The Senate Square serves as a meeting point.
If you only have six hours to enjoy a city, all you need is a good map and good luck to bring you to splendid places and give you a memorable experience. In Macau, being lucky is probably the best thing that you would expect.
That was what happened to me several weeks ago, when I was invited by a travel agency to Macau to cover the preview of a new musical show.
Actually, I stayed for two nights and three days, but the tight schedule and the long trip (six hour-trip by plane and by boat) somehow gave me only six hours to enjoy the down town of the only place where gambling is legal in China.
After the major event was over at 5 p.m., I asked for a tourist map from the front desk of the Hard Rock Hotel in Cotai, Taipa island, and hopped onto a free shuttle bus to the inner harbor, located in Macau peninsula.
Macau comprises the Macau peninsula and the two islands of Taipa and Coloane. The peninsula and Taipa are connected by three bridges, while Taipa and Coloane are linked by the 2.2-kilometer-long Taipa-Coloane Causeway.
I did not expect much from the trip as I just wanted to be able to stand in front of the magnificent facade of St. Paul’s ruins, which fascinated me when I was browsing the Internet the night before.
Tourists are pictured in front of Ruins of St. Paul’s.
It was raining a little when the shuttle bus driver pointed to some narrow alleys across the street to show the way to St. Paul’s ruins.
I decided to enjoy the alleys and forget my plan to visit the heritage site.
The alleys were full of various small shops selling Chinese snacks, Chinese herbal remedies, jewelry, books and newspapers.
The alleys were getting narrower and they led to some high rise apartments. Judging from their gloomy appearance, most of these apartment buildings appeared to be home to middle-income people.
A few cars and small trucks slowly entered an alley, but most alleys could not accommodate them. Dozens of motorcycles were parked in some of the alleys, but no parking attendants were in sight.
I went out of the alleys and found myself on a wider street called Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro. There were fancy shops and restaurants along the street and the sidewalks were full of people window shopping.
If you happen to visit this are, you need not to rent cars or motorcycles because public buses serving as many as 18 different routes are easily available.
Several meters after starting walking I passed a bus shelter and stopped at a traffic light. It was right across the Senate Square, possibly the most visited public space locally.
Tourists from many nations crossed the street, joining hundreds of others who took pictures of the beautiful classic European architecture.
All the buildings surrounding the square looked elegant with their stylish paint, eager to show off the past glory of the Portuguese colonial era.
The Senate Square, or Largo do Senado, is named after the Leal Senado Building (Loyal Senate Building), a neoclassical style building constructed in 1784.
The building that stands across the square is now the office of the Institute for Civic and Municipal Affairs of the Macau Special Administrative Region.
The Senate Square is paved with traditional Portuguese pavements and adjacent to the Macau Business Tourism Center building, the General Post office and the graceful building of Santa Casa da Misericordia, an institution run by a charitable body founded in 1498.
Walking around the buildings, including St. Dominic’s church, made me forget that I was in Chinese territory.
I walked down an alley and found similar small alleys like the ones that led to the high rise apartments before. The small street of Rua des S. Paulo was quiet, filled with shops selling antique furniture and small statues.
I made a turn and climbed through a rising alleyway that led to Na Tcha temple. I stood solemnly in front of the temple, which was constructed in 1888 and reconstructed in 1901.
As I turned around, I gasped. The Ruins of St. Paul’s was there, standing tall, facing hundreds of buildings, including the Casino Grand Lisboa.
Casino Lisboa with colorful lighting.
I met two young people from Thailand, Nattaporn Klintoom and Jade there, and together we continued our walk to see some iconic casinos in the city, starting with the Casino Grand Lisboa, MGM Hotel, Wynn Hotel, the Lotus Square and the Kun Iam statue (Kuam Im in Indonesian).
The statue, located in the Outer Harbor, stands 20-meter tall and it’s made of special bronze.
We took a free shuttle bus from the MGM hotel to the Macau Ferry Terminal and walked to the Fisherman’s Wharf, an entertainment and meeting spot.
“I feel free here. Macau is safe for tourists… We can walk until late at night here,” Jade said.
Going around Macau Peninsula is easy as pedestrians are everywhere, decent public buses with various routes are available until late at night along with accessible free shuttle buses from star-rated hotels.
There are two kinds of bus stop in Macau Peninsula, the first one is only marked by a pole and sign equipped with information on bus numbers and the routes, while the other one is a glass bus shelter plus a bench and information about the buses and the routes.
I took a shuttle bus to the Hard Rock Hotel in the City of Dreams around midnight.
Six hours was apparently not enough to enjoy all the interesting corners of Macau, but I had been lucky enough to get a glimpse of what I could enjoy during my next vacation.
How to reach Macau from Jakarta:
It takes some five hours from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Cengkareng to Hong Kong International Airport. People can go to Macau by helicopter, either from Hong Kong or Shenzen in Mainland China.
A cheaper choice is by a ferry. Take either Turbo JET or First Ferry. After arriving at Hong Kong International Airport, directly check in at the ferry counter. The one-hour trip will end at the Macau Ferry Terminal in the Outer Harbor.
The Macau administration provides visa-free facilities for visitors from several countries, including Indonesia, Australia, the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany. For details, check out www.macautourism.gov.mo
Star-rated hotels and budget hotels are available.
- Photos by JP/Indah Setiawati