Saturday 18 February 2017

My Favourite Place in Macau

I travelled to Macau courtesy of the Macao Government Tourism Office and Cathay Pacific.

I've just spent four days in Macau, the former Portuguese territory which returned to Chinese rule in 1999, along the same lines that Hong Kong had two years before that.

You wouldn't think four days would be long enough in a new place to adopt a favourite spot. But I did, on my first afternoon there.

For the first two days I was based in the Old City, the oldest part of the territory on the Macau Peninsula. After that I moved to the conjoined islands of Taipa and Coloane, with the casino zone of Cotai between them.

On my first afternoon I had some free time, so I wandered around the heart of the Old City. This area, with its key landmarks of the Monte Fort, the ruins of St Paul's and Senado Square, is packed with tourists. That's understandable, as it's a very scenic district.

To the immediate southwest, however, the tourists largely vanish. That's probably because the terrain suddenly becomes quite steep. But my Lonely Planet guide said there was an interesting building up there, the Sir Robert Ho Tung Library; so I started trudging upward.

Sir Robert was a gent from Hong Kong who once lived in this attractive house, then left it to Macau to be used as a library.

It was indeed a beautiful building, inside and out. But what truly caught my eye was the square it faced: Largo de Santo Agostinho, or St Augustine's Square. It was a lovely little space, serene on this sunny Monday afternoon.

It was so serene, in fact, that one occupant of the benches against St Augustine's Church was dozing, her head supported by her backpack:

There was a little kiosk at one end of the square, that sold odds and ends such as instant coffee and sweets. And off to one side there was a thoughtful amenity for canine locals, a dog WC:

Beyond this facility, beneath apartments, I could see a cafe named Bless. It seemed an apt name for a cafe facing a church.

I sat inside for a little while, and had a very creditable cheese and avocado sandwich, which this industrious guy put together for me:

But it was the square itself I couldn't help returning to. Later in the week, I grabbed another hour to head up that steep slope to the Largo de Santo Agostinho, and sat writing postcards which the kiosk girl sold me from a dusty curling pile of neglected stock.

No one sends postcards anymore I suppose. But somehow this square, with its generous shaded seating, its seemingly unprofitable kiosk and its sleepy vibe felt like a holdover from a more peaceful age.

This is the direction I left the Largo, to return to the noisier world down the hill:

I don't know if I'll ever return to Macau, but I bet I'll dream about that square.

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