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Macau - Off the beaten track


Brassy sounds of Macau

Coloane Island

Coloane was still the haunt of pirates as recently as 1910, but these days the foreign visitors are golfers, hikers and beach bunnies. Ramshackle Old Macau can be sensed in the narrow, crumbling shop-lined lanes of Coloane Village and its junk-building sheds and temples (including Kam Tong Temple, with its famous carved-whalebone dragon boat). The Chapel of St Francis Xavier is the former home of the saintly relic now housed in the peninsula's São Paulo Museum. Coloane is inordinately proud of its two beaches: Cheoc Van, complete with yacht club; and the grey-sand Hac Sa (much cleaner than it looks). Inland there's a couple of hiking trails, including the 8.5km (5.5mi) Coloane Trail leading to the top of a 176m (577ft) mountain topped with a statue of A-Ma.

Taipa Island

Once-sleepy Taipa Island has experienced some shockingly brusque changes recently - if you want calm and tranquillity you'll have to head to neighbouring Coloane Island and be quick about it. Plans are in place to connect Taipa with Coloane once and for all, courtesy of the huge Cotai City land-reclamation project. It's envisaged that the self-contained city will sit at the centre of a road, bridge, air and rail network linking Macau with mainland China - the new six-lane Lotus Flower Bridge is just the start of this massive development project. But all is not lost: head to Taipa Village on the southern shore for picture-book charm, unruffled by the overblown development to the north. Grand colonial remains mingle with Portuguese restaurants and Chinese shops, Buddhist temples and tree-lined esplanades (no longer on the seafront thanks to siltation and land reclamation). Grab a snapshot of the past at the Taipa House Museum, an evocative re-creation of an early-20th-century colonial home. East of the village, the steep hills leading down to the sea - well, nowadays the airport - are covered with the Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian graves of the United Chinese Cemetery - so much for fung shui!



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