The Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Macau

Facade to St. Paul's ruins, Macau.

The facade of Ruínas de São Paulo or the Ruins of St. Paul’s, Macau’s historic landmark that attests their Portuguese heritage.
Photo © C M Cordeiro-Nilsson for CMC 2010

In today’s modern Macau, it is difficult to find any trace that Macau had set out its life as a western outpost in Asia, as a matter of fact together with Malacca as one of the oldest. Macau is also one of the most visible reminders of the fact that it was actually the Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz who in 1488 discovered a sea route to China and that Great Britain, still so present in today’s Singapore, arrived centuries later in the Far East.

Today Macau has been given back to Chinese administration, however the remnants of Portuguese culture is deeply instilled in the food, culture and architecture of Macau. During my recent visit, one of my ‘most important places of interest’ was the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral. To find my way there was a mixed experience.

The Ruins of St. Paul is constantly filled with people, so walking from Senate Square in the direction of the Macao Museum would be one of the most convenient means of getting there. Even when driving, we parked some 400m away and walked.

Parking meters, Macau.

Parking meters is the system in Macau when parking along the streets.

Scooters and motorcycles, common mode of transport, Macau.

Scooters, a common sight and mode of transport.

Narrow street, Macau.

All the better to navigate these older, narrow streets.

Parking meters are the system in Macau, if you’re driving and you’ll also notice a fair bit of scooters and small motorcycles on the roads, which are excellent vehicles to navigate the narrower streets of the region.

The Ruins of St. Paul is today what is left of a Portuguese Jesuit cathedral that was accidentally destroyed by fire in the early 1800s. Dedicated to Saint Paul the Apostle, it was in the 1600s, a collegiate church that the Jesuits used to house those of their society who were on their way to Japan, via Macau. These ruins are one of the region’s most historic landmarks and enlisted as part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in 2005.
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360 Café at Largo da Torre de Macau

Torre Panorâmica, Macau Sky Tower from the highway, Macau.

Torre Panorâmica or Macau Sky Tower, one of the region’s landmarks with the world’s highest bungee jump point from its outer rim at 233 m. A thrill to all Evel Knievels out there, and certainly not for the faint hearted!
Photo © C M Cordeiro-Nilsson for CMC 2010

Driving along the highway, Macau’s Sky Tower looked akin to Seattle’s Space Needle, though at 338 meters, it stands considerably higher than Seattle’s landmark. Both structures halfway across the globe, have a revolving restaurant at the top and it was there, at 360 Café that we were headed to have lunch.

Torre Panorâmica, Macau Sky Tower, elevator to the 60th floor, 360 Café.

360 at 60.

Having never been to Macau or dined at such an altitude, I hardly knew what to expect. The enthusiastic discussions between well-meaning and highly adventurous relatives on bungee jumping after lunch made me think twice about having lunch at all, wondering which was worse, never having bungee jumped at all or contemplating bungee jumping after downing lunch.

My quiet reservations about eating at 360 Café lifted however, when on the 60th floor, I stepped out of the elevator and was greeted by the most delectable spread of cookies, cakes, jellies and fruits – the dessert table laid just where the elevator entrances were.

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Through the backstreets of Macau to Margaret’s Café e Nata

The Grand Lisboa as seen from the fortress, Macau.

A view of Macau today with the towering Grand Lisboa as seen from Monte Forte.
Photo © C M Cordeiro-Nilsson for CMC 2010

When in Macau, what hits you first are the ostentatious buildings, mostly casinos to attract all sorts of tourists. And some people frequent Macau with what I find in slight irony for masochistic reasons, the gamblers for a purpose and the non-gamblers for the sheer delight to revel in what they are not.

But Macau, rich in its history and currently known for its distinctive blend of Portuguese-Chinese culture ingrained into the administrative and education system of the region, is also known for its food.

Café e Nata, Macau for Portuguese egg tarts.

Highly reviewed and written about, though more difficult to locate for first timers in Macau.

In this post is a discovery of some of the most sumptuous Portuguese egg tarts in Macau, tucked away in a highly unlikely corner of the region in Gum Loi Building – Margaret’s Café e Nata.

I thought the café unlikely because of the manner in which I found it. Bundled in a car by relatives and driven to a nearby parking area that wasn’t exactly nearby after all, we walked through busy main streets, crossed several large junctions where the golden glint of the Grand Lisboa loomed large before us, not to be missed by anyone and as if out of nowhere, shuffled into a back alley that though sunny, looked the complete opposite of all that glittered in Macau.
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