Macau – an architectural marvel?

Last Tuesday I spent the day walking around Macau. I’ve been there several times and it’s fun for a change of scenery. As far as the lay of the land, Macau is divided into three parts: the Macau peninsula, which is attached to China at Zhuhai, and the territory’s two islands, Taipa and Coloane. So far I’ve mostly explored the peninsula.


Cruising the old streets it dawned on me that Macau is a perfect destination for film-making. Why? Where else can you find two-hundred years of authentic sets? Every architectural trend (or mishap) from the grand colonial era to Art Deco elegance, to the worst of the 60’s and 80’s is here, preserved in a state of suspended animation.

Macau is a sleepy place. Take a turn off a major thoroughfare and you’ll stumble upon blocks that actually make you feel like you’re on a set. It’s exactly this quality that makes it a fascinating diversion from Hong Kong, where very few older buildings remain.


In the midst of the layers of decay and the dazzle of all the new construction, Macau is filled with character.


There’s a dark, somber quality to the forgotten alleyways that seem to catch no light whatsoever. Whole blocks seem second-class, tucked away from major streets and walkways. These could provide a perfect setting for a period noir or a David Lynch movie. Most recently the film “Isabella,” starring Isabella Leong and Chapman To sought to capture this aspect of the city. Johnnie To’s “Exiled” also made use of Macau’s old streets.


On the opposite end of the spectrum are the avant-garde complexes being put up to inspire awe and attract gamblers. Perhaps the award for most visible should go to the Grand Lisboa which looms over the city, dominating the skyline from nearly every angle. And rightfully it should, as the new gem of Stanley Ho, it deserves a special status for its complex, larger-than-life design.


The newer end of the strip now includes the casinos: Grand Lisboa, Emperor, Wynn’s, and Star World (pictured above.) The MGM Grand and several more major casinos are currently under construction. The Cotai strip (an area of reclaimed land between Taipa and Coloane,) is also set to explode with the Venetian’s upcoming launch.

If you go for a day trip to Macau, and you’re interested in catching that feeling of discovery, try to explore off the beaten path and don’t forget to bring your camera!

[photopress:Container_Stacked_Bldg.jpg,full,pp_image] [photopress:Macau_Balconies.jpg,full,pp_image] [photopress:Macau_Fifties_Building.jpg,full,pp_image] [photopress:Macau_Tower.jpg,full,pp_image] [photopress:Macau_Bridge.jpg,full,pp_image]

1 Comment

  • it did occur to me to visit Macau, if i do make a trip to HK.
    i dunno whats there for me to see apart from casino…
    that just shows how MUCH i know abt that part of the world!!!

    i love old buildings and streets…thats some really colonial stuff there.
    nice. that helps.

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