Penha Hill, Macau
Penha Hill (Colina De Penha in Portuguese) is one of the higher points of the Macanese peninsula, literally and figuratively. Perched on the top is the Penha Church – a Catholic Chapel that claims a long history in Macau, dating back to 1622, although the current incarnation dates back only as far as 1837, it still just manages to predate the British takeover of HK by a few years.
The Chapel is still very much in full use and is the termination point for the annual “Our Lady of the Fatima” procession, which starts at the Church of St Domingo before weaving its way through the narrow Macanese streets and up the hill to Penha. It’s a steady climb up the hill to the church but by no means steep, so it’s accessible to most people. At the top you will find a breezy sitting out area and skirting one side of the church grounds are some narrow but nicely kept gardens, with commanding views down the hill, and a small children’s playground. There is another great vantage point in the church courtyard in front of the main entrance, it’s a great view now sadly spoilt by the New Grand Lisboa edifice that juts out of the old town like…[insert phallic simili here].
All the way up the hill you pass expensive private houses which have substantial views over both sides of the hill – the west over the inner harbour to ZhuHai on the Chinese Mainland, the east out to see towards HK and various other outlying islands. It’s a fairly exclusive area and I suspect one reserved for people with lots of money – Stanley Ho does/did own a house in the part of Macau, and of course down the hill looking out over the Nam Van lake is, what was, the Macau Governer’s residence. I’m not sure what it is used for now but perhaps either the Portuguese Consul or the Macau Chief Executive lives there? Either way, whoever now resides there warrants an armed police guard at the main gate.
Tom Briggs has a great (though reversed) picture of the old Governers mansion on his PBASE gallery. I took a similar aspect shot (though my photography absolutely sinks by comparison) when I was there and you can see the difference 40 odd years makes – in Macau’s case, not much actually.
This part of Macau is actually very quiet. The roads are small and relatively private without too much in the way of traffic and pedestrians. We were here because we were staying at the nearby Hotel Riviera (it used to be called the Ritz but was renamed recently) to watch the annual firework competition.
From the top of Penha Hill its possible to walk down Estrada De D. Joao Paulino and reach the A-Ma Temple and the Maritime Museum (as well as grab a bite to eat at A Lorcha’s).