I have a particular fondness for Macau. It’s the distinctive combination of Macanese, Chinese and Portuguese influence. It’s also the peaceful way it seems to approach life. Hong Kong can be a hectic place, so a short ferry ride to the former Portuguese colony can be a refreshing respite.
Macau is most known for its casinos, which have grown in number dramatically since my last visit in 2000. In that time, the area between Macau’s neighbouring island ‘suburbs’ has been reclaimed and populated with a string of high-end gaming establishments.
I prefer the stylish, historic parts. The old and unique, the traditional and creative, the spiritual and artistic. And Macau has plenty of these to offer, if you take the time to wander.
My last trip there
As with my last visit to Hong Kong, this trip to Macau was for work. At the end of a Hong Kong conference and expo, my New Zealander friend Christine and I had a spare day and chose to explore Macau. The Macau agency was holding its own expo and we decided to pop in before visiting the tourist sites. As well as the head of the Macau organisation, the expo was also attended by Connie, CEO of the Hong Kong agency.
Christine and I were unexpectedly invited to lunch as guests of our Macau and Hong Kong hosts. I’m not sure of the venue – it was possibly the Grand Emperor Hotel – but I do remember we had a private room and were treated to a magnificent lunch. Connie even asked the waiter to bring Christine and me a sample of their famous spicy salt mix to take home.
As Christine hadn’t been to Macau before, I led the way around. My memory failed me and we did get a bit lost, but that’s half the fun and we both discovered new pockets of delight. We ended the day with a visit to Taipa with its distinctive pastel-coloured streetscapes, traditional architecture and genial village atmosphere.
In Cherry Blossom Footsteps
In my novel Cherry Blossom Footsteps, Macau is the site of a romantic getaway – a little interlude from time in Hong Kong. Main character Lauren avoids the casinos, and chooses instead to investigate the old city.
I’ve read that Macau has evolved considerably in the twenty years since I was last there. It’s now described as a cool and creative cultural hub and I’ve reflected this in the novel. Lauren engages with local artisans who have gained inspiration from their special mix of indigenous, Chinese and Western heritage.
After taking in Calcada do Amparo’s arty alleyway, Senate Square, lovely Lou Lim Ieoc gardens, and of course, the ruins of St Paul’s, Lauren heads out of the main city. The book takes the reader into the charm of Coloane to experience the relaxed, community character.
The gentle ambience of Coloane’s village square provides the setting for a memorable evening of romance.
The place to visit
Those who’ve read the novel said it’s made them want to visit Macau. In the past they’d had just brief stays in Hong Kong, without venturing beyond. The book has inspired readers to get to Macau as soon as they can. After a long twenty years, I’m keen to return there myself.