Consider these: Macau is one of the most famous travel destinations in the world, Macau is almost forty times smaller than Hong Kong with an area of 30.3 sq. km. and I’ve been working and living in Macau for more than eight years now, you’d think that I’ve been to every side and corner of the city or at least to its most famous places, right? Well, as a matter of fact, no. There are still some unexplored treasures I need to discover and some places I should have visited long time ago, like the Guia Fortress in Guia Hill.
Guia Fortress which is located at Guia Hill, the highest point in Macau, used to be a military fort back in the 17th century and consisting of underground tunnels which are also known as Air Raid Shelters, Guia Chapel and the Guia Lighthouse. A little bit of history here; Guia Fortress and the chapel were built in the early years of 1600s as protection of the city from Naval assault during an attempted Dutch invasion. With Dutch’s failure to occupy Macau, the fortress has then served as an observation point mainly because of its location. The Guia Lighthouse was then erected during the latter years of 1800s. Now, the Guia Fortress including the Chapel and the Lighthouse is part of the Historic Centre of Macau and listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
Guia Fortress, though a tourist spot in Macau, is not as famous as, let’s say, Senado Square, Ruins of St. Paul’s or even the Venetian Resort Hotel. Tourists, especially those with limited time, tend to overlook the place. Without them knowing what they’ve missed and what I’ve been missing for the longest time. The place has become a tourist spot for those who would like to escape the bustling life of the city and enjoy a quieter but just as good a spot you’ve found anywhere. Since the hill is standing at the highest point, you can be guaranteed to see one of the most panoramic views of Macau.
There are two ways to go to the fortress: by Cable Car or by walking or for some, hiking. To take the cable car, you must first go to Jardim de Flora (entrance of the park) which is reachable by public buses from the city (Bus Routes: 25, 25X, 18, 2, 2A,22). The cable car costs MOP2 for single way and MOP3, return trip. You will then have to hike a few meters up to the fortress and the lighthouse. The other way as I’ve mentioned above is through walking or hiking.
I opted to walk, apart from the cool weather, walking, like many believed is the best exercise. I first took a public bus #6 from BNU (Portuguese bank), near Senado Square and got off at Hospital Conde S. Januario near Guia Hotel and started hiking from the foot of the hill all the way up. Guia Hill, with its winding road is perfect for jogging, running and any other physical fitness exercises as evident to a number of locals sweating their *body off.
The place is magnificent and after more or less 20 minutes of walking, with the final destination still nowhere in sight, I realized that the place is perfect for artists, for those who like to create music, poem, write a book, paint or for those who just want to contemplate on something. It is exactly what a haven an artist looks for; serene, calm, fantastic view, cool weather and unobstructed thinking of thoughts, saved from some chirping of the birds.
Few more minutes of walking, from afar I saw a cannon which signaled that I am already at the place, the fortress. Besides the cannon is a narrow entrance that leads to the tunnel. The tunnel is just a little over 6 feet, the ceiling is within reach and the width can accommodate at least two people walking side by side. Without a doubt, the fortress is a living history of early Macau life, its struggle against colonizers and its resolute fight for freedom and liberation. The fortress is comparable to Corregidor, Philippines, as everyone will recall on our history class, a fortress of Philippine and American soldiers fighting against Japanase colonizers during World War II.
The tunnel then leads me to the Guia Chapel, the Chapel of Our Lady Guia, painted splendidly in white with a striking yellow-colored border. Inside the chapel is a mixed of Western and Eastern influences evident with its frescoes and murals. Standing beside the chapel is the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse exterior hue is the same with the chapel and these two impressive structures truly complement each other. It is just unfortunate that taking pictures inside the chapel and entering the lighthouse are prohibited. Nevertheless, the view from the top is like no other. I stayed a couple more minutes to simply just marvel on its beauty and to gawk at the magnificent view of the city.
The number of tourists that visit the place is nothing compare to the tourists that you will encounter on some other famous places in Macau like Senado Square and Ruins of St. Paul’s. It may have something to do with accessibility, since it is quite far from the city centre. The place could serve as an alternative, especially for tourists who prefer a quieter place than the usual.
I only have one regret in going here, that is, it took me eight long years to finally visit and appreciate such a wonderful place as Guia Fortress. This may be my first time, but I’m sure it ain’t the last.