Monday 19 November 2007

Macau Old Town

An atmospheric blend of Chinese and Portuguese history and culture percolates through the busy shopping streets below the ruined, but striking, facade of the seventeenth century Jesuit Church of Mater Dei and the nearby stone fort from the same era. You can reach the eerie facade, the symbol of Macau, by wandering through narrow streets lined with tiny food stalls stacked with exotic and aromatic morsels. From the church, you can stroll up through the fort's crude stone walls guarded by aging canons. At the top, there are 360 degree views of Macau's forest of scruffy apartment blocks sprinkled with the odd plush casino-hotel or futuristic skyscraper. As you descend into the streets below, you will stumble on the occasional elegant colonial villa or church overlooking streets and squares paved with distinctive waves of small black and white tiles. Tucked away in one of the back alleys, you may also find a serene shrine to Confucius, lit up by scores of lanterns. Although, there are few real sights, Macau's historic heart is well preserved enough to justify at least a half a day of wandering. 7/10