Other Asian locations
Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore, Bali, Jakarta...

(more about my travels in Asia)

A-Ma Temple, Macau

The A-Ma Temple is one of the oldest temples in Macau, having been built in 1488, and is certainly the most famous. It is believed to have lent its name to Macau itself.

A-Ma is also known as Mazu (in mainland China, more commonly called Tian Hou). She is a goddess of people who travel and work on the sea. Fittingly, the temple is located near the water, and was clearly once right on the shore.

There are numerous stories of Mazu saving ships in peril. In the local version, a young lady aboard a ship calmed a storm, and then stepped ashore where the current temple is located. Walking to the top of the nearby Barra Hill (Macau's second highest), she then ascended to Heaven with the expected attendant light show.

When the Portuguese arrived less than a century later, we're told, they asked the name of the place, then known as Haojing (Oyster Mirror) or Jinghai (Mirror Sea). The locals, thinking the visitors were asking about that specific spot, replied "A-Ma Bay"--in the local dialect, Amagao. Hence the name Macau.

The temple still thrives, both as a tourist destination and as a place of worship. These pictures were taken in a visit in October of 2005.

The large, round window at the front of the main hall gives a view of the interior; formerly, it also gave a view out to the bay.

The window is a popular spot for tourists to pose for photos.

Here's the main altar, lit only by the light from the round window. Notice the coils of incense hanging above; these are meant to burn for two weeks (from new moon to full moon, or vice versa).

In this wider shot of the main hall's front, you can see the former "seawall." The pebbled area in the lower right would have been under water.

Macau Hotels

Prayer Room, Hong Kong International Airport

I was flying to the Philippines at the start of this year, when I noticed this strange-looking sign in the Hong Kong Airport (recipient of numerous awards):

It was part of a row of "service rooms," such as the restrooms, as you can see in this shot:

See the blue sign next to the door? I walked over and read it, and boy, was I surprised. It said:

Welcome to this place of prayer

The Prayer Room is a multi-faith facility, open daily* to people of all faiths and nationalities. It provides a quiet place where all may pause to pray and experience stillness and peace.

The facility is supported by the colloquium of Six Religious Leaders. The colloquium promotes religious dialogue in Hong Kong since 1978 which includes Buddhists, Catholics, Confucians, Muslims, Protestants and Taoists. [Note the alphabetical order!]

You are advised to contact the Airport Operations Control Centre at 2181-8110 for any assistance.

Thank you for respecting the silence of people in prayer.

*Opening hours 06:00 am - 12:00 midnight

How cool is that?

Guia Fortress Chapel, Macau

The Guia Fortress was built between 1622 and 1638 on the highest hill in Macau. The lighthouse came later, in 1864-1865, but the chapel dates back to the founding of the fort.

Frescoes were revealed in the chapel in 1998 (some sources say 1996), during "routine conservation work." The frescoes were likely done by Chinese artists under the direction of Portuguese priests, and so reflect an East-West idiom.

We...ummm...kinda cheated, and snuck a few shots inside the (deconsecrated?) chapel. (I read thatthere is a service there once a year, but the place was pretty ripped up when we were there).

The first interior picture shows the vault of the nave leading back to the main door. You can just make out some of the frescoes on the ceiling.The other shows a figure of St. John the Baptist over a door inside a sidechapel. 

The entire area (and much of the city) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sri Krishnan Temple, Waterloo Street, Singapore

Lila and I saw this temple on our first walk in Singapore, the evening of our arrival in April 2009. This was our introduction to several stunning Hindu temples in the city-state.

A sign nearby informed us that, although the temple began over 130 years ago as a shrine to Lord Krishna under a banyan tree, with major developments continuing through the decades, the main entrance--of which these images are a part--dates only to 1987.

The first picture (by Lila) shows the gateway, with vendors set up right in front. You can just see one guardian's head peeking over the left tip of the umbrella.

The guardian on the right is Lord Hanuman, the famed monkey warrior of the Indian epic Ramayana. Some say Hanuman was the model for the monkey king Sun Wukong in the Chinese epic "Xi You Ji" (Journey to the West).

The figure on the left gave us a little trouble, until a passerby told us he was the eagle-man Lord Garuda. When we heard that, we had a "doh!" moment, as the giant wings and manifest beak should have been a dead giveaway.

See the cobra around his neck? He has a close association with serpents, his mother being the sister of Kadru, "mother of serpents." A look at the Wikipedia article will show several stories about Garuda and serpents.

This association of serpent and eagle is nearly universal (see the eagle holding the serpent on the Mexican flag, for example). The serpent represents earth (it crawls on its belly), and the eagle heaven, where eagles soar.

These two were fitting guides to introduce us to several days oftemple-crawling.