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Temples, picturesque gardens and quiet alleyways provide a glimpse of historic Macau

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 July, 2015, 10:11am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 July, 2015, 12:53pm

A walk through Macau's historic St Lazarus district is like a short course in Sino-Western history.

Kun Iam Tong is a good place to start. The temple, at No 2 Avenida do Coronel Mesquita, which is also known as Pou Chai Sim Iun, dates back to the 13th century. The structure was built during the Ming dynasty in 1627.

One of Macau's most important Buddhist temples is historically significant for two reasons. Marco Polo is said to have studied Buddhism there and the first treaty between China and the United States was signed at a stone table in one of the temple's gardens in 1844.

Dedicated to Kun Iam, or Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy, the temple complex comprises three key shrines and several smaller shrines as well as gardens, which include terraced gardens at the temple's rear. Kun Iam Hall is the temple's most important feature. There is a statue of Kun Iam flanked by 18 Buddhas.

From the temple, walk southeast along Avenida do Coronel Mesquita and turn right on Avenida de Sidónio Pais. Continue until you see a European style garden on your right. Named Flora Garden, it was once part of a prominent Portuguese woman's estate.

The garden is at the foot of Guia Hill. You can ride the world's shortest cable car to the top - it only takes two minutes - or you can go on foot. When you reach the top, you will find yourself in a quiet leafy oasis. A shady path runs around the summit. At the crest is the Guia Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse on the China Coast. The views of the city and the harbour are magnificent.

A short walk from Flora Garden (across the street from the police station on Rua de Silva Mendes) is the Dr Sun Yat-sen Memorial House. Often referred to as the Father of Modern China, Sun led the Republican revolution that overthrew the Qing dynasty in 1911. He is revered on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The house was briefly the home of one of the most important figures in modern Chinese history, and many old photographs and letters are on display. The Islamic and rococo style structure and its furnishings offer a nostalgic look at the lifestyle of Macau's moneyed classes from an era, when rich people lived in houses rather than high rises.

A short stroll from the house lies Lou Lim Ieoc, Macau's only Chinese style public garden. Built as a private garden in the mid-1920s, it was acquired by the government in the early 1970s, opening to the public following a facelift in 1974. It received another major facelift several years later.

The garden has meandering paths, pavilions with green tiled roofs, lily ponds inhabited by carp, and beautiful landscaping. One of its key features is a nine-turn bridge, which zigzags across one of the ponds. Concerts and exhibitions are sometimes held in an East meets West structure at the back of the garden.

A few steps down Rua do Tap Siac lies a row of houses dating back to the 1920s. Painted in rusty red and mustard yellow, the former residences have undergone several incarnations, the most recent in 2002, when they were linked together and turned into the Gallery, where visual arts are on display.

Across the street is a large square. Originally a military parade ground, it served as a soccer pitch and roller hockey rink for many years. It was laid with Portuguese calcada, or coloured stones that form a mosaic pattern, in 2007. Several restored heritage buildings flank the square.

Located on nearby Rua de Joao de Almeida, St Lazarus is one of Macau's oldest churches. The exterior is austere, but the interior is lovely. Painted a beautiful shade of pale yellow with white trim, it has a spectacular pipe organ behind the altar, flanked by Chinese style stained glass windows. There are several other heritage buildings nearby.

Down the road is a quiet little alleyway called Calcada da Igreja de Sao Lazarus. Albergue 1601 is located at No 8. Serving Portuguese and Macanese cuisine, the eatery has outdoor seating. It's the perfect spot to end your walk, sipping a cold glass of vinho verde and wolfing down spicy African Chicken, one of Macau's signature dishes. Make sure you don't arrive during the restaurant's afternoon break. It's open for lunch (Noon to 3pm) and dinner (6pm-11pm).

For more information on An Experiment of Creativity - part of the Step Out, Experience Macau’s Communities walking tour route series, visit