Hotels search and book partner: Trivago Macau is much less known than its neighbor in Hong Kong's colonial past. But only real trav...

Travel about Macau

Macau is much less known than its neighbor in Hong Kong's colonial past. But only real travelers know why you need to go to Macau, well, or at least why you should look at this peninsula along the road from Hong Kong or China. What do the two former colonies have in common, why Macau has a second name and how the Portuguese past affected the present - you will find answers to these and other questions in our article.

Are Macau and Macau the same?

In China, two names are common - Chinese and more familiar to us. For example, the Chinese name for Beijing is Baijing. That is exactly what the name of the capital sounds in the generally accepted system of transcription of the Chinese language into Russian, and in the Pinyin system - Běijīng. Hong Kong's former name is Hong Kong. So the island was called before Hong Kong became a British colony. The British popularized their name and now it is known throughout the world. Chinese Macau also owes its name to Macau to the colonial period.

Macau is considered the oldest European colony in Southeast Asia. The Portuguese discovered the Celestial Empire before the British and stayed here longer, so Macau is called the first and, at the same time, last European colony in China. There are several versions of the origin of the name. According to the most common, the words of Macau and Macau are simply similar in sound, but another legend says that when the first Portuguese just landed on this shore, they first asked the locals what the name of this land is. The locals thought that the Portuguese were pointing their hand at the temple built in honor of the goddess A-Ma - the patroness of fishermen, sailors and sea merchants - and the Portuguese had not heard this word before from mouth to mouth until A-maa-gok turned into Macau.

Was Macau a Portuguese colony?

Macau was a Portuguese colony, but contrary to the widespread stereotype of the Portuguese invading China, there was no expansion. The history of Portugal in Macau began with a trading post. An agreement was concluded between the Portuguese king and the Chinese emperor, according to which the Portuguese paid an annual rent for the right to use this port. So, Macau became a transit point through which trade routes from Europe to Asia, and in particular with Japan, went, because direct Chinese trade with this country was banned. The Portuguese gradually expanded their holdings by signing lease agreements with neighboring Chinese territories, then gained the right of city self-government, and even built a fortress here to ward off the Dutch attacks.

Probably, such a trade friendship on rent could go on for a long time if Portugal had not suddenly declared Macau a free port by the middle of the 19th century. The colonial authorities stopped paying rent payments, closed the territory for Chinese officials, its soldiers and customs, effectively declaring independence. Throughout the 20th century, China in a soft and not at all soft form reminded Portugal of the right to own territory, and only in December 1999 Macau was transferred to the PRC.

What remains of Macau from Portugal?

In memory of the Portuguese influence on Chinese land in Macau, the Portuguese language remained, which, along with Chinese, is the state language, culinary traditions and, of course, architecture. Macau is often called the “Chinese Portugal”, because only here in the historical center are neighboring so unlike each other mansions in the Portuguese colonial style and modern skyscrapers, Catholic churches and Buddhist temples. The squares are paved with two-tone mosaics, which are so characteristic of the Portuguese Riviera, and the flavors of Chinese dishes hang on typical European narrow streets.

The Portuguese character in the external appearance of Macau is also manifested in the little things: the traditional white and blue azulejo tiles on the facades of houses, even the image of the scallop shell - a symbol of the pilgrimage Way of St. James - can be found on the streets of Macau. The street names here are also decorated in the azulejo style - on a white tile with a typical blue Portuguese ornament and duplicated in two languages, which only adds color and originality.

Is Macau China?

Macau is, of course, China. To be more precise, Macau, like Hong Kong, is a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China. It is separated from mainland China by its border, and is distinguished by its own legislation, economic and tax systems, a separate currency, even traffic rules. Beijing has been given control of foreign and defense policies. Macau does not have its own army, but there is a police force. The local security service monitors only the order in the city, but not at the federal level.

The neighborhood of two different systems - socialist and capitalist - within the same country was proposed by Deng Xiaoping in the early 1980s. Today this principle of “one country, two systems” is successfully applied not only in Macau, but also in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Therefore, Macau cannot be called a country or state - it is just a city, and by Chinese standards it is relatively small: the population is only about 650 thousand people.

Does Macau look like Hong Kong?

Despite the similarity of their situation with respect to China, these cities are completely different from each other. Hong Kong and Macau are two completely different stories. Hong Kong was formed as a result of the opium wars of the 19th century that the British Empire waged against China. Hong Kong was a purely conquered colony, which eventually became the largest financial center of Southeast Asia. Macau, however, throughout its "Portuguese history" was an exclusively trading colony, where merchants from different countries settled. In terms of its economic development, Macau lags far behind its neighbor in the colonial past.

So the only thing that Hong Kong and Macau are similar today is that both there and there, local people speak the Cantonese dialect of the Chinese language, both territories are returned under Chinese control as part of the course "one country, two systems."

What are the inhabitants of Macau called?

Of course, Macau residents do not consider themselves Portuguese at all in the territory of the former Portuguese colony. Most of the residents are of Chinese origin and are ethnic Han Chinese, who have roots from the neighboring province of Guangdong. But historically, another part of the locals has not only Chinese roots. In the Russian language there is no suitable word for their designation - Macaonians? makaytsy? - and in English they are called macanese people. This is the name of the East Asian ethnic group that arose in Macau in the 16th century and consisted of people from mixed marriages between Chinese and Portuguese, as well as Malays, Japanese, Sri Lankans and Indians. Many of them have Portuguese passports, but this does not mean that they feel like Portuguese.

