged along the outer edge – rooms with a view offering a magnificent view of the Sai Van Bridge, more popularly referred to as the ‘M & M’ Bridge for the shape of the arches on the pylons, for private functions. Interestingly, the bridge, which is the 3rd bridge to be built linking the island of Taipa to the Macau Peninsula, has two decks – an open upper deck which is normally used and an enclosed lower deck that is opened up during typhoons.

Chairs inside the Grand Hall (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The Macau Tower representative, Money, introducing the tower’s convention facilities to the group.

Private rooms are arranged on the outside (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The rooms provides a beautiful view of the ‘M&M’ or Sai Van Bridge (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The view of the Sai Van Bridge we got from the private rooms (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

It was then time to get high … and in some 50 seconds we were transported up via high-speed elevators with a maximum speed of 5 metres per second up the 223 metres to the lower Indoor Observation Deck of the tower on the 58th floor. And if that wasn’t exhilarating enough, the fully air-conditioned Indoor Observation Deck, besides offering sky-high views of the surroundings, has thick glass floor panels fitted in some areas that offers the sensation of walking with nothing but 223 metres of air below one’s feet and is certain to make one’s legs go soft.

223 metres high with nothing but a thick pane of glass below me (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

And, if that isn’t enough, Macau Tower offers several unique experiences for the thrill seeking height defying visitor. Up on the upper observation deck – the Outdoor Adventure View Deck, visitors have the choice of ascending the mast, walking exposed to the elements along the edge of the tower, or even jumping off … activities that are certainly not for the faint hearted! It is from this deck, some 61 floors up that A J Hackett, a pioneer in commercial bungy jumping, runs the four activities that will at the very least provide some adrenaline moments, the Mast Climb, the Skywalk X and the Bungy Jump and the Skyjump. The Bungy Jump which at 233 metres up is ranked as the second highest commercial bungee jump in the world and which has been identified as one of the top 5 bungee jumps to do takes one down the tower and offers some spectacular views … something I might have thought of doing if it weren’t for time (yeah, right!). We did get a chance to watch as one very brave man went through his preparations before taking the plunge – wearing a look of calm (or maybe putting on a brave face) throughout. There is also a slower more controlled descent 20 second one can make – the Skyjump, if the bungee is not for you.

The Outdoor Adventure View Deck (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The view from the Outdoor Adventure View Deck (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The Mast Climb allows visitors to climb up the mast (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

A couple of brave souls being prepared for the Bungy Jump and Skywalk (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

Must be a wonderful experience being out there and seeing the sunset.

Giving the thumbs up! (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

Taking the plunge.

A participant being guided along the Skywalk (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

Skywalk participants get to sit on the edge some 233 metres above ground!

It was soon time to move down to the 60th level where the 360° Café is located to indulge in its huge buffet spread. It did seem like the one hour we had for dinner wasn’t quite enough to fully savour the scrumptious spread of Macanese, Portuguese, Cantonese and even Indian delights plus take the time to view and photograph the wonderful views we were dining to, before it was time to head down for the opening of the Macau International Fireworks Display Contest. On the evidence of the ladies seated at my table, the dessert spread was very well received … including tiramisu to die for – that alone I suppose makes the dining experience one that, for also the delicious spread and wonderful views, is one that should not be missed when in Macau.

The buffet at 360° Café includes local favourites (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The dessert spread was popular with the ladies in the group (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The experience at Macau Tower is certainly a great way to start off the adventure we were to have in Macau, and was one that provided a wonderful first impression of the surprises that Macau holds. We soon found ourselves seated right below the tower ready for the next segment of an eventful first evening, the opening of the 24th Macau International Fireworks Display Contest to which I would devote the next post to.

The view of the Pearl River Delta and the ‘M&M’ Bridge was spectacular from the revolving restaurant (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The ‘M&M’ or Sai Van Bridge features an enclosed lower deck for use during typhoons (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).


The visit to Macau was made possible by the kind sponsorship of MGTO including sponsorship of our stay at the Grand Lapa Macau, flights have been sponsored by Tiger Airways with check-in baggage allowances included. The visit to Macau Tower and dinner at 360° Café was also made possible by Macau Tower.


Useful links:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways
Grand Lapa Macau
Macau Tower
360° Café
A J Hackett
Bungy Jump
Skyjump
Skywalk X
Mast Climb


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy.sg My Macau Experience 2012 site which sees 10 bloggers share experiences of their visit to Macau. Readers will get a chance to vote for their favourite My Macau Experience 2012 blogger and stand a chance to win $1000 worth of Macau travel vouchers. Voting starts on 28 September 2012 and details can be found at the My Macau Experience 2012 Voting page.