Macau


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Macau is a place of contrasts. Macau, or Macao as it was better known when it was a Portuguese colony, is officially the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. Like its many names, the SAR is filled with more people, culture, and history than its small size suggests. Sitting on just 29.5 square kilometers (11.39 sq. miles) of land, some of it reclaimed from the Pearl River Delta, Macau has a population of more than 600,000 with a density of more than 18,500 people per square kilometer (48,000 per square mile). Although crowded, its denseness does not seem so much from its small footprint as from its rich and colorful history. The former colony still retains much of its Portuguese and indigenous Cantonese character but has grown more Chinese since its return to China in 1999. As the country’s only destination for legalized gambling, a Portuguese legacy dating back to the 1850s, Macau has become a tourist draw with its growing array of gambling and Las Vegas-style entertainment and conference venues. Nestled amid the grand casinos are neighborhoods steeped in colonial and traditional Chinese heritage. Like its sister across the delta in Hong Kong, Macau is worth highlighting as a semi-autonomous region because of its unique character and heritage.

More About Macau

Ruin of St. Paul’s Cathedral

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Senado Square

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A Skyline View of Macau

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Taipu Village at Night

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Manaus, Brazil – Heart of the Amazon


This is the first in a series about the Amazon region of Brazil that is featured in my illustrated picture book, Alexander the Salamander. This post is about Manaus, the largest city in the Brazilian Amazon. Upcoming articles will focus on the Amazon River Basin, the rainforest, indigenous groups and wildlife in the Amazon, and the Amazon Ecopark, an eco-resort. Enjoy these travelogues with photos and stories from the world’s largest rainforest.

My family and I visited the Amazon region in July 2008. We spent the day in Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, before embarking on a trip to the rainforest.

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The city lies at the confluence of the rivers Rio Negro and Rio Solimões, the two major tributaries that form the mighty Amazon River flowing east to the Atlantic Ocean. Surrounded by a dense sea of green forest that blankets the region, Manaus is a gritty, industrial city of approximately 1.85 million inhabitants carved out of the jungle. It’s a four-hour flight from São Paulo, the primary airline hub for most international flights entering Brazil.

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The name “Manaus” is derived from the Manaós indigenous group that lived in the area until the city’s establishment by the Portuguese in 1669. Manaus has been called the “Heart of the Amazon” and “City of the Forest,” although a more appropriate name is the “Industrial Pool of Manaus,” reflecting the city’s status as an industrial center. A rubber boom in the late 1800s fueled urban growth for half a century. Since the establishment of the Free Economic Zone of Manaus (ZFM) in 1957, a bevy of industries from shipbuilding and petrochemicals to manufacturing and agribusiness have developed thanks to tax incentives offered by the ZFM.

Although the city’s footprint is one of the largest in Brazil, its historic center between the river port and the main square is an easy walk. Visiting Manaus’ highlights is a day tour on foot from any number of hotels clustered in the center. Heading north on Avenida Eduardo Ribeiro takes you to the Renaissance-style Amazon Theater (Teatro Amazonas), an opera house that opened in 1896 and is home to the Amazonas Philharmonic. The easily recognizable dome features a large mural of the Brazilian flag.

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The main square is lined with historic buildings that house the Palace of Justice (Palácio de Justiça), São Sebastião Church, Municipal Prefecture, and the Indigenous Museum (Museu do Índio), one of two showcasing local indigenous culture (the other is the smaller, nearby Museu Amazônico). Although small – just one large city block – the square is a must-see when visiting Manaus. Park benches in São Sebastião Park are a great place to stop and enjoy the plaza.

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Walking down Avenida Eduardo Ribeiro toward the river port will introduce you to the sights and sounds of Manaus. There are some free-for-all markets that sell a wide assortment of knock-off goods. We passed on the faux leather goods and “Swiss” watches.

