July 19th – 21st
I had the opportunity to spend some time in Macau a little while ago! It was very easy for us to go to Macau because it lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta across from Hong Kong to the east. Macau is one of the two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China, the other being Hong Kong. The territory’s economy is heavily dependent on gambling and tourism, which is why it is often referred to as the “Las Vegas of Asia”.
A former Portuguese colony, Macau was controlled by Portugal from the mid-16th century until 1999, when it was the last remaining European colony in Asia. In December of 1999 Macau was transferred back to China. Under the policy of “one country, two systems” (just like Hong Kong), the People’s Republic of China’s Central People’s Government is responsible for the territory’s defense and foreign affairs, while Macau maintains its own legal system, police force, monetary system, customs policy, and immigration policy.
(Fun fact: According to The World Factbook, Macau has the second highest life expectancy in the world. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2102rank.html )
My friends and I left for Macau right after work on Friday. We were all wearing our nice business clothes as we arrived at the ferry terminal so we could take the 45-minute ferry ride to Macau. As we approached the shoreline of Macau I saw many bright lights and signs for casinos. It became apparent very quickly that this city was full of nightlife!
We took a bus to our hotel, which was the Sheraton. To keep the cost down Lauren and I split a room and so did the boys. We had an amazing view out our window of the many pools the hotel has. Once we were all settled in we all prepared to go out and explore the city. We had been told about a nice club around the corner from our hotel called Cubic so we got dressed up and headed over. As we walked through the hotel I saw many lavished decorations like blown glass chandeliers and glowing fountains. There were also many high-end retails stores like Armani Exchange, Chanel, Fendi, and Gucci.
Across the street was the City of Dreams Macau, which is a spectacular hotel that is also home to a Hard Rock Café, Club Cubic and a few shows like The House of Dancing Water. Since we were all a bit hungry and craving some American food we decided to stop at the Hard Rock Café before going to the club. At the Hard Rock we split nachos and chicken strips. We were also blessed with a live band performing while we ate. They did a lot of covers including Sweet Home Alabama so naturally we sang along. As we headed out I quickly stopped at the Hard Rock store to pick up a pin to add to my collection! I purchased a beautiful gold colored guitar with a green dragon on it. Cubic was right around the corner from the Hard Rock which was extremely convenient. When we arrived at the club they asked for our passports, which we didn’t have with us. (We didn’t want to lose them or have them stolen!) We thought they weren’t going to let us in but after pointing out our birthdays on our licenses they agreed to let us in. At first we were all pretty impressed with Club Cubic. It is the largest and most prestigious nightclub in Macau. It is approximately 30,000 square feet across two levels of live entertainment space. We made our way to the front of the club and had fun dancing for a while but eventually we got tired of the same clubhouse music. The songs didn’t have words so we couldn’t sing along and it was really crowded! We needed sleep for Saturday so we headed back to our hotel.
If our weekends up to this point weren’t crazy enough we started our Saturday morning on top of the Macau Tower! The tower is 1,109 feet tall from ground level to the highest point. It is the 10th tallest building in the world. At 764 feet high there is a platform that wraps around the entire tower. This platform is where the Skywalk and Bungee Jump is! The four of us decided to do the Skywalk. My friend Landon chose to do the Skywalk and the Bungee Jump! The Skywalk includes walking around on the 1.8meter platform in a harness. There are no handrails, which makes the Skywalk even more nerve racking! A guide took us around the Skywalk and instructed us to do various poses that included hanging our feet of the edge, running and swinging on the platform, and leaning over the edge. I have been on many tall buildings including the Stratosphere in Vegas, the Empire State building, and the Eiffel Tower but none of those buildings had anything like the Skywalk on the Macau Tower! Spending 20 minutes overlooking Macau with a harness and thick rope being the only thing keeping me from falling over the edge was exhilarating! Once we finished our Skywalk adventure we watched Landon get ready to bungee jump! The Macau Tower boasts the Guinness World Record for the highest commercial bungy jump in the world!!! We watched a live video of the bungy jump platform from inside the tower. As we saw Landon prepare to jump my stomach had butterflies! I was nervous and excited for him. For a minute I almost wanted to do the bungy jump as well because it looked really fun. (I mean really how often do you get the chance to do the highest commercial bungy jump!?) In the end I decided not to jump. If you want to watch the video of my friend Landon bungy jumping check out this Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10201791212810237
After our time at the Macau Tower we ate lunch. Located at Avenida da Praia Grande, center of Macau, Solmar Restaurant founded in 1961 was originally an exclusive club for political and business elites. Later on, their dishes became so popular that upon public request they opened up their business and became one of Macau’s well-known old brand Portuguese restaurants. I ordered Portuguese chicken and drank sangria. It was an extremely satisfying meal! From lunch we then walked the streets of Macau. I was pleasantly surprised by Macau. The old architecture of the city was beautiful and reminded me of Europe. It was very eident that Macau was a Portuguese colony. The locals were all Chinese but many of them spoke Portuguese as well as English and Cantonese. The street signs were in all three languages!
