| Dr Harimohan |
I CLIMBED the steps of a ferry to its wet deck being constantly swayed by the ferocity of the wind and gentle drizzle.
Managing to reach the railings cautiously, I faced the fury of the splashing waves that hit my face unsparingly.
I was in a ferry from Hong Kong to Macau and my daughter like the rest of the passengers was dozing off in the comfortable seats below while I got up to get a taste of the sea.
After enduring this for a few minutes, I came down to sit on one of the many vacant seats.
It was late in the afternoon. We had stayed in Hong Kong for three days visiting various places of interests including Disneyland and the Tian Tan Buddha at Ngong Ping Village (though I remember the fog had covered the Buddha amongst its white folds).
We were then off to Macau. Our visit to A-Ma Temple, dedicated to Matsu (Deity of the Sea), is historically a very significant structure. This temple faces the sea and is decoarated with lights coming from its many lamps.
Legend has it that a Portuguese sailor, Alvarado, and his fleet came here in 1530, probably from Goa and Kerala in India. They asked the locals the name of the place and got the answer as ‘Ma Ge’ (the locals probably had indicated the temple). The Portuguese sailors thought it was the name of the place and so ‘Ma Ge’ eventually became Macau in their language.
For years, the Portuguese ruled the place in a pattern of continuous journey of conquests from Goa to Malacca in Malaysia, Timor and finally to Macau. With them they brought their language, culture, religion, architecture and cuisine to these countries.
We arrived in the huge Macau port and after going through the formalities, we left for a bus stand where buses belonging to several luxury hotels were waiting for their customers.
As our West End Hotel did not have bus service we used a bus of another hotel which had an arrangement with our hotel. And so we got into Hotel Sintras bus.
My first impression of Macau was that of a busy city with huge casinos. It looked like a mini Los Angeles.
It was raining when we got down at Hotel Sintra.
The spacious lobby was colourfully lit and to our surprise, ladies dressed in regal cloth danced with lamps in their hands to welcome the guests.
We shied away a bit as we were not from this hotel! We had to walk a long way to reach the West End Hotel, which was not a very pleasant task as we had to drag our heavy suitcases through busy roads.
After freshening up at our hotel, we made our way to the historical Senado Square. Laid with geometrical patterns on its floor, Senado Square aptly reflects Portuguese style. There are lots of shops and a beautiful fountain here.
As it started raining heavily, we returned after having a quick dinner.
Back in the hotel we spent some restful moment as the rain serenaded us to sleep.
The next morning I could see from my hotel window the distant sea and as I admired the boats and ships bobbing up and down, I sunk into deep imagination. I saw Portuguese sailors on their small boats and grand ships sailing through the sea.
After visiting the famous A-ma Temple, we walked back to Senado Square.
Largo do Senado is a public square in the centre of Macau. The square was said to have been there even during the Ming dynasty and the Portuguese had their parades here.
A statue of a Portuguese soldier called Mesquita had been removed by the Chinese and in its place was a colourful fountain aptly called “The Fountain”.
The Portuguese paved the floors of the square with designer stones into a distinct pattern and the square has an array of heritage buildings around it such as St Domingo’s Church, the Ruins of St Paul’s, etc.
Hundreds of designer shops, Chinese food restaurants and snack bars are here always full of bustle and activity.
The steps to the Ruins of St Paul’s led to its magnificent facade, which is the only thing left after three major fires.
The museum nearby, meanwhile, holds many valuable artefacts and also gave a lofty perch to view the city.
We went into the St Domingo’s Church, which is a heritage site and awed at its cavernous hall and ornamental altar.
However, we had no choice but to restrict our trip with this small bit of history for time was not on our side.
We were, in fact, rushing to catch a cab back to the port for a ferry ride from Macau to Hong Kong International Airport, where we caught our flight back to Brunei Darussalam via Malaysia.