Macau (also spelled Macao), will be an overseas territory of Portugal until 1999 when it returns to China (note from 2015: It is already China). Macau is situated on the south east coast of China, just across the Pearl River (Zhu Jiang) from Hong Kong. Macau consists of a peninsula and two islands -Coloane and Taipa-, is located on the South China Sea and has a total area of 16 sq km (6 sq mi).
The city of Macau occupies most of the hilly peninsula; its border with the Chinese province of Guangdong is marked by the Porta do Cerco (Barrier Gate) erected by the Portuguese in 1849. More than 90% of the population of Macau (almost 500,000) are Chinese. A small Portuguese community and Macaense (Portuguese and Chinese descendants) existed on the island since 1557.
With the decolonisation of the African colonies an the return to Portugal of the so called Retornados, Macau saw its Portuguese population grow. Amongst them the Costa's, making their introduction to Asia. The islands are mostly rocky, contain several villages and some small agricultural plots. The peninsula is linked by two bridges to the Taipa island, which in turn is connected by causeway with Coloane.
When the Costa's arrived in Macau in 1979, Macau was very much a sleepy gambling village living under the shadow of Hong Kong. The blend of the two cultures, Portuguese and Chinese could be seen everywhere. The Praia Grande street, a tree lined esplanade displayed some beautiful examples of the Portuguese arquiteture. The ruins of São Paulo Cathedral in the centre of Macau is another example of the Portuguese arquiteture and the influence the church had in the Portuguese life in the XVI and XVII centuries.
Macau is the oldest permanent European settlement in East Asia. First visited by Portuguese navigators in the early XVI century, Macau was given to the Portuguese to help them establish a trading place in the region. The Portuguese where the main traders between China and Japan at that time. This gift from the Chinese had a second intent. By having the Portuguese in Macau the Chinese were trying to stop the incursions of the Malay pirates up the Pearl River a door into inner China.
Macau is a free port, which means that all vessels may load or unload there without paying import duties. Manufactures include textiles, footwear, firecracker's, electronic equipment, precision instruments, and handicrafts. The city has an active fishing fleet and exports fish products. Our impression was that almost all goods came from Chine and received the final touches and were packed in Macau.
Tourism is an important industry, with many visitors attracted by the gambling casinos. Casinos are not allowed in Hong Kong and therefore 99.99% of the so called tourists travelling to Macau are Hong Kong residents trying their luck in the casinos. Macau is connected by ferry to Guangzhou (Canton) and Hong Kong. To satisfy the gambling desires of the Hong Kong population almost every 10 minutes a jetfoil, hydrofoil or ferry leaves or enters Macau waters. Now, an international airport links Macau to the world by air.
The Costa's arrived in Macau in 1979 from Angola, after a short stop in Portugal to add another member to the family: Rita. We lived in Macau for two years and started there rebuilding our lives after Angola. We worked in the Macau Electricity Company and Filu explored every shop in Macau and Hong Kong during this time. Life in Macau was good for the Costa's and we could have lived there a little bit longer, but the shadow of another decolonisation frighten the day lights out of me. As soon as we recovered from the tumultuous last years in Angola we started looking for greener pastures. In 1981 we turned another page of our book and left Macau.