The Guia Fortress // © 2014 Adrain F
With more than 28 million visitors a year, Macau keeps growing. Whether it is crowds or construction, it is hard to imagine getting much peace in the tiny, two-island destination.
Macau’s vibrancy, for some, can be overwhelming. Travelers flock to Macau for the glitz of Vegas-style casinos and it’s unique blend of Chinese and Portuguese cultures. For those looking to break away from the crowd, there are still a surprising number of tranquil places to kick back, relax and take in the rich history that this Special Administrative Region of China has to offer.
My own journey to find serenity in Macau started at A-Ma Temple. While it is a must-see attraction with no shortage of visitors, the multilevel destination also has sacred pavilions, courtyards and chapels adorned with coiled incense burning overhead to set the mood. Dedicated to both Taoist and Buddhist symbolism, A-Ma is a haven for thoughtful contemplation and prayer. The temple is located on the southern tip of the Macau peninsula, but visitors can find numerous peaceful temples throughout Macau. Some favorites include Na Tcha Temple, near the famed Ruins of St. Paul, and the Temple of the Lotus on Avenida do Almirante Lacerda.
The Mandarin’s House
Just to the north, the Mandarin’s House offers roughly 12,000 square feet of quiet space. Visitors will find equal parts museum and time apart from the bustling crowds. The Mandarin was once home to famed Chinese writer Zheng Guanying in the mid-1800s. It later housed 300 tenants, after Guanying’s heirs moved away, leaving a sense of peaceful history. Mandarin House is across the street from Lilau Square just off Barra Street.
St. Dominic’s Church
Not known for its calm surroundings, St. Dominic’s Church is located in perhaps the busiest part of Macau, where Senado Square and Dominic Square showcase classic Portuguese architecture. While throngs of visitors clog the streets, oddly, few go inside this wonderful church. Bathed in yellow, St. Dominic’s was founded by three Spanish Dominican priests and houses more than 300 items of antiquity. The only noises I heard inside this church were the obnoxious shutter clicks of my own camera.
On a clear day, the Guia Fortress offers one of the best views in Macau, both literally and figuratively. The fortress/lighthouse/chapel is located on the highest peak in the biggest park in Macau. While the origins of the fortress date back to 1622, its lighthouse is the first of its kind along the Chinese coast and dates from 1865. The Guia Fortress is also where the locals go to chill. A visit will reveal the Macanese’s love for low-impact exercise such as walking and tai chi.
Jardim de Lou Lim Iok
Perhaps my favorite quiet spot in Macau is Lou Lim Iok, which is like stepping into a private sanctuary. Without the World Heritage tag associated with the above list, Lou Lim Iok feels like a secret. Located just east of Avenida do Conselheiro Ferreira de Almeida near Praca do Tap Seac, it provides a walk in nature and charming winding pathways which leave modernity behind. Visitors can expect sculptures, bamboo and quiet.