Monday, March 26, 2018

A Slice of Portugal in China. Macau. Part 2.

The Ruins of St. Paul's Church.  This is the southern facade of the original church.

After our tastebud satisfying breakfast of Cantonese congee, we set out to see the landmarks of Macau.  It was easier to get around Senado Square than I had anticipated which was great because we didn't have to rely on the Google Map that I had put together for sightseeing around the Senado Square area.  The streets here have pretty good signage.

Incredibly, even though we had barely taken much of a break for breakfast, the streets that were once pretty empty of tourists were now getting far more crowded and at times, I found myself having to do the car equivalent of channging lanes to move ahead of slower walking people.


Even so, by Hong Kong standards at least, the crowd was not all that bad.  I'm just not used to being surrounded by so many people as I actively try to avoid them by coming to places like this as early as possible.  Had we spent last night in Macau instead of Hong Kong, we would be leaving this place as most people are arriving.

I wasn't expecting to see the Ruins of St. Paul's Church at the end of the alley but there it was.  It was also a lot less ruin that I had expected.  In fact, it's pretty much just the facade that remains.


The Ruins of St. Paul's are the ruins of a 17th-century complex that includes the Church of St. Paul also known as "Mater Dei", a 17th-century Portuguese church dedicated to Saint Paul the Apostle and what was originally St. Paul's College.

The church was built from 1602 to 1640 by the Jesuits and was one of the largest Catholic churches in Asia at the time.  The was destroyed by a fire during a typhoon on 26 January 1835 and all that remains today is

The ruins now consist of the southern stone façade—intricately carved between 1620 and 1627 by Japanese Christians in exile from their homeland and local craftsmen under the direction of Italian Jesuit Carlo Spinola—and the crypts of the Jesuits who established and maintained the church. The façade sits on a small hill, with 68 stone steps leading up to it. The carvings, on the stone façade, include Jesuit images with Oriental themes, such as The Blessed Virgin Mary stepping on a seven-headed hydra, described in Chinese characters as 'Holy Mother tramples the heads of the dragon'. A few of the other carvings are of the founders of the Jesuit Order, the conquest of Death by Jesus, and at the very top, a dove with wings outstretched.




There is a very small  museum on the site.  As you walk towards it, flanking the walkway are glass covered sections that allow you to have a glimpse of what the original church floor looked like.  It was hard to take photos so I just did not bother.  There is no fee to enter the museum which is officially known as The Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt.


Inside is a small collection of relics (crucifixes, religious status, liturgical vessels, etc) recovered from different churches and convents in Macau as well as several sacred paintings about St. Francis.



In the center of the Crypt, on the granite rock, lie the remains of a tomb, which might have belonged to the founder of the St. Paul's College, Father Alexander Valignano.


If you like religious art and artifacts, you could easily spend a half hour or more in the museum.  For us, we were barely there for 10 minutes.  On the way back towards the stone façade, I caught glimpse of a small Chinese temple.  That's where we headed to next.  I captured a photo of the plaque describing Na Tcha Temple (have no idea how to pronounce the name) and then took a few photos of the teeny weeny temple.








As I turned around to walk away from the temple, out of the corner of my right eye, I saw two women walking down a steep hill.  At first, it was the sight of one of the women, walking backwards to secure the baby stroller from rolling down the steep hill, that made me pause and watch.  Then I noticed the buildings.  Literally stone's throw from the Ruins of St. Paul's Church and you have the sight of what most people would describe as crumbling buildings.  As I would find out later, this is a normal sight in Macau.  Seeing the comparatively upscale shops that dot Senado Square, you don't realize that the less fortunate don't live all that far away!


Once we had arrived at the Ruins of St. Paul's, we realized we were just steps away from Monte Fort.  From the temple, we walked back towards the ruins to the green space on the opposite side.  We took the steps up to the stone fort.



From here, you can see a very unusual looking building.  That would be the Hotel Lisboa.  Perhaps distances are deceiving but to me, it did not look like it would have been a far walk from there to Senado Square.  Not that I regretted taking the local bus but I can see why people take the free Hotel Lisboa shuttle from the ferry terminal.

It was also here that we spotted a group of photographers, with their cameras mounted on tripods.  Everyone of them had a high powered zoom lens attached to their cameras and all the cameras were aimed up at the trees.  Bro and I could not figure out exactly what they were shooting but my guess is that the men are also amateur birders.  Something was roosting up in a tree limb that had caught their attention.


When you reach the top of the steps, you arrive at the base of the fort.


From here, you enter via a small, arched gateway.




And then you go up a ramp to reach the top level of the fort where there is a large open space where you will find the Museum of Macao.  If Macao was its own country, this would be its national museum but since Macau is officially part of China, I guess you can call it a regional museum.  There is a fee to enter and since neither Bro nor I are really museum people, we opted to skip it.


Instead, we just walked around the plaza area, taking in views of Macau at various points along the way.






Every inch of space is occupied by a building so much so, it's nearly impossible to spot a tree unless it's growing on a rooftop.  Like in Hong Kong, I think most Macanese live in apartments.


Coming into town from the ferry terminal, you don't see any highrise apartment buildings but they are here!