The first beautiful architectural landmark we stumbled across was St. Domingo’s Church! I was so excited to see this church because I attend Dominican University in Chicago, which was founded by Dominican Sisters. I was pleasantly surprised to see the Dominican shield so far away from my university.
Located right at the heart of Senado Square of Macau, St. Domingo’s Church was constructed by the Spanish Dominican friars who worshipped St. Domingo and Lady Fatima in the mid 17th century. It was refurbished in 1828 and expanded to the large scale that is represents today. If you want to learn more about the Dominicans in Macau check out this link: http://www.dominicansmacau.org/?p=850
From St. Domingo’s Church we went and saw the Ruins of St. Paul. The Ruins of St. Paul’s refer to the façade of what were originally the Church of Mater Dei built in 1602-1640 and the ruins of St. Paul’s College, which stood adjacent to the Church. Both were destroyed by fire in 1835. As a whole, the old Church of Mater Dei, St. Paul’s College and Mount Fortress were all Jesuit constructions and formed what can be perceived as the Macao’s “acropolis”. Now to put my art history classes to the test – The façade of the Ruins of St. Paul’s measures 23 meters across and 25.5 meters high and is divided into five levels. Following the classical concept of divine ascension, the orders on the façade on each horizontal level evolve from Ionic, Corinthian and Composite, from the base upward. The upper levels gradually narrow into a triangular pediment at the top, which symbolizes the ultimate state of divine ascension – the Holy Spirit. Nowadays, the façade of the Ruins of St. Paul’s functions symbolically as an altar to the city. The baroque/mannerist design of this granite façade is unique in China.
From the St. Paul Ruins we went to the Monte Fort. Built in 1616, it originally belonged to St. Paul’s Church and was used to defend the church from the pirates. It later became solely a military fort. The canons that once defended the fort still remain and from the top of the fort we had an excellent view of the city!
After exploring the fort we decided to hit one more spot before heading back to Hong Kong. We caught a taxi and were on our way to the Macau lighthouse. The Guia Fortress which includes the Guia chapel and Lighthouse was unfortunately closed when we arrived at 6pm. We missed getting in by a half and hour. We did get another nice view of the city from the lighthouse location!
Even though I didn’t actually go into the Guia Fortress here are some facts about it! – The fortress was built between 1622 and 1638. Inside the fortress stands Guia Chapel, originally established by Clarist nuns, who resided at the site before establishing the Convent of St. Clare. The chapel’s elaborate frescoes depict representations of both western and Chinese themes, displaying motifs of religious and mythological inspiration that are a perfect example of Macau’s multicultural dimension. Guia Lighthouse, dating from 1865, which also stands within the perimeter, is the first modern lighthouse on the Chinese coast. Guia Fortress, along with the chapel and lighthouse are symbols of Macau’s maritime, military and missionary past.
Our final adventure in Macau was getting back to the ferry to head home to Hong Kong. Hailing a taxi in NYC is easier than hailing one in Macau! All the taxis go to the hotels and casinos and usually pass by people on the sidewalks that aren’t at those locations. We ended up walking a good distance (about 30 minutes down a hill with no sidewalk) from the Guia Fortress before we were able to jump in a taxi. Thankfully we mad it in time to the 7pm ferry and we cruised back to Hong Kong!