In general, Macau speaks the same Cantonese Chinese as in the South China provinces, and the local Chinese are no different from the Chinese, for example, from Guangdong. But this unique mixture of two unlike each other cultures, which has been formed over several centuries, has left its mark on architecture, culture, and cuisine.

Does Macau have Chinese or Portuguese cuisine?

Local cuisine is represented by three distinctive and dissimilar directions. Firstly, it is South Chinese cuisine with all its specialties: dim sum, various duck and seafood recipes, as well as purely local troubles in the form of drunk shrimps, which are first dipped alive in Chinese vodka and then quickly fried on the grill. Secondly, it is a classic Portuguese cuisine, which is represented here by a huge number of Portuguese restaurants and Portuguese chefs. Thirdly, this is the so-called "Macanese" - an unusual mixture of Chinese and Portuguese gastronomic traditions with the clear influence of Indian and African colors. No wonder it is recognized as the world's first fusion cuisine - this is the name for a very successful combination of various culinary traditions. For example, they take bakalyau, but they do not prepare this dried salted cod in the same way as in Portugal, but with the addition of Indian curry or other spices from Mozambique, Angola, Yemen, Goa and other countries where the Portuguese once had their own colonies . A good example of this approach to cooking is the macanese african chicken recipe with Chinese spices, Indian coconut milk, peanuts and piri-piri sauce from hot African pepper, which the Portuguese brought to their Indian territories. Another local tahoe dish is a variation of the traditional Portuguese cozido stew, but with the addition of daikon and Chinese sausage, instead of chorizo.

This completely original cuisine is not represented anywhere else in the world. In 2017, Macau was even awarded a special order of UNESCO: it was awarded the status of “City of World Creativity” in the category “Gastronomy”. Macau was 25th on this prestigious list of cities in the world. Every year there is a gastronomic festival and many more culinary celebrations.

What do you need to see in Macau first?

Of course, the main attraction of Macau is the facade of the famous St. Paul's Cathedral. The cathedral was built in 1602, and two centuries later it was destroyed by a terrible fire along with the adjoining building of the College, the first European-level educational institution in Asia. One can judge the past beauty of the cathedral by its preserved facade - unique architecture with figures of Christian apostles dressed in Chinese bathrobes and with Chinese tassels. So the Jesuits emphasized that Christianity came here in peace, you don’t need to be afraid of missionaries and you can safely switch to a new faith. Directly adjacent to the western facade of the cathedral is the famous (albeit very small in size.

From St. Paul’s Cathedral you need to climb a high hill, where the Macau Fortress and fragments of the preserved city wall, built in 1569, are located. For many centuries, the fortress remained the main fortification and kept Macau behind the Portuguese even after a three-year siege of the city by the Dutch at the beginning of the XVII century. On another high hill, overlooking from the fortress, is the famous Portuguese lighthouse Gia and the castle of the same name - this is the first European navigation lighthouse in Asia. You can climb here through the park or by funicular. An interesting chapel has been preserved on the territory of the fortress, inside which, during the last restoration, unique murals of the 16th-17th centuries were discovered under several layers of plaster.

Macau Walk

The first Lilau square in Macau was built by the Portuguese to live. There are still preserved houses in which the descendants of those who sailed here in the 16th-17th centuries live. the Portuguese. Even the very well with which the well-known Portuguese phrase is associated: “Who drank water from the Lilau well will never forget Macau,” still stands in the center of the square, but we certainly do not recommend drinking from it.

The temple of the goddess A-Ma, which according to legend gave the name to the entire peninsula, is also preserved. Named after the goddess of the sea and fishing, this temple has existed for at least seven hundred years. It consists of a series of pagodas, temples and buildings that stretch up the hill. It is called the temple of the "two religions", or rather the two areas of Buddhism - Confucianism and Taoism.

The Church of St. Lawrence was built by the Jesuits in the middle of the XVI century. Families of the Portuguese gathered here to pray for a safe return to their homeland. Therefore, among the Chinese, it is known as Feng Shun Tang, which literally can be translated as "Hall of Fair Wind".

St. Augustine Square is also a must-see, next to which are several historic buildings: the King Don Pedro V Theater, the St. Joseph Seminary, the library of the Chinese enlightener of the first half of the 20th century, Sir Roberto Ho Tong, and the church of St. Augustine, built by Spanish monks in the 16th century. In those centuries, during the rain, priests covered the roof with palm leaves, which from afar resemble a dragon's mustache, so the local Chinese and for this church had their own name - Lun Sung Mu - literally translated as “Dragon Temple with a Long Mustache”.

The colonial administration was once located on Senadu Square, and today it is the main square of the city. Here is the former Leal Senadu building - The Faithful Senate. The word "faithful" symbolizes the title that the Portuguese king Juan IV gave to Macau in 1654: "Macau is the city of our Lord, incomparable with fidelity to anyone." The ceremonial hall on the ground floor replicates the style of the famous Mafra Palace in Portugal. Also near Senad Square are the House of Mercy, the Church of St. Dominic and the Chinese temple Sam Kai Wui Kun, which was built specifically for Chinese citizens who worked in the Portuguese administration or sat in the Senate.

Main reason to visit Macau

Plunge into the atmosphere of mixing cultures, times, eras. It turns out to be in a very small, but very dynamic city, where so many continents, countries, times are concentrated on a small piece of land.