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Macau - Attractions

Dragons at Chinese New Year

A-Ma Temple

This classic Chinese temple complex squats at the base of Penha Hill on Barra Point, guarded by stone lions and replete with flying eaves and carved details. The warren of red-hued prayer halls and pavilions date mostly from the 17th century, replacing the much older original temple dedicated to the goddess A-Ma (Honoured Mother, also known as Tin Hau, Queen of Heaven, protector of seafarers and all-round patron saint of Macau). According to the A-Ma legend, a beautiful but poor girl called Lin saved the fishing vessel she was sailing in during a storm, while the ships of the rich sailors who had refused to take her onboard were destroyed. Safely ashore, the girl was engulfed in a ray of light and transformed into a goddess, and the grateful fishermen built the temple on the place of her beatification. The A-Ma Temple is a place of pilgrimage for Macau's fishing community, and is a deafening riot of bangers, crackers and Chinese Opera on the Feast of A-Ma (May) and during Chinese New Year (Jan/Feb). A network of climbing gardens strewn with boulders surrounds the temple complex's altars and pavilions, while the cluttered rooms are an incense-drenched haven for fortune tellers and trinket sellers.

Guia Fort

Overlooking the Lou Lim Ioc Gardens, the Guia Fort is perched on the peninsula's highest point and topped by a chapel and the Chinese coast's oldest lighthouse (1865). It's a long and perspiring walk to the top, but there are few better places in Macau to get your bearings (if you're too tuckered out, you can catch a ride up on a teeny cable car).

Kun Iam Temple

This complex of Buddhist temples was founded in the 13th century, but today's buildings date from 1627. The complex is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, who appears dressed in embroidered silk and flanked by her 18 wise men. This is classic Chinese temple territory, and it's certainly Macau's most interesting temple complex - take a look at the eaves massed with porcelain figures of fish, flowers and dragons, and you'll begin to see why. The temple is also of historical note, as the first treaty of trade and friendship between the USA and China was signed here in 1844. These days the incense-shrouded complex is thronged with fortune tellers and visitors. Kun Iam Temple is in the north of the peninsula; it's not too far from the Barrier Gate and the border, though you won't get too much of a frisson from peering into China nowadays.

Leal Senado

Macau Peninsula's focal point is the arcaded Largo do Senado (Senate Square), traced with the territory's characteristically swirl-patterned cobble-paving and lined with fine colonial buildings. The clean, neo-classical lines of the Leal Senado (senate building) fill the square's southern side - wander inside to check out the panelled Senate Chamber, 16th-century library and interior courtyard decorated with classic Portuguese azulejo tiling. The Senado area is dotted with fine churches such as the cream-and-white, 17th-century São Domingos, home to the image of Our Lady of Fatima which is carted about the streets during the annual Fatima Festival.

Lou Lim Ioc Gardens

The Lou Lim Ioc Gardens are a landscaped wonderland of European and Chinese plants surrounding an ornately columned and arched mansion - take your pick of lotus ponds, pavilions, groves, grottoes, twisting pathways, ornamental mountains and curiously shaped doorways to nowhere.

Ruinas de São Paulo

No single image can encapsulate Macau's mystique, but the ruined facade of St Paul's Cathedral comes pretty close. The Italian-designed hilltop cathedral was built by Japanese Christian exiles in the early 17th century, and even in ruins its grandiose scale is a stunning reminder of Macau's glorious past. The cathedral was all but destroyed by fire during a disastrous typhoon in 1835, which spared only the screen-like facade, mosaic floor and 66-step approach. The site is all the more impressive when it's floodlit at night, soaring one-dimensionally over the surrounding apartment blocks: squint upwards to spot some local flavour in the carving of a woman stamping on a seven-headed hydra, with Chinese characters reading 'the Holy Mother tramples the heads of the dragon'. There's a museum in the cathedral's former nave, with pride of place going to the highly prized piece of St Francis Xavier's arm bone and the tomb belonging to the cathedral's builder, Jesuit Father Alessandro Valignano.

The hill overlooking the cathedral ruins is topped by Fortaleza de Monte. In its heyday the fort was the central link in the settlement's protective city walls - its cannons scared off the Dutch in 1622 - but these days it's a public park with fabulous panoramic views, a museum and meteorological observatory. Lovers of angel statues (we know you're out there) should head further north to St Michael's Cemetery, and the poignant Old Protestant Cemetery in the west of the peninsula will interest Anglo-history buffs.

Sun Yatsen Memorial Home

This strangely Moorish-style memorial house pays homage to the founder of the Chinese Republic, who practised medicine in Macau for several years before turning to revolution and the overthrow of the Qing dynasty. The first memorial house blew up while being used as an explosives store, but an assortment of flags, photos and relics remain.

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