Bro had found mention of a botanic garden in Macau and so he wanted to try and get there from here.  Our only human resource was the guard standing out front of the museum.  We asked him where the garden is located so perhaps we could spot it from the fort but he had no clue as he told us he was a new arrival to Macau.....from Indonesia.  We had noticed several large patches of green any of which could have been a botanic garden.  Not to mention that the garden might not even be in our view from the fort.  A quick search on Google pulled up a website referring to a place called Seac Pai Van Park but that was not very helpful in terms of providing information on opening times, entry fees and directions on how to get to the place. We quickly discussed whether or not to make the effort to go.  Since there was barely any information about the park on the web, I decided it was not worth exploring.  Bro agreed so we opted to stay back in old city.

From the fort, we backtracked our way to Senado Square.



By now, it was around 11a and the once quiet pedestrian only streets were literally filled to the max with tourists.  At times, I was walking shoulder to shoulder with people beside me.  It was definitely time for us to bail!


We hadn't planned on taking a break but again, one peek down a side alley and I saw a bunch of people crowded around a food stall.  Had to check it out.  It was a group of 3 women making a variety of dumplings.  Can't go wrong with dumplings.  Must try.   So we got a few to snack on.


But I can get dumplings back in Hong Kong.  What I really wanted was the Portuguese egg tart.   It's basically the same as a Hong Kong style egg tart with its puff pastry crust except that the egg mixture is made with a sugar syrup and flavored with cinnamon and lemon. I think the sugar syrup is what creates that delicious, slightly burnt crust on the surface of the tart giving it a slight caramel-y taste.  It's a more robust flavored tart than the Hong Kong version.  I can absolutely understand why people obsess over it.  Don't tell anyone but I think I've fallen in love with them as well, especially the slightly burnt parts, though I'm not a huge cinnamon fan so if I were to make these at home, I would probably cut back on the amount of cinnamon I add. 



We sat down on a ledge to munch on our snacks.  A little boy and his mom took the spaces next to us.  I had to smile when I noticed the toddler using two skewers as his chopsticks.  He's still young enough to sit in a stroller but already gaining experience eating with two sticks.  Many adults can't do that!


We took a slightly different route back to our starting point.  Our walk took us past Sé Cathedral which is more formally known as the Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady also Sé Catedral da Natividade de Nossa Senhora and Igreja da Sé.  I didn't realize it but we are in the part of town known as Sé.  The cathedral is the current cathedral of the Diocese of Macau.



The door was open so we popped inside for a quick view.  Next thing you know, we're seated in a pew and resting our feet for a few minutes. 


Back outside, we made our way back to our starting point in Senado Square and before going any further, sat and checked our guidebook for where to go next.   We eventually settled on going to A-Ma Temple and we decided to go by bus rather than do the walk which supposedly only takes 20 minutes but that presumes you know the way.  We're good at taking local buses so I figured we could get there easily by public transportation and save our tired feet some effort.

Senado Square fronts San Ma Lou which is the biggest and busiest street in the area.  It's where our bus, from the ferry terminal, dropped us off.  We headed back to San Ma Lou in search of the bus stop where we could catch the bus to the temple.  After confirming we were on the correct side of the street to catch the bus going in the right direction, we looked for a stand.  It took some walking and even stopping to ask some guards for directions before we not only found a bus stand but we found one where you could catch the bus to the temple.  We quickly figured out that there are several bus companies operating on the island and I think pretty much all of them offer buses with routes that stop at the temple.  You can hop on any bus with the sign "Barra" as destination and get off at the M203 Templo A-Má stop.  We had our eyes out for the number 2 bus.


The ride to the temple is short and there was an electronic display indicating each upcoming stop so we didn't have to worry about having to figure out where to get off.


The entire historic center of Macau was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 and the temple is included in the designation.  From where the bus dropped us off, it's literally less than one minute walk to get to the square that the temple is located in.  Here is also located the Maritime Museum; it's that white building in the photo below.  A-Ma Temple is located on the left side, out of frame, of the photo.  So, one bus stop and you can see two landmarks.  We skipped the museum.



The A-Ma Temple is a temple to Mazu, the goddess of the sea and protector of fisherman. Built in 1488, the temple is one of the oldest in Macau and thought to be the settlement's namesake. The name Macau was thought to be derived from the name of the temple. The story goes that when the Portuguese sailors landed at the coast just outside the temple and asked the name of the place, the natives replied Maa-gok or A-maa-gok (lit. "The Pavilion of the Mother"). The Portuguese then named the peninsula "Macau". Words got a little lost in translation.  😁

Thankfully, it looked like the crowds of tourists that had mobbed Senado Square had not yet made it here so we could walk around without having to elbow anyone.  Thankfully as well, there are virtually no souvenir vendors here.....just one guy selling ice cream from his cart.  His ice cream looked tempting too.








The temple is divided into 6 different areas at least hug the hillside.  I have no idea which area is which.  We just took a path and walked it as far as we could.



I loved how they strung the coils together.  You can most certainly a lot more of them, in a small space, doing this way!




For me, there was not a whole lot to see inside the temple. I think we were there for barely 1/2 an hour.  While I know we could've spent a few more hours exploring Macau, Bro and I were ready to head back to Kowloon.  I do regret that we did not get to try any Macanese food.  In hindsight, we should've had lunch at a local restaurant and sampled some of the local cuisine which I hear is quite tasty.  Next visit, I will find a nice place in a non-touristy part of the island for a nice Macanese meal.  For now, we have to catch the bus back to the ferry terminal and hopefully, we arrive in time to catch the 3:05 ferry back to Kowloon.


Now.....where to go to catch the bus?