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Next to the port is a large open-air market surrounding the Church of the Mother Manaus (Ingreja de Matriz Manaus). Cluttered and somewhat disorganized, the place was abuzz with activity when we visited and filled with items that seemed more geared to locals than tourists. We enjoyed browsing the stalls for mementos, food, and drink.

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My son enjoyed drinking milk straight from the coconut sold by one of the vendors.

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Across the street on the banks of the Rio Negro is the Adolpho Lisboa Market (Mercado Adolpho Lisboa), the city’s oldest market built in 1882. Next to it lies the ornate Customs House (Alfandega) overshadowed by the contemporary but gaudy Ministry of Finance (Fazenda) skyscraper out of place in the historic center.

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The large, modern wharf next to the river port crowded with cafes and piers blends in well with the colonial architecture.

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The port is a jump-off point for river cruises and tourist excursions that range from daytrips to the Meeting of the Waters at the confluence of the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões to multi-day trips to ecotour resorts.

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If you visit the heart of the Amazon, you’ll likely transit through Manaus on your way to the rainforest. Many tourists head straight to the river without stopping to enjoy the city. While much more awaits you in the wild, a brief stopover will introduce you to Brazilian culture and prepare you for the jungle adventure that lies ahead.

2008_07_19 Brazil Amazon Manaus (19)

About Alexander the Salamander

A young salamander named Alexander living in the Amazon River Basin joins his friends Airey the Butterfly and Terry the Tarantula for an unforgettable jungle adventure. Come along with Alexander and friends as they meet birds, monkeys, and other creatures, enjoy the beauty of the rainforest, and face danger along the way.

The first book in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, Alexander the Salamander is an illustrated story inspired by the authors’ visit to the Amazon in 2008. Fun for kids and adults alike, the story teaches children the importance of listening to teachers and other authority figures.

coverM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Top Ten Things to Savor in Macau


Here is a top ten list of things to enjoy in Macau, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and former Portuguese colony. This list is based on my visit to Macau in April 2012. The activities and destinations listed should give you a taste of what one of Asia’s most fascinating places has to offer.

1. Ruins of St. Paul Cathedral in the Historic Centre of Macao (the Portuguese spelling of Macau), a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Historic Centre of Macao on Macau Peninsula with its mix of Portuguese and Chinese influences was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005. The Centre stretches over several square kilometers in two zones: one between Barra Hill to the west and Mount Hill in the center, and the other to the east encompassing the Guia Fortress, Guia Chapel, and Guia Lighthouse. The first zone boasts 20 monuments of special significance to the blending of eastern and western influences that harken back to Macau’s days as a Portuguese colony. Click here for more information about the Centre.

The Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral and College is arguably the city’s most famous landmark and a must-see attraction. Completed in 1602 by the Jesuits, it was one of the largest Catholic complexes in Asia but fell into decline after Pope Clement XIV dissolved the Jesuits’ Order, the Society of Jesus, in 1773, and the Jesuits departed. It was destroyed by a fire during a typhoon in 1835. The cathedral’s façade crowning a long flight of stone steps is the only visible remnant of the church. Its baroque features are reminiscent of the Jesuit Reductions in South America that were built at about the same time. Behind the façade of St. Paul’s is the Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt with relics and artifacts from the former Jesuit complex.

St Paul (7)

St Paul (10)

St Paul (2)

Next to the Ruins of St. Paul’s is the nondescript Na Tcha Temple, a Buddhist and Taoist temple built in 1888 to honor the Taoist deity of protection, Na Tcha. Perhaps just as significant is the red-brown wall behind the temple that is reportedly one of the last standing sections of the Old Wall of Macau destroyed by the Chinese in 1622.

Na Tcha Temple

2. Senado Square and Leal Senado:

As short walk from the Ruins of St. Paul’s through the colorful shopping district of the Historic Centre of Macao is Senado Square, or Senate Square. This is the heart of historic Macau. The square is paved with a colorful mosaic of cobblestones surrounding a contemporary fountain bedecked with a metallic globe. St. Dominic’s Church, Leal Senado, General Post Office, Santa Casa de Misercordia (Holy House of Mercy), a Portuguese charity, and other colonial buildings border the square.

