The name Macau is thought to be derived from the temple. It is said that when the Portuguese sailors landed at the coast just outside the temple and asked the name of the place, the natives replied “A-Ma-Gao” (Bay of A-Ma). The Portuguese then named the peninsula Macau.
macau, the most densely populated territory in the world, is a little city that used to be portuguese – until the portuguese gave it to china in 1999 or so. it’s a short boat ride from hong kong, so we decided to hop on the ferry and spend a day there last week… and well, what a difference a boat ride makes.
macau is a million years from hong kong. it thrives on casinos (and pawn houses) – i believe it is the only place in “china” where gambling is legal (1 country, 2 systems policy). our companions on the ferry? loads of old chinese people, eager to hop on the first bus that drove them to a casino. which is a bit sad… but then again, the overwhelming feeling i got in macau was precisely sadness. macau looked old and depressed, with the same chaotic urban planning reminiscent of a neglected mid-sized portuguese city.
the fun part though, was checking all the double translations in portuguese/chinese that give macau a very peculiar feeling (even though only 0.6% of the population speaks portuguese), counting our patacas, and walking in a portuguese “calçada” again, surrounded by semi-familiar facades.
closing our eyes and pretending, just for a second, that we were in portugal.