Wednesday, July 27, 2011

COLOANE: 01 - Meeting A-Má

She is a Taoist deity erected on top of a hill overlooking the Cotai Strip. Her view from the top is awesome and would give anyone a perfect vantage point of the city. On the other side is a view of the area of Coloane within the vicinity of Hac Sá beach. Meeting her is easy if you have wheels. Otherwise, you are in for a long hike. That’s what I did. Where is Coloane, though? Macau originally had three main districts: the Macau Peninsula which links the region to Southern China, a residential district island at the middle called Taipa where the airport is located, and the southern island of Coloane. However, a landmass which was reclaimed emerged to connect Coloane and Taipa. They called this new district Cotai, which really is just COloane and TAIpa combined. This area is small but crowded with tourists because of the Venetian.

To get to Coloane from the Peninsula, you ride a bus. I don’t think you could go there via free shuttle. The ticket is just around MOP6 anyway so it is no big deal. Depending on which bus you take, the route usually ends at Hac Sá beach at the southeastern tip of Coloane, and in effect, of Macau. So, how did my itinerary go? I walked. I walked a lot! If you plan to walk too, I assure you that touring the churches of the Peninsula the next day would be as easy as pie.

Rest at Hac Sá beach and take some pictures. An odd looking structure is a Westin resort on the extreme left side of the beach. On the right are residential buildings. Look behind you and you see a hill. That’s where you would first see A-Má from afar. There are picnic areas by the hillside partially hidden by a line of what seem like Pine Trees. Lovely sight. Hac Sá beach is no Boracay, but lively enough and teeming with local tourists especially during the summer. And wow, may I tell you now that the sun reigned supreme while I was there. I thought I would die from heatstroke. Unfortunately, no swimming for me. I brought my laptop instead of my swimwear. To the beach. WTF, I know.

It’s time to hike up the hill to meet the goddess. You might want to have some snacks at Fernando’s Restaurant first. I haven’t tried any of the food but it does have a good rep online. You need to find the entrance to the Trilho de Coloane. Since the hills are on the middle of the island, you only have to find the main road and cross it. Once you see some hills, those ought to be it. Just find an entrance to the trail. The one nearest to Hac Sá seems to be by the road from Hellene Garden. The entrance reads: Caminho Antigo de Seac Min Pun de Coloane. Rough translation: Old Path of Seac Min Pun of Coloane.

There is a map by that entrance. Study that map. Take a photo if you like. If not, make sure you have good memory. The last thing you want to happen is get lost in those hills. Don’t worry though, just follow the paved path and you would be okay. There are some dirt paths branching off from the main cement route. Ignore them. You’ll know you are taking the right direction once you reach an intersection with another map and arrows pointing to the destinations of the three footpaths in front of you. To get to A-Má, you take the rightmost path. On the way you would see two (or were there three?!) set of steps going farther uphill. You could take any of them then head right once you reach the top. They all lead to the goddess. I took the one which led to the Miradouro da Pedra. This one is situated right in front of the park across the temple.

I did not enter the temple. I just took a picture of its exterior and what seemed to be an altar to its side. A-Má is now just a few cartwheels up the hill. The view was so majestic because she is painted all white and the sky was just so blue that day with a couple of white clouds in the background. She blended in perfectly. She watches over sailors and fishermen by the way, or at least the tablet said so. There were suddenly quite a number of people up there, which I found surprising at first, because I only encountered three people on the trail going up. But then there is a road there accessible to cars, which is the more convenient option if you actually owned one. As for me, I was determined to head to Cheoc Van beach via the Coloane trail again.

It took quite a while for me to reach the said beach, but I was just relieved when I did. The beach is not that impressive either, but again, full of people. There is a swimming complex on the right side. Cheoc Van is smaller than Hac Sá, but has more character. I found a cafe where I ordered iced chocolate XL and ate ice cream while resting with my legs up on one of the beach chairs. Relaxation by the beach! Had I brought along my swimwear I would have gone swimming right away when I got there. Luckily, the iced chocolate was so yummy and refreshing. The sugar rush really helped when I started walking towards Vila Coloane, which wasn’t that far. Take note that I am a brisk walker though, so what seems to be “not that far” for me might actually be far for you.

Vila Coloane is small. The highlight of this cultural hotspot is the Avenida de Cinco de Outubro (October Fifth Avenue). Along this road is where one of the old pastel colored churches of Macau is located, facing a little plaza decorated in a way that would make you believe you were in Europe. There are a few more old buildings and temples within the area, but as mentioned, tht church is the star of the show.

My next stop was Parque de Seak Pai Van, which houses a Giant Panda observatory. I arrived there at 6:30 PM because for some reason I refused to take the bus which was only MOP6.40. I lost a lot of time because of that. They are only open until 6 PM. I guess I would have to reserve the Pandas for my Beijing trip then. What followed after that was more than an hour of walking to get to the Cotai strip. Yes you heard that right. I walked all the way to the Venetian. Why? I don’t know. I had the money for a bus ride. Maybe I’m just a masochist in denial.

COLOANE: 01 - Meeting A-Má

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