Senado Square (2)

The shopping district in the Historic Centre of Macao:

Rua (10)

St. Dominic’s Church:

3. Mount Fortress and the Macau Museum

Also located in the Historic Centre of Macao, the Mount Fortress (Fortaleza do Monte in Portuguese) is a hilltop fortress built in 1626 by the Jesuits to defend themselves from attack. The colonial government seized it after the Jesuits left Macau in the 1770s. It served for many years as the residence of the governors of Macau and a military fort.

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2012_04_17 Mount Fortress (3)

2012_04_17 Mount Fortress (7)

2012_04_17 Mount Fortress

The Museum of Macau sits on top of the mount.

2012_04_17 Macau Museum

Mount Fortress is a short escalator ride from the Ruins of St. Paul’s and has a nice vista overlooking the city worth the trip. You can almost hear echoes of the city’s colonial past near the cannons on the ramparts. The beautiful garden offers panoramic views of the old city. Click here for more views of the city’s skyline.

2012_04_17 Macau Skyline

If you enjoy old military forts and have the time, visit Guia Fortress a few kilometers to the east.

4. A-Ma Temple

The A-Ma Temple, a Taoist temple built in 1488, is the oldest and most famous in Macau. It’s located at the base of Barra Hill at the western end of the Historic Centre of Macao. Time and weather did not permit us to visit it on our trip, but several sources have indicated that it is one of Macau’s main attractions and worth a visit.

5. Visit the casinos, gamble and shop

As the only place in the People’s Republic of China where gambling is permitted, Macao is a popular destination for Chinese who enjoy gambling. As of 2012, gambling revenue in Macau was five times that of Las Vegas, although you wouldn’t know at first glance. Unlike the crowded Las Vegas Strip, Macau’s casinos are scattered across the city. The newer casinos are located on the Cotai Strip in Cotai, a district between Taipa and Coloane islands built on reclaimed land. The Galaxy, City of Dreams, and Venetian are on the Cotai Strip. Others, including the Grand Lisboa and the Sands, are located near the Historic Centre of Macao. These casinos and hotels are filled with restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues that appeal to gamblers and tourists alike. We stayed at the Galaxy and were impressed by the amenities and beautiful peacock motif.

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6. Dine on Macanese and Portuguese cuisine

Macau offers a delicious fusion of Chinese and Portuguese cooking. The two have blended into a local style known as Macanese cuisine with an emphasis on baked goods and grilled and roasted meats. Some popular Macanese dishes are Portuguese or African chicken, codfish (bacalhau), gray chicken or rabbit (pato de cabidela), spicy chili shrimps, minced beef or pork (minchi), stir-fried curry crab, steamed pork buns, and egg tarts. Macau has many fine Macanese, Portuguese, and Chinese restaurants. Dine at one recommended by a local or the concierge at your hotel. We dined at Antonio (259 rua dos Negociantes Taipa), a Michelin 3-star Portuguese restaurant owned by renowned chef Antonio Coelho widely known as one of the best purveyors of Portuguese cuisine in Macau. The meal was delicious, and the ambiance was wonderful.

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2012_04_17 Antonio's

Other recommended restaurants in Macau are Fernando’s on Coloane island (9 Praiade Hac), seafood restaurant O Manel (10 rua de Femao Mendes Pinto), and Macanese restaurant O Porto Interior (259 rua do Almirante Sergio).

7. Macau Tower:

The 338 meter (1,109 foot) tall Macau Tower offers some of the best views of Macau. Thrill seekers can walk on Skywalk X, the outer rim of the tower with only a tether and no handrail. Or bungee jump off the tower, the second highest in the world after the Vegas’ Stratosphere skyjump. We didn’t visit the tower because of bad weather, but I took a photo of it.

