Wednesday, July 27, 2011

[MACAU] The Ruins of St. Paul’s Evacuation Center

I was dreading the thought of my Paulo Coelho shopping spree going kaput. The Livraria Portuguesa sign board said that it was closed on Sundays but no! They are open, but still, no Portuguese language book shopping was done. Why? Expensive! A copy of Veronika Decide Morrer costs more than MOP 200, and only a few of his books were there. The Portuguese language course books that I’ve been eying for a year now cost MOP 300. I didn’t come prepared. Never mind. I'm not taking the DAPLE until late next year anyway. Paulo Coelho will have to wait. After an hour at the bookstore, I decided to see the famous Ruins of St. Paul.

The attractions of the Macau Peninsula are almost always clustered in one area, with each group just a few blocks away from each other. If you are a devout Catholic and you really love churches because they are “so pastel-colored you’re gonna die!” then this is the district for you. Of course, tourists will flock at St. Paul’s. Typical tourists go with the flow. How to get there? Just go to Senado Square. This isn't hard to miss especially on a Sunday. Aside from the ruins, Senado gets the most tourists in this area. It is along a main road and has a lot of those pastel colored buildings that you just want to eat. What? They do look like fondant cakes!

The Santa Casa da Misericordia is the white photogenic building to the right of the fountain. The Tourism Center is also a looker and is the one on the left. Go straight past Starbucks and McDonalds to see the oldest Dominican Church in Asia. I forgot the name. There are about half a dozen igrejas in this area and I am agnostic. What do you expect? But they almost look the same: pastel-colored and small. Just follow the road signs to get to the ruins of St. Paul, which is not pastel-colored. Non-conformist, huh? The Igreja da Sé is at the end of the alley to the right of the Livraria Portuguesa. An interesting thing to note is that the area also has quite a number of clothing lines which were on sale when I was there. The prices were dropping up to 70% off. Good bargain. If you hate praying, you can go shopping. Everybody happy!

Actually, I already went to Senado the day before. Oops, correction, the MIDNIGHT before. Want to see a not so crowded Largo do Senado? Go there at midnight after grabbing some late snacks at McDonalds (closes at 12). The place is well-illuminated in the evening and I think the view is more striking, especially the Sta. Casa da Misericordia. There are less people except for the occasional tambays, most of which I bet are Pinoys because I was hearing a lot of Tagalog. And we Filipinos like making tambay anywhere anyway. It’s like a collective hobby of ours, so I think my assertion is true.

The Penha is the most inaccessible and consequently, the least popular. You have to go uphill to get there. If you have walked all the way to the Macau Tower from the Grand Lisboa, the church on high ground that you see from afar is the Penha. Just consult one of the maps in the streets to see how to get there. You pass by two or three more Fondant cake churches before reaching this one. It is a must see, in my opinion, because it commands a good view of the city. More than one view. You can see the area of the Macau Tower in front and then there is a statue of the Virgin Mary looking over the gamblers of the Grand Lisboa and other casinos nearby. Aside from the impressive view of the city from the Macau Tower, I think this is just one of the few others that offer an outstanding panoramic view of the peninsula.

It was a long walk after that. I was catching the whiff of good pastries as I paused to gulp water and rest. I don’t know why I've never had a Portuguese egg tart or any of Macau’s mouth-watering pastries. Perhaps I was just too preoccupied sightseeing. Besides, eating always takes the backseat when I travel. It’s not a priority for me. Moving on, it was a long walk to the Livraria Portuguesa and then to the Ruins of St. Paul, which wasn’t really that far away but seemed so because you had to swim in a crowd of tourists to get there. Don't ever go there on a Sunday, your evil camwhoring plans will be foiled by other camwhores. They were everywhere, from the steps, to the windows of the ruins, to the stores selling the delicious pastries.

I think I already mentioned that it was really hot in Macau when I was there, as in the sun was really high up and then there were all those people. The area looked and smelled like an evacuation center, although the enticing aroma of the pastries overpowered the smell somehow. I just snapped a picture of the ruins’ façade and fled. I didn’t even dare go up the steps anymore. With all those people you’d probably just fall on one of them from all the pushing. Dying from a stampede is not really a dream of mine. I went back just in time at the guest house to find the other three Filipino guests there ready to leave for the airport. We all went together after resting in front of the fans. Heatstroke!!!

There are more temples to visit within the peninsula. There is also a fort just next to the ruins of St. Paul’s Evacuation Center. I just chose to no longer go there since I was already bathing in my own sweat, which is not really the most amazing feeling in the world. I felt like I’d been dipped in a large Orocan of cooking oil. Eeew. You can see all of the peninsula’s sights in one day, better if you have wheels so you can minimize the sweating and the walking.

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