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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Holiday Travel - MACAU Tiny colony big in history

MACAU, the tiny former Portuguese colony is big in tourist attractions. Within a short distance, you can see unique East meets West architectural heritage spanning more than 400 years. The region is the oldest, largest and best preserved historical centre of both Eastern and Western architecture in China today. Macau is located on the southeast coast of China to the western bank of the Pearl River Delta. Bordering on Guangdong Province, it is 60km from Hong Kong and 145km from the city of Guangzhou.

Taoist temples from the Ming Dynasty stand near Baroque churches from the 18th century. Then, there are hilltop fortresses from the 17th century, classic China Coast shophouses, the oldest European theatres in Asia and the first Western-style lighthouse as well as colonial palaces and Chinese courtyards.

Place of A Ma

The Historical Centre of Macau is an urban area centred around the old city with eight squares: Barra, Lilau, St Augustine, Senado, Cathedral, St Dominic, Company of Jesus and Camoes. There are also 22 historical buildings, including the A-Ma Temple, the Moorish Barracks and St Lawrence’s Church. The list includes not only China’s oldest surviving church and fortress but also residences of wealthy merchants of the Qing Dynasty.

Macau in the old days was known as Ou Mun, or “trading gate”, because of its location at the mouth of the Pearl River downstream from Guangzhou (Canton). During ancient times, the port city was part of the Silk Road with ships loading here with silk for Rome.

Guangzhou prospered from seaborne business and it welcomed merchants from all over, including Portuguese merchant explorers who reached Ou Mun in the 1550s. The locals then also referred to Ou Mun as A Ma Gao, which means “place of A Ma”, in honour of the Goddess of Seafarers, whose temple stood at the entrance to the sheltered inner harbour. The Portuguese adopted the name A Ma Gao, which was gradually changed to Macau with the permission of Guangdong’s mandarins.

Tourist Attractions

In December 1999, Macau became the Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. It has over the years developed industries making textiles, electronics and toys, as well as building up a world-class tourist industry with a wide choice of hotels, resorts, sports facilities, restaurants and casinos.

Other than appreciating its heritage, tourists to Macau can go on a culinary journey to sample unique Macanese dishes — a result of the combination of Chinese specialties with influences from other parts of the world — as well as Portuguese, Japanese, African and other cuisine. There are also trails for outdoor adventure and numerous entertainment and recreational attractions.