8. Taipa Village:

Taipa Village is an old settlement on Taipa Island near the Cotai Strip. It’s worth a visit if you’re staying on Taipa or Coloane islands. Get away for a meal at one of the Portuguese or Macanese restaurants. Walk along Rua do Cunha or one of the cobblestone side streets to buy pastries or souvenirs and visit the Taipa House Museum and Church of Our Lady of Carmel. With all the modern casinos rising up around it, this colonial-era town feels like a place frozen in time.

2012_04_17 Taipa Village (4)

2012_04_17 Taipa Village (7)

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Here are a couple of odd sights we encountered in Taipa Village – alley cats feasting on a meal outside a restaurant (we didn’t eat there) and dried caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps sinensis) for Chinese herbal tea.

2012_04_17 Taipa Village (11)

2012_04_17 Taipa Village (12)

9. Macau Science Center, Cultural Center of Macau, and Macau Museum of Art:

The Macau Science Centre is a contemporary waterfront structure designed by famous architect IM Pei that opened in 2009. The Cultural Center of Macau and Museum of Art are co-located in the same building across the street from the science center. The three offer a variety of exhibits and performances that make for a nice alternative to the casinos and historic parts of town. They are also visually attractive and offer a nice photo op.

10. The House of Dancing Water Show:

The House of Dancing Water, a Vegas-style stage production at the City of Dreams, is a wonderfully choreographed experience in an intimate aqua theater-in-the-round. The uniquely Asian take on the aquatic theater concept combines theater, dance, gymnastic artistry, high-performance diving, and state-of-the-art displays of water imagery. Click here to read my previous post about the show or click here to buy tickets.

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2012_04_17 Dancing Water (22)

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We simply enjoyed walking around the streets of Macau to see the city. Here are some photos from the city center:

There are many more things to savor in Macau. It’s impossible to see it all without visiting at least a few days. From the Macau Grand Prix held each November to taking the one hour Hong Kong-Macau Ferry, a visit to Macau is filled with eclectic diversions that make it a fun destination in Asia.

Here’s to hoping your trip will be filled with sunshine.

More About Macau

Visit these links for other blog posts about Macau:

Click here for more information about the Historic Centre of Macau.

Click here for more information about the House of Dancing Water.

Click here for a video clip of the city’s skyline.

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buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

The Historic Center of Macau


This is the second in a series of articles about Macau, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. As with the show The House of Dancing Water, we took too many great photos of the Historic Centre of Macao (the Portuguese spelling of Macau) to include all of them in my upcoming list of the Top Ten Things to Savor in Macau. It merits its own post with a full photo collage.

The colonial area of the city with its mix of Portuguese and Chinese influences was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005. According to UNESCO, “with its historic street, residential, religious and public Portuguese and Chinese buildings, the Historic Centre of Macao provides a unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, architectural and technological influences from East and West.”

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The Centre stretches over several square kilometers in two zones: one between Barra Hill to the west and Mount Hill in the center, and the other to the east encompassing the Guia Fortress, Guia Chapel, and Guia Lighthouse. The first zone boasts 20 monuments of special significance to the blending of eastern and western influences harkening back to Macau’s days as a Portuguese colony. A complete list is at the end of this article.

During our trip to Macau in April 2012, we visited the monuments near Mount Hill. They’re shown in the map above. Starting at Senado Square (10 on the map), we walked to Mount Fortress (21), the Ruins of St. Paul’s (29), and back to the square. The small area was packed with things to see and made a great daytime walking tour. Unfortunately, time and weather did not permit us to see the other sites in the Centre — perhaps during a future visit.

We started at the Mount Fortress (Fortaleza do Monte in Portuguese). The hilltop fortress was built in 1626 by the Jesuits to defend themselves from attack. The colonial government seized it after Pope Clement XIV dissolved the Jesuits’ Order, the Society of Jesus, in 1773, and the Jesuits departed. It served for many years as the residence of the governors of Macau and a military fort. It is now home to the Museum of Macau. You can almost hear echoes of the city’s colonial past near the cannons on the ramparts. The beautiful garden offers panoramic views of the old city.

