Where Is Taipa?
Taipa is an island in the Chinese administrative region of Macau. It is 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) from the Macau Peninsula. Taipa can be reached by crossing the Ponte Amizade Bridge linking Macau and Taipa. The little island is a getaway from the fast paced and flashy tourism of Macau and its casinos. Taipa spans 7.6 square kilometers, but more recent expansion, as in Macau, may yield a larger figure for the size of the island. Taipa, though increasingly the site of development projects, still offers a step back in time for visitors.
Taipa, administratively a part of Macau, was colonized by Portuguese traders in 1573. Portugal dominated the seas and turned Macau into an important port in the trade network that spanned Europe and Asia. During the first half of the 17th century Macau, and Taipa, prospered economically. Jesuits also made the colony a base for their mission work in Asia. However, as the Portuguese colonial empire declined so did Macau and Taipa’s roles as vital trade centers. Macau’s harbor was relatively abandoned as Hong Kong, under British rule, became a more important place of investment. Macau and Taipa stayed afloat economically through casinos and the growing gambling industry on Macau. It wasn’t until 1999 that Portugal returned Macau, along with Taipa, to the Chinese government.
Taipa Village, as part of Macau, has a free-market economy. The island’s exports are mainly textiles, clothing, and services, while it is heavily dependent on imports of foodstuff and raw materials from China. The size of the island prevents it from engaging in agricultural development. Nevertheless, Taipa, with its 10,000 residents, maintains a high standard of living as a result of sound infrastructure, low inflation, stable currency, and a surplus in foreign trade. Tourism remains an important part of the island’s economy. An international airport recently opened on Taipa. There is a Hyatt Regency Hotel and the University of Macau on the island, allowing more visitors Taipa to boost its economy.
Places of Interest
Taipa, though small, is filled with interesting sights and delicious food. The island is known to have some of the best restaurants in Macau, which can be found along the Rua da Cunhna providing a range of Chinese and Portuguese dishes. The Garden of Flower City is a fun place to see a blend of modern and traditional Chinese landscape, with a special playground for children. The island is filled with lovely walking paths (such as the one pictured above). The Pou Tai Un Buddhist monastery is a unique find, hidden among the small streets of the island village. In Taipa’s eight cemeteries there is also the grave of Madam Lou Mou Cheng, the first wife of Sun Yat Sen. Part of the legacy of Portuguese colonial rule is the neoclassical church, Our Lady of Carmel, built in 1885, and the Taipa Houses Museum built in 1921. The latter is one of the most popular attractions of Taipa and is a collection of houses of Macau officials who lived on the island. They were beautifully restored to the elegance of Taipa’s bygone era.
Preserving Taipa's Past
The Macau government has put effort into preserving Taipa’s past. In the 1980s the Macau Government Tourist Office bought what are now the Taipa Houses Museum and remodeled them in the 1990s. The government recognized the architectural value of the houses and gave each house a different name: “Exhibition Gallery,” “House of the Islands,” “House of the Portugal Regions,” “Macanese House,” and “House for Reception.” The Old Market, built in the early 1800s, has been restored and transformed into an important social point of the city. Preserving the historic buildings is costly