No Giant Pandas. But enough Egg Tarts : in Coloane village, Macau


“Oh!! You have to see the Pandas! They are the cutest!!”



Atleast 3 of my friends had said this line to me when I told them that I was visiting Macau.  And I have never seen one in my life too; except in those animated flicks where the Panda kicks some serious ass. So, before I had even left for Macau, I had scribbled down somewhere in my notebook: “Visit the Giant Panda zoo in Macau”


Contrary to what most people believe, Macau is not a single island. It is actually made up of 2 different islands which are connected to each other through at least 3 different road-links. My hotel was in Taipa, the northern-most island. And the Macau giant panda zoo was located in the Seak Pai Van Park in Coloane, the southern Island.

So, I dedicated a full day to spend in Coloane to see the Pandas, and explore the Coloane Village.



Read: For things to do in Taipa, start with the ruins and crypts of St. Paul in Macau.




The pandas are calling


And on a particularly bright Sunday morning, I set out from my ‘Royal Hotel’  in Taipa. Bus number 25 dropped me right in front of the Seak Pai Van Park (which in Portuguese would be the ‘Parque De Seac Pai Van’). I had taken this bus before when I had to get the Venetian hotel, so let’s just say that I was an expert by now!

The Seak Pai Van is not just a park in Macau: it is the largest natural green space in entire Macau. Well, given the size of Macau, it is quite large enough. The park began with a decent museum of nature and agriculture, which had a few open-air installations and flower arrangements. The park was free entry, and the not too bad to spend a few minutes, but nothing much to write about.

Park seac pai van map

The map of Park De Seac Pai Van. Source: Macaupanda.org

 

A little further – in complete opposites to everything natural – was a lifesize airplane. Not much information was available about this airplane, but an internet search informed me later that this was a transit plane from Portugal to Macau, back in the days.

PArk entrance Seac Pai Van Park

The Entrance to the Seac Pai Van PArk clearly showcased what it was popular for.

seac pai van airplane

That antique airplane cut a very unique foreground against the Macau skyscrapers

 

As I continued walking from the airplane, there was Panda symbolism everywhere. Giant pandas – no, actually just their statues – stood everywhere along the path. A little ominous, considering that there were no tourists around them taking selfies. I should have guessed that something was wrong. But of course, I am an expert in making all sorts of screw-ups on my travels, so I didn’t hazard any hazardous ideas.

I passed a lake (looked like it was not natural), with some birds. And a monkey enclosure which was decently interesting. By this point, I was close to the Macau giant panda pavilion. But still, there were no tourists anywhere. What was I missing?

path to giant panda pavilion

The path leading to the giant panda pavilion

seac pai van lake

The quaint little lake at Park Seac pai van

 

And finally, I came to the giant panda enclosure. And next to it, was a little ticket shop. The board outside the ticket shop had the prices mentioned on it: 10 MOP for a viewing. But there was no one INSIDE the ticket shop for me to collect the tickets.

And then I saw the small English notice below the price board: “The Macau giant panda pavilion is temporarily closed for renovations”

Well, I am no stranger to unfortunate things and travel misadventures. While I was definitely disappointed, it didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy the rest of Macau. And what if I couldn’t see the real pandas? There were plenty of Panda statues around, and I took consolation by snapping my pictures next to them.



Read: This disappointment was nothing compared to the time I took 4 flights to get to Palau, and did not even touch the water in the end.


 

Even if the panda pavilion itself was closed, there was also a small gift shop in the area. With too much time to kill – but not enough money to spend – I went into the gift shop and pretended like I was admiring the panda dolls.

Actually, I was just enjoying the aircon.

Panda pavilion macau

Ha. I did see some pandas eventually.

the gift shop at the panda pavilion

The gift shop at the panda pavilion



Update: I visited Macau in June 2016, when it was undergoing renovation. But a few months after that, it was back in operation, and they also added a couple of red pandas to the list. 




A walk through Coloane Village


The Pandas may have given me a disappointing start, but the day was far from over. And thankfully, the Macau giant panda pavilion was just a mile away from the Coloane village.

Wikitravel describes Coloane village as ‘quiet and lazy’. Well, it was deafeningly quiet, and ridiculously lazy. It was a weekend, yet very few people lined the village streets. Make no mistake, Coloane village is NOT a village anymore. It is a well-organized, well-paved and fairly advanced coastal walk.

As always, food is the best thing to start any walk. So, no wonder that my first stop was the famous Lord Stow’s Egg tarts. Lord Stow was an Englishman who lived in Macau, who decided to make a local version of the Portuguese egg tarts. Finding the bakery was one of the easiest tasks in Macau, as it was right next to a little park called the Earnes Square.

Just a short walk, less than 200 metres away, led me to the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier. The short walk was made more vibrant thanks to the colourful houses that lined up one side of the walk. And almost in the same colour-tone, the Chapel of St. Francis stood proudly in the middle of the Coloane Village walking path. Once upon a time, this chapel housed many sacred relics – including a bone of St. Francis – but they have all been moved to other Churches. Yet, the place was a peaceful stop for a while.

Coloane village coastal walk

Walking along the coast on the Coloane village

chapel of st francis xavier coloane macau

The chapel of st francis xavier

 

Right next to the chapel, in a beautiful display of Religious mutualism, stood the Kun Lam Buddhist temple. But to me, the more impressive temple was at the end of the Coloane promenade. That would be the Tam Kung Temple.

Dedicated to the water god, Tam Kung, it is not surprising that there was a beautiful view of the Coloane promenade, the South China sea, and – beyond the ocean – the Chinese city of Zhuhai.

Tam kung temple coloane

The Tam Kung Temple in Coloane

 

View from the tam kung temple

The view from the Tam Kung Temple



Read: If you like coastal walks, click here to check one of the best coastal walks in Sydney: Bondi to Coogee.


 

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About Abhi Surendran

Abhi quit his corporate job, and decided to immerse himself in travels, photography, occasional periods of bankruptcy, and copious amounts of insanity. He is currently working on a book of his experiences, and a dream road trip through South Asia. Both in a haphazard fashion. He blogs at Iamnothome and you can also catch him at times on Facebook and twitter.

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