When we walked out of our hotel on our second day in Macau it was breezy and cool – quite the change from the humid bubble of the day before. We took the bus to Senado Square and began snaking our way down various streets to the first stop on my walking tour for the day, Hong Kung Temple. The temple is unassuming; tucked away on a quiet street, we almost walked by it. It was peaceful and empty with cones of incense filling the air with a sweet and smokey fragrance. We admired the carvings at the top of the temple, the gilded entrance, and the shrine of Hong Kung before moving along back up the street toward the ruins.
Our next stop, behind the ruins, was a section of the old city wall and Na Tcha Temple. The Portuguese built walls around all of their settlements along their trade route and this section is all that remains of their wall in Macau. It’s estimated to have been constructed around 1569. This section of the wall demonstrates a local construction method called chunambo where a mixture of clay, soil, sand, rice straws, and crushed rocks and oyster shells was laid in layers. I would have liked to have seen a map of the area where the wall originally stood. I haven’t been able to find one thus far.
The section of the old city wall abuts Na Tcha Temple, an incredibly small and picturesque temple dedicated to Na Tcha, a popular figure in Chinese folk tales. According to legend, Na Tcha’s mother was pregnant with him for three years (!). As a young child, he accidentally killed the son of the Dragon of the Eastern Sea and, as punishment, had to cut the meat and bones from his body. A new body was fashioned from lotus flower leaves and his feet were replaced with wheels of fire. Na Tcha became a boy warrior fighting off demons and protecting children from plagues and sickness. He is considered the patron of children and protection. The temple in his honor was originally constructed in 1888, and rebuilt in 1901. Its proximity to the Ruins of St. Paul’s is seen as evidence of the way Eastern and Western traditions co-existed peacefully in Macau.
We continued on our way, leaving the ruins behind and heading northwest toward Jardim Luís de Camões, or Camões Garden. Across from St. Anthony’s Church, one of Macua’s oldest churches, the garden is a public park next to a few other sites: the mansion, Casa Garden, and the protestant cemetery. The park is named for Luís de Camões, Portugal’s national poet. His epic, Os Lusíadas, tells the tale of Vasco de Gama’s discovery of the sea route to India. In 10 cantos he describes the journey historically and mythologically, adding Olympian gods into the mix. Originally the park was part of Casa Garden’s grounds and was known as “Nest of the White Doves Park” because its owner had a penchant for breeding doves and pigeons in the park. In 1849, the mansion’s owner installed a bust of Camões in the park in a stone grotto where he was rumored to have written part of Os Lusíadas. When the park was sold to the city government in 1885, it was renamed for Camões. The park is a lovely break from the city. Here older residents gather to chat, do tai chi, play mahjong, or exercise.
Next to the park is the mansion, Casa Garden. Built in 1770 for a wealthy Portuguese merchant, for a period of time it was rented out to the British East India Company. Today Casa Garden is owned by the city government and used to house art exhibitions. When we visited there was a great exhibit on the tradition of puppetry in Asia in the basement and an exhibition by a Portuguese artist in the main house.
Next to Casa Garden is the Protestant Cemetery. Prior to this cemetery’s creation, protestants in Macau had no place to bury their dead. Neither the Catholic nor Chinese cemeteries would allow their burials. Many ended up buried outside the city walls. In 1821, the British East India Company purchased a plot of land next to Casa Garden to serve as the burial place for protestants. I found the cemetery quite peaceful and enjoyed strolling around reading the headstones. Many of the graves belonged to American or British sailors on merchant ships.
After our tour of the cemetery, we stopped in a McDonald’s for a quick lunch before continuing on to the Three Lamps District a little farther northeast. We kind of enjoy seeing what McDonald’s offers in other countries and we were not disappointed. Zach had the Tokyo Night special, a fried chicken patty with a fried egg, cabbage, and tonkatsu sauce between a squid ink sesame seed bun. Whoa.
On our way to the Three Lamps District we stopped by Lin Kai Temple briefly. A little shabbier than some of the other temples we visited, it had quite the character. I especially liked the carvings at the top. Just a couple streets over, we entered the Three Lamps District, a traditional street market. It was filled with all manner of things – clothing, shoes, meat, produce, fish, even cured meats. It wasn’t very crowded; we were able to walk around and stop to look at things without being in the way. Although I was yelled at once for standing in the way of customers… oops.
After we toured the Three Lamps District, we went back to our hotel so Zach could prepare for his audition. We made it back to the hotel before the rain began, but we had to go out in it to get to the Macau Cultural Center for his audition. Luckily, connected to the Macau Cultural Center was the Macau Museum of Art. So, while Zach practiced and performed, I spent a couple hours in the museum. My favorite exhibit was the collection of Konstantin Bessmertny, a Macau-based, Russian artist. His works were wild and provocative. I should have taken some photos but I kind of hate that in museums.
After Zach’s audition the rain had started falling harder. We thought about taking a bus back to our hotel but ultimately decided to walk back instead. It was only a ten minute walk and by the time we returned to the hotel, the rain had all but ended.
Our final stop of the day was Beer Temple. A craft beer store and bar, Beer Temple reminded us of a couple of places we frequented in Seoul. We enjoyed a couple Aussie beers and ordered dinner from the restaurant next door, a fried chicken place named Hencredible – great name. Beer Temple was the perfect way to wind down a long day.
Great city to visit.