To my cover-exchanging friends, please try as much as possible to
as these give a more personal touch to the cover
the Philippine postal service damages the cover with scribbling that highly devalues the aesthetic value of the cover, which is what I am after
or at least same themes when sending covers, but it is okay if this is not possible or if this would be expensive, and
not too small, but maybe around 4"x6" or something like that; big envelopes are not very attractive unless they have many stamps.
Thank you!


澳門 Macau

This is an entry I've been promising myself that I'd post as a tribute to the wonderful territory of China that I called home for five months, Macau.

Macau was, until 1999, an overseas territory of Portugal. It is the first and last European colony in China. Today, it runs with the "two systems, one nation" policy like its sister "Special Administrative Region" Hong Kong, the more popular of the two. Because Macau is a special administrative region, it maintains its own legal system, police force, monetary system, customs policy, immigration policy, and, much to my delight, its own postal system.

The name Macau

Macau is known by three different names: Macau, Ao men, and Ou mun, one name for each language in common use in the area.

Macau is, of course, the English name for the territory. Legend has it that this name was acquired when the Portuguese arrived in Macau at a place near A-Ma Temple and asked the locals for the name of the place, to which the reply was "A Ma Gok" (the final "k" in Gok is not pronounced with a sharp "k" in Cantonese, making "Gok" sound mor like "Gao") or "A-Ma Temple" since they assumed that the Portuguese were asking about the temple. Another, more local version of the story I heard while in Macau was that "Macau" actually comes from a curse in Cantonese. Apparently, Cantonese people are known for being quite rude (a claim I can now better understand) so when they couldn't understand what the Portuguese were asking them, they replied with something like "What the hell are you saying?" (in Cantonese, of course). The Portuguese, also not understanding what was being said, picked up part of the cursing and recorded it as "Macau," a name that would stick to this day. The spelling of "Macau" actually evolved from other earlier versions such as Amaquão and Amacuão.The true origin of the name of course will never be known since there were noofficial, formal records or accounts recorded about Macau at the time.

Ao men, the Mandarin name for Macau, literally means "inlet gates" and probably gets its meaning from the fact that Macau lies at the mouth of the Pearl River Delta. The Cantonese name for the place, Ou mun, has the same exact meaning and sounds very similar to the Mandarin pronunciation.

The Place

Macau consists of three islands: Macau, Taipa, and Coloane. Macau is the old part of Macau. It is where it all began and it is on Macau island that you can find the very old buildings that seem like they're falling apart. The seat of government is also on Macau and it is there that you find the "heart of Macau," a place called "Largo do Senado," which is known by most locals as "San Ma Lou" or 新馬路. Macau island is rich with history and culture, probably because it is where it all began. The famous Grand Lisboa, the lotus-shaped gold structure that I have seen countless times, is also on the island. So is the the home of tycoon Stanley Ho, who owns the Lisboa Hotels.

Macau is connected to Taipa island by three bridges. Taipa is the "new" Macau. Settlement on the place began quite recently, especially because ferries were needed to cross the sea to Taipa before the first bridge was opened for use in October 1974. According to a local I lived with during my stay, Macau is the "rich part" of Macau. He pointed out that most of the people on Taipa are the ones who can afford the rather expensive flats on the island and that things on Taipa were generally comparatively more expensive that they were on Macau. I guess Taipa is like the "uptown" of Macau. From my personal observation, the atmosphere on Taipa is very different from the one on Macau. Macau is very congested and busy. Cars are all over the place and so are people, especially tourists. In contrast, Taipa is very relaxed and quiet. There are very few people walking on its streets and it is generally very orderly. The University of Macau is located on Taipa and so are the Venetian and all those other famous, newer casinos of Macau.

There was a time when a ferry or boat was needed to get from Taipa to Coloane, but today the two are connected by the Cotai Strip, a reclaimed strip of land on which most of the new casinos like the City of Dreams, Hard Rock Cafe, and Four Seasons are found. Coloane is the recreational part of Macau. It is here were Macau people love to go for picnics, barbecues, hiking, and just relaxing on the beach. The beach is appropriately called "Hac Sa" which means "black sand" since the water and the sand is a rather ugly brown color due to the fact that Coloane lies on the mouth of the Pearl River and so it is there that the sediment carried away from the river is dumped into the sea, resulting in the brown color. Unlike in Hong Kong where the sea is a beautiful green, in Macau it is always a muddy brown. There is also a very very small village on Coloane and, while walking through its narrow lanes which reminded me of pictures of Portuguese neighborhoods, I got the feeling that it was an abandoned place. Actually, the village is home to many of Macau's seniors. I do not know if the place is full of elderly people because they have been there for a long time but were never "replaced" since the new generation decided to move to Taipa or Macau or if Coloane is really the place where the Macau people retire to when they grow old, but it is indeed a very laid back and relaxing place, perfect for a retirement home. Cars are few and so are people.

Note: When you move around in Macau, you never really get the feeling that you're on an island because everything is connected by bridges or land strips and it feels as though Macau is one big peninsula jutting into the sea.

The Language

Many people ask me about the language that is spoken in Macau.

Since it is part of China, most less familiar foreigners assume that people there speak Mandarin, the standard Chinese language. While Macau Chinese can speak Mandarin, it is not their first language and from what I've heard, many of them are not too happy to speak Mandarin.

The main language in Macau is Cantonese, the language spoken by the locals in the Guang Dong Province of China, of which Macau is basically a part. Cantonese is also the lingua franca in Hong Kong. It sounds markedly different from Mandarin and the two really do not sound alike except for instances where Cantonese borrowed words from Mandarin or vice versa.

