Former Bela Vista Hotel, Macau
Of course these days, in true Prince style, it is the building formerly known as the Bela Vista Hotel. Its current use is as the residence of the Portuguese Consul in Macau (as opposed to the Portuguese Consulate which is further north). Unfortunately, I haven’t got any of my own snaps for this particular entry, so will rely on the screen shot from Noble House, which shows it in its former pastel green glory atop of the hill looking down onto Praia Grande.
I wasn’t going to say anything about this place for a while, but I am currently reading an interesting book called Macao by Phillipe Pons (written in the late 90′s and translated from the original French print) and he has provided such a great summary of its colourful history that I felt the need to share. Unfortunately, Pons spends most of his time lamenting over the fact that the modern Macao is now like a Disney Theme park, I guess as a long time visitor he can make that call (my first visit wasn’t until 1996). Considering he had written the book before land reclamation merged the two islands of Taipa and Coloane, and before Stanley Ho’s latest penis extension (called the Grand Lisboa in case you were wondering), I dread to think how depressed he must be feeling right now.
Anyway, he has a great summary of the building’s history, of which I shall unashamedly summarise even more for your reading pleasure. In case you wish to read this information first hand here is a link to the book at the publishers Hong Kong University Press.
Built in 1870, originally as a residence for Edward and Chatherine Clarke, a British Captain and his wife, they decided in 1890 to tiurn it into a hotel and named it the “Boa Vista”. Unfortunately their fortunes weren’t so great and they were forced to put it on the market after only a few years. They were about to sell it to the French, who wanted to turn it into a hospital for French soldiers wounded in Indo-China but the sale was opposed by the British who feared a French expansion in China. And so it went on with several owners, including the Santa Casa De Misericordia (an age-old Catholic charitable organisation that administers various hospitals and clinics and which has an eponymous building on Senado Square). In an unspecified year it was once again turned into a hotel with initially and French, then a British manager (the latter was deported due to running illegal roulette games in the building – perhaps providing the inspiration to turn Macau into its current status as the worlds biggest gambling twon?) before then being used as a Secondary school. All this before 1936.
In 1936 it once again became a hotel, this time under its most famous name as the “Bela Vista” and was unfortunate enough to have its new opening coinciding with the invasion of China by Japan. As a result the place was taken over by the Govt to house Portuguese refugees from China – in particular Shanghai.
I’m not too sure what happened post-war. Pons mentions that the building wasn’t turned back into a hotel again until 1958 when it was bought by three Chinese women. The Macau Heritage website claims this actually happened in 1948 – perhaps someone out there knows the correct date?
Anyway, 1958 or 1948, it seems that the hotels fortunes still had yet to pick up and was hit by more misfortune when its manager, Paulo Chung, suddenly disappeared during the cultural revolution in 1965. Perhaps a victim of Red Guard fervour? His replacement, Adriao Pinto Marques, was luckier staying at the hotel for twenty years until his death – in a chair on the verandah – in 1985. Pinto Marques was a big fan of Napolean and decked the hotel with souvenirs from that era, and was credited with restoring the hotel’s fortunes.
His son Adriano, picked up where he left off but seemed to founder before Excelsior Hotels took out a 25 year lease from the Govt. They decided a renovation was in order and a couple of local architects were taken on board to see the project through during 1990-92. When it reopened its capacity was drastically reduced (to just
6 rooms 4 suites and 4 rooms! [edit: see Jake's comments below]) and its financial ruin was more or less secured. It finally closed as a hotel on March 29 1999, and, fittingly, was taken over by the Portuguese Consul when Macau was handed back to China in December 1999.