(Photos by Sandy Zimmerman)
There is thousands of exciting travel destinations around the world, but just a few countries are really fascinating! Macau, China is different! The reason for the difference is the influences of their friendly Portuguese population within an exotic Chinese setting. Step into the world of Macau and you will experience the difference.
Built on the western slope of Barra Hill, the ancient A-Ma Buddhist Temple is 500 years old- the oldest temple in Macau. Our tour group passed two stone lion statues while walking up the stone steps and entered their ornate gate. People held flaming joss incense sticks as they prayed and made offerings at the large koro incense burners scattered around the temple. We watched this ritual then walked through the circular moon gate entrance and around winding paths leading to several halls, courtyards, gardens, and pavilions. Everyone appreciated this chance to walk around the temple and experience their religion as visitors are allowed in any temple in Macau. Open daily from dusk to dawn, free admission. In the 15th century, the temple was named after A-Ma, a young girl who tried to reach Canton by junk. The boat owners refused to take her until a poor fisherman said yes. After a storm wrecked all of the boats except the one carrying the girl, she arrived then vanished and re-appeared as the Goddess of Seafarers. The fishermen built this temple in her honor. When Portuguese explorers arrived in 1557, they were told the name of the bay was A-Ma-Gao and translated it into Macau, the name of their new city which became Europe’s first settlement on the China coast. The festival of A-Ma takes place on the 23rd day of the 3rd moon (April or May). Macau’s old town has so many temples, churches, and historic buildings, UNESCO announced the inclusion of “The Historic Center of Macau” on the prestigious World Heritage List.
In contrast to the A-Ma Temple’s curved tile roofs and Asian-style buildings, the Penha Catholic Church was built in 1622. The chapel and Bishop’s Palace were completely rebuilt in 1837. This small chapel is the final stop for the procession of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13th. Originally the church was a place of pilgrimage for sailors and travelers embarking on hazardous voyages in the early days of the tall sailing ships. From their courtyard, you can see views of Macau, Praia Bay, and Taipa Island. Open daily from 9 A. M.-5:30 P. M. Today there are approximately 30,000 Catholics in Macau.
I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of delicious cuisine that is served in Macau. We ate lunch at O Porto Interior Restaurante (meaning in the harbor) to taste Portuguese and Macanese cuisine. Macanese cuisine is a fusion of Portuguese, African, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, with Malaysian spices. The chef adds exotic spices to the basic meats, seafood, and chicken. These unique combinations of flavors create very exciting dishes! When a person of Portuguese ancestry married someone of Chinese ancestory, their children were also called Macanese. Since Macau was on the historic sea trade route, they attracted people from around the world. I tried the tasty Caldo Verde ($2.50) with Portuguese Green soup (olive oil, potatoes, onions, garlic, chorizo, and kale which gives the soup a green look). The Entrecosto de Vaca a Chinesa, grilled beef short ribs ($7.50) were so tender, I enjoyed every bite! The owners say, “You will taste for memories.” They are right! The restaurant is decorated with different sized bird cages and pictures of well known people. Poultry: $5.50-9.50, Seafood: $5.50-12, Meat: $6.50-15. Vegetarian: $3-4.50. Appetizers: $3-5.80. Open: Noon- 11:30 P. M. O Porto Interior Restaurante, 259 B Rua Do Almirante Sergio, R/C. Telephone: (853)-967-770.
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