Many people ask if Portuguese is still spoken in Macau, a question I also had in mind before arriving. I assume that the question asks if Portuguese is still spoken "on the streets," so to speak, and my answer is no. While it is true that signs in Macau can still be found in both Chinese and Portuguese and legal documents are written both in Chinese and Portuguese (in fact, if there is a misunderstanding in the Chinese translation of the law, then it is the Portuguese version's original meaning that presides), most people in Macau cannot speak Portuguese at all. I spoke to a local about this and he said that Portuguese is not spoken at home by the ethnic Chinese and is not even taught in Chinese schools, so there is really no way for them to learn it. He added that, on top of that, there is no need to learn it since no one speaks it anyway and the legal system operates in Cantonese and rarely in Portuguese. According to him, Portuguese is spoken only by the very few local Portuguese left (most of whom can also speak Cantonese) and by the expats from Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries like Brazil, Cote d'Ivoire, Mozambique, East Timor, etc. The only school that teaches Portuguese, from what I understand, is the EPM, the Escola Portuguesa de Macau.

So for those of you who have skills in Portuguese and want to try them out in Macau, I warn you already that you may be disappointed when you get there and the ethnic Chinese look at you in a strange way when you try your Portuguese on them. However, some can still speak Portuguese since government employees must also be able to speak Portuguese, but it's not like all the government employees can speak it and it's not like everyone in Macau is a government employee.

The Postal System

The Macau Postal System, or Correios de Macau, was formally founded in 1884 as the Correios, Telegrafos, e Telefones (CTT) Coreios de Macau. It began services as an umbrella organization for communication, but in 1981 the telecommunications and postal services were separated.

Currently, Correios de Macau has 14 stations, one of which is temporarily closed for renovation. I made it my mission to visit each of these stations and post myself a cover so that I could have a postmark from each station in Macau. You can see the scans below.

The Central Post Office, located in Largo do Senado at the center of Macau, is a beautiful edifice that was built in 1929. I do not know if my perception of it is colored by the fact that it is the Mecca of beautiful Macau stamps, but I think the building is very beautiful in the day time and at night since it is tastefully lit.

Some "Maximum Covers"

Since I am not really a fan of postcards, I decided that instead I'd try to make what I like to call "maximum covers." Because Macau does not have too many "regions" or anything like that to commemorate on its stamps (unlike France, Italy, Russia , the US, and other countries that have many regions to boast), it often showcases its buildings and historical sites on it stamps. So I thought I'd try to get postmarks from the post office near the featured buildings applied onto the stamps. I was able to do this for the Cultural Center and the Museum of Communications since these two places have a post office and a stamp depicting them. I should have also done this for the Coloane Post Office and Coloane stamps, but it skipped my mind...

I also tried making a maximum cover for the Macau airport, which you can see in my previous post on Macau. I used the Air Macau 10th Anniversary S/S since the issue on the Macau Airport was released during the Portuguese era and so is no longer honored for postage. I also made one for the University of Macau. The university unfortunately does not have its own post office, but I thought maybe I could send a cover the the University with stamps celebrating the University's 25th year in 2006.

Here are some FDCs that were issued while I was there. Unlike in the Philippines, FDCs in Macau can be sent only on the date of issue, so these covers are really FDCs. In fact, the line in front of the Post Office on the first days of issue is often very long, and it was especially long for the Macau 10th Anniversary issue that was released on 20.12.09, Macau SAR establishment day. I had to wait in line for four hours before being able to set foot in the post office! However, it paid off when I saw the covers and stamps, which I think are neat pieces of history. Thankfully, I was in Macau on establishment day and enjoyed the very long fireworks show that was held to celebrate the joyous occasion and also to send out FDCs of the issue. I left for the Philippines for the holidays the day after. And when I got back on 01.01.10, the next day the Year of the Tiger issue was issued and I was so happy because I made it just in time for the issue! What coincidences!

Macau SAR 10 years 3v FDC

Macau SAR 10 years S/S FDC

Macau-China Joint Issue FDC

Year of the Tiger 1 of 5v set FDC

Year of the Tiger 5v FDC
Notice the embossed animals designs on the left. Macau Post really excels when it comes to philatelic design.

East-West Art 2v FDC

Chinese National Guard in Macao 10 years 6v FDC

Since World Post Day fell on the same day as the date of release of the East-West 2v issue, they were offering free commemorative envelopes an a special cancellation postmark at the philatelic desk. I decided to create a fusion of the two celebrations and used one of the 2v in the East-West set on the commemorative cover and had the philatelic clerk apply the special cancel. I think it is a really neat cover.

Here is a cover that a friend of mine sent to his family in Germany. Since his girlfriend visited him while I was still there and he knew I collected stamps, she asked her to bring the cover back to Macau so that he could give it to me. The packet was sent registered and there are some other interesting labels that were applied in Germany. According to my friend, the green one is some sort of customs duty clearance sticker.

Below is a sample of the really neat Meter stickers used by the Macau post. On top of an already beautiful design for the meter cancellation, the label sticker used also has a nice design! The designs show the Central Post Office.

And, last, here is a cover sent to me from the University of Macau. I just wanted to show that the University has its own meter postage design, as you can see. It is interesting that the university chose to dispatch its mail from the Jardins do Oceano station when the Nova Taipa station is much closer. I guess it may be because the mailing facility at Jardins do Oceano is larger?

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