Reconstruction of a bygone era

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 November, 2009, 12:00am

Only a short distance from the Cotai Strip, with its casinos, luxury hotels and kilometres of arcades of designer label boutiques which have come to symbolise 21st century Macau, is a lovingly reconstructed reminder of a time when this former Portuguese enclave lived life at a more leisurely pace.

The Taipa Houses Museum at Avenida da Praia on Taipa comprises five Portuguese-style houses built in 1921 as residences for senior Portuguese civil servants. They boast the high ceilings and spacious verandahs typical of the period and are painted an eye-catching jade green. In common with many colonial era buildings of a certain age, the houses fell into some disrepair over the years before being acquired in the 1980s by the tourism division of the Macau government which restored them, but without any clear intentions for their future use. In the late 1990s, it was decided that the old houses would be eminently suitable as museum premises, with each house presenting an exhibition focused on a different aspect of Macau's history.

The houses were one of the last projects undertaken and completed by the outgoing Portuguese administration before the 1999 handover. The museum, which is now administered by the Civil and Municipal Affairs Bureau, opened on December 5 of that year. Macau was returned to China on December 20.

The Macanese House contains furniture and other exhibits which reflect the way of life of affluent residents of Macau during the 19th and 20th century colonial period.

The House of The Islands offers an idea of the historic culture and lifestyles of what were, before the construction of the bridges linking them to the mainland, Macau's outlying islands - Taipa and Coloane.

The House of the Portugal Regions is one of a number of museums established to maintain awareness of Portugal's cultural contribution to Macau, and exhibits include examples of the country's traditional regional costumes.

There is a great deal of interest in art in Macau, and The Exhibition House provides a venue for a varied programme of exhibitions by artists ranging from painters to photographers to jewellery designers to sculptors.

The House of Reception provides a venue for official government functions and also for events open to the public, such as wine tastings and gastronomy festivals.

Although Taipa is easily reached from downtown Macau, it retains much of its traditional restful atmosphere. In this museum much of the charm of colonial Macau has been preserved in a highly appropriate setting of which practical use continues to be made.