Mandarins and Temples

We haven’t done much advance planning for our stay in Macau. We had been hoping that there may have been a poker tournament taking place that we could have entered but there’s an odd dynamic around poker in Macau, as compared to Las Vegas. The authorities impose a table cap on casinos which limits the number of gaming tables that each establishment can have operating at any one time. An open poker table counts against that cap, so casinos would prefer to have a real gaming table running than having to allocate ten or twenty tables to support a poker tournament where all they’re going to receive is the one-time rake against the entry fee (usually 10% – 15%). It also means they have no incentive to offer low limit cash games in poker, since they will rake more from each pot in higher stakes games. All this adds up to there being no poker for us here, so we started looking for alternative entertainment.

The Macau Tourism website was helpful in this respect and we picked a couple of their recommended sights to visit. First stop was the Mandarin’s House. This is a typical mid-19th century Chinese residential compound  that once belonged to a gentleman named Zheng Guanying, who was an influential writer on economics and political affairs.

The house is really interesting with a number of design elements that would eventually come to be featured in 20th century Western architecture as well as more traditional aspects such as a central atrium with a pool to catch rainwater to help cool the building.

dsc_0124 2dsc_0144There were many decorative features both internally and externally. Friezes were obviously a major theme of architecture during the building’s heyday, and we liked the way the clay drainage pipes were cast to look like bamboo.


img_3993We spent quite a while wandering around the maze of rooms within the compound, and would definitely recommend a visit here if you find yourself in this part of the world.

Afterwards, we walked on to Barra Square (nothing to do with the Scottish island in the Outer Hebrides) to visit A-Ma temple, the oldest part of which dates back  to 1488, just 4 years before Columbus set off for the New World.  This appears to be very much a working temple as the complex was filled with supplicants praying and, presumably, making requests of the relevant deity. The incense smoke was fairly thick at the bottom of the stairs.

img_3092And it just got thicker the higher you walked and, presumably, the bigger the requests in the prayers became. The lampshade-like objects are all incense sticks.

And there must be a pretty big request associated with the telegraph pole sized joss sticks at the top of the hill. By this point, our eyes were starting to water and the air was catching in our throats with the overpowering incense smell so we descended and left the temple.

We walked back to the hotel but not quite directly. We decided that we would brave the queue at Margaret’s Cafe e Nata to pick up a custard tart as a little treat. The queue was long but it moved quite quickly and we acquired four of these tasty morsels for the equivalent of £1 each. And they were delicious.

That staved off our hunger for a while so we spent a couple of hours playing our instruments before heading out for dinner. We ate at a place called Ali’s Curry House. If it had been in the UK, the name would have put me off but it was actually very good food and they sold local Macau beer which was very tasty.

Despite the disappointment around the poker, we had a splendid day in Macau.

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