March 11, 2004

Kyle, Jaime, and I set off in the morning for a day of exploring. We took the bus (very fast, very fun) first to Lou Lim Iok Garden in the center of the city. Lou Lim Iok is a classical Chinese garden, with a pavilion surrounded by a large pond, groves of bamboo and flowering bushes, rocky tunnels, narrow paths, and a myriad of bridges. Old men and women practiced Tai Chi at the water’s edge. Musicians played and sang ancient music while a pair of giant catfish danced in the water. Men clustered around Mahjong games and people did calisthenics along the pathways. I passed by a man taking his caged bird on a walk, and then a bunch of old guys in their socks, grumbling and laughing atop a stone wall.

From there we went off to see the façade and staircase of St. Paul’s, the site of the first university of the Far East. The church was built from 1602 to 1637, and in 1835 a fire burned most of it to the ground. To look through its windows is to look at the sky. Kyle spent some time drawing some of the images etched into the stone of the façade, and was observed very closely by many people, leaning in over his shoulder and commenting on his drawings in Chinese. Everywhere Kyle pulled out his notebook today, there was at least one person who leaned in to have a look.

Along the path up to Monte Forte there was a path of narrow, round stones set on their ends. Most people take off their shoes and walk on the rocks to massage their feet, but Kyle and Jaime saw more potential in the stone path. Instead of walking, they crawled, jumped, and rolled up the path, all the while making sounds of complete euphoria.

By the end of the 16th century, Macau was a wealthy trading town inhabited by the native Chinese and the newly arrived Portuguese traders and laborers. It didn’t take the residents too long to realize they had a good thing going. Macau was a prosperous city, a place other countries might like to claim as their own. And so the people of Macau built Monte Forte between 1617 and 1626 to defend the city from possible attacks. Sure enough, the Dutch came along in 1622 (those meanies) and were virtually uncontested by the people of Macau as they marched proudly toward the center of town to claim the island for the Netherlands. In a frenzy, some guy ran up the hill to Monte Fort and fired its one cannon at the 800 Dutch soldiers. And lo and behold, this was one lucky dude, because the cannon ball landed right in the middle of the soldiers, scattering them hither and thither. Rallied by this fortuitous shot, the people of Macau started chasing the Dutch and yelling a whole lot, which scared the pants off of those Dutch, many of whom ran into the ocean and drowned. After that, the people of Macau wised up and built a few more fortresses with lots and lots of cannons.

After a lunch in which Jaime somehow figured out how to say tofu in Chinese, the three of us headed down to Coloane, an island just south of Macau. Three buses later we arrived at Hác-Sá Beach, with its black sand, wading tourists, and squatting (what a word!) toilets. The water was cool and the weather was warm, but no one was swimming, so we followed suit and played in the sand. Kyle drew neat stuff, Jaime built a castle, and I played with two really great puppies.

On the way home we tried to find one temple and ironically found another. Though the temple was closed, there was an outdoor pond with about a kabillion turtles, so the temple turned out to be well worth the visit.

We met up with Sam and dined in Senado Square at a restaurant famous for making noodles with a bamboo stick. Everything tasted a bit fishy (literally), so when we left I went a got some good ol’ American “cheese sandwich toast” at a nearby vendor.

When people get together in America for dinner, they might say, “What’ll it be tonight? Italian? Thai? Middle Eastern? Indian?” We are eating Chinese food all the time here. But you’re in China you might say, of course you’re eating Chinese food all the time. But, still, it’s a valid point.

All of the Macau photos featured on this site were taken by a team of wiley photographers. Their names are: Rex Jantze, Sam Kusnetz, Jeff Simmons, and Danielle Vermette. And me too.