2012_04_17 Mount Fortress (10)

2012_04_17 Mount Fortress (8)

2012_04_17 Mount Fortress (9)

The Museum of Macau.

2012_04_17 Macau Museum

A short escalator ride down the hill is the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral and College, one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Completed in 1602 by the Jesuits, it was one of the largest Catholic complexes in Asia but fell into decline after the Jesuits’ departure. It was destroyed by a fire during a typhoon in 1835. The cathedral’s façade crowning a long flight of stone steps was the only visible remnant of the church. Its baroque features reminded me of the Jesuit Reductions in South America that were built at about the same time.

St Paul (6)

St Paul (7)

St Paul (8)

St Paul

St Paul (2)

Statue depicting the Apostle Paul.

St Paul (4)

The back side of the cathedral’s façade — an interesting contrast from the front.

Next to the Ruins of St. Paul’s is the nondescript Na Tcha Temple, a Buddhist and Taoist temple built in 1888 to honor the Taoist deity of protection, Na Tcha. Perhaps just as significant is the red-brown wall behind the temple that’s reportedly one of the last standing sections of the Old Wall of Macau destroyed by the Chinese in 1622.

Na Tcha Temple (2)

Na Tcha Temple and a section of the old Macau wall.

Na Tcha Temple

We walked down the steps of the Ruins of St. Paul’s to the intersection of Rua de Sao Paulo and Rua de Santo Antonio, where the shopping district of the Historic Centre of Macao began. Heading away from St. Paul’s, Rua de Santo Antonio became a cobblestone pedestrian street that headed to Senado Square.

St Paul (10)

At the base of the steps was an interesting statue depicting a Caucasian man and Asian woman that apparently signified the union of eastern and western influences in Macau. In an eternal pose the woman offers the man a lotus flower, and the man accepts with an open hand.

Love Statue

As we made our way through the Centre’s shopping district, we saw a variety of western and Asian storefronts sprouting from colorful Portuguese-style colonial buildings with signs in Chinese, English, and Portuguese. It was an interesting melding of the old and new. Most tourists here were Chinese drawn by the excellent shopping opportunities.

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A side street off Rua de Santo Antonio.

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Rua (6)

An old home.

Rua (2)

Rua (7)

Colonial building near Rua de Santo Antonio.

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Rua (8)

Rua (9)

Rua (11)

Rua (10)

Rua

Near the junction of Rua de Santo Antonio and Rua Sao Domingos, we passed by the beautiful St. Dominic’s Church. Originally built in 1587, the baroque interior is worth a look-see.

St Dominic (3)

St Dominic (4)

St Dominic (5)

Turning a corner, we entered Senado Square, or Senate Square, the heart of historic Macau. The square was paved with a colorful mosaic of cobblestones surrounding a contemporary fountain bedecked with a metallic globe. The Leal Senado, General Post Office, the Santa Casa de Misercordia (Holy House of Mercy), a Portuguese charity, and other colonial buildings bordered the square.

Senado Square (2)

Senado Square (7)

Senado Square (8)

Senado Square (9)

The Leal Senado (Loyal Senate) erected in 1784 was the seat of Macau‘s colonial government. Its name, bestowed in 1810, honors the colony’s continued loyalty to the Portuguese monarchy during the Iberian Union (1580-1640). It has served as the headquarters of the Institute of Civic & Municipal Affairs, which administers local matters, since Macau’s transfer of sovereignty to China in 1999.

Senado Square (11)

The General Post Office.

General Post Office

The monuments described above are only some of the significant ones in the Historic Centre of Macao. Others include (from Wikipedia):

The walking tour from Mount Fortress to Senado Square is accessible by foot and takes about half a day. If you’re planning a trip to Macau, take your time and set aside at least two days to visit the Historic Centre.

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clip_image001M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain available from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex. They visited Macau in April 2012.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.