Macau Beyond The Neon

If you ever need to get away from the bustling crowds in Macau and neon lights of the Cotai Strip, Coloane village offers a breath of fresh air and slices of nature: beaches, hiking trails, pandas and more.

Sep 16, 2019

By Juliana Loh.

AN AUDIENCE WITH PANDAS

Now that where-anything-goes Macau is officially a part of China, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a main attraction these days is pandas. A mere 15 minutes by taxi or bus from Macau proper drops you in front of the Macau Giant Panda Pavillion Coloane (macaupanda.org.mo). Here, you can get up close with red pandas Luo Luo and Tong Tong as well as the family of giant pandas: Kai Kai, Xin Xin, Jian Jian and Kang Kang, whose names collectively mean happy and healthy in Mandarin.

THE COLOANE HIKING TRAIL

The sign says it all. Courtesy of Manfred Gottschalk/Getty Images.

Standing outside a glittering casino, it’s difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that Macau has its fair share of beaches and greenery. Hiking trails vary in distance and difficulty, but most routes shouldn’t take more than two hours. A novice would be pleased with the options of four family trails located around the Panda Pavillion (Estrada de Seac Pai Van; 853/2888-0087). The main circular route loops around the hill before it forks, either to Hac Sa Beach, Coloane Village or the Panda Pavillion. For views of the sea and the protection of a leafy canopy, head along the southern part of the Coloane trail.

A-MA CULTURAL VILLAGE

Macau’s A-Ma Temple. Courtesy of James Nesterwitz/Alamy Stock Photo.

This 7,000-square-meter complex on top of a hill, with ornately carved reliefs on the temple’s pavilion roofs, is definitely worth a visit. Named after the Goddess of the Seafarers, A-Ma Cultural Village (Estrada do Alto de Coloane) is also home to a tall statue of the goddess. The towering piece of carved white stone can be seen from afar atop the 170-meter hill. The approach to the temple is up a series of small stepped terraces, decorated with auspicious carved reliefs, including the roaring tiger, double lion, five cranes and double phoenix, leading up to the main pavilion.

The towering A-Ma goddess of statue. Courtesy of Andrew Sole/Alamy Stock Photo.

On the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, Chung Yeung Festival is celebrated across China. Crowds of devotees scale up the hill in Coloane to the A-Ma Temple—the custom of hiking uphill stems from legends about dodging misfortunes and the need to metaphorically keep scaling heights in life, from career prospects to prayers for children to grow tall and strong.

ANY GOOD WALK DESERVES A MEAL

After any trek in Coloane, stop by Café Nga Tim (8 Rua Caetano; 853/2888-2086) in the village for lunch. Order the entire range of garlic shrimps, garlic clams, and the sweet and sour pork, a Guangdong specialty. Then head over to the original Lord Stow’s Bakery (1 Rua do Tassara; 853/2888-2534) and finish your meal off with a piping-hot Portuguese egg tart, its buttery, flaky crust filled with wobbly smooth egg custard, lightly torched with caramelized sugar on top.

Lord Stow’s famous tarts. Courtesy of Leigh Griffiths.

If you prefer Western food, there are several Portuguese eateries as well as pizza at La Gondola (41 Escadaria da Praia de Cheoc Van; 853/2888-0156), a beachfront restaurant. One warning: families like to head over for sundowners and dinner after a dip in the public pool or at Cheoc Van Beach.

Nearby, Fernando’s (9 Praia de Hac Sa; 853/2888-2264) is an institution that has been around for decades. The rustic laid-back interiors and outdoor seating make for perfectly languid meals on summer nights over pints of beer or Portuguese wines. The home-cooked menu offers robust flavors: white-wine garlic clams, shrimp and suckling pig are all favorites.

St. Francis Xavier Chapel on Coloane. Courtesy of James Nesterwitz/Alamy Stock Photo.

Located in a quiet corner of Coloane, Espaço Lisboa (8 Rua das Gaivotas; 853/2888-2226) serves up wholesome homemade Portuguese dishes. Try the duck rice, delightfully rich and tasty. Add in fresh seafood, prawns, signature white wine garlic clams, along with a simple salad of tomatoes, onions, black olives and lettuce dressed in olive oil. Only peckish? Order a variety of croquettes and codfish cakes to enjoy over a cold bottle of vino. If you fancy some Macanese salted codfish, the bacalhau, simply pick them up near the pier after your lunch.

OFF TO THE BEACH

The quiet Hac Sa Beach. Courtesy of Stefan Irvine/Getty Images.

On the opposite coast from Cheoc Van Beach is Hac Sa Beach, the largest in Macau, which fortunately doesn’t get too crowded even in the peak summer months. While the name means “black-sand beach,” over time, erosion has required white sand to be imported to literally shore up this stretch of coast, so don’t be too disappointed if you have a mix of the two between your toes. If you’re up for some adventure, check out the Hac Sa Reservoir Country Park, a stone’s throw from the beach, and rent a pedal boat or take a stroll around the placid water.

GETTING THERE

There are public buses or it’s a 15-minute taxi ride from downtown, but the best choice is Macau Cruise (macaucruise.com; tickets from MOP100), which now has boats that run three times daily—at
1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.— on a 45-minute journey that offers a sea view of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This ferry becomes an even better option once you consider that the popularity of Coloane for day-trippers means finding an available taxi back to Cotai or the city center on weekends is often difficult.

STAY

Grand Coloane Resort Avoid having to commute for serenity by booking this family-friendly choice in Coloane, nestled in lush gardens and adjacent to a championship golf course. The outdoor pools and Jacuzzi comprise an idyllic setting to relax, with views of the South China Sea. grandcoloane.com; superior garden-view rooms from MOP1,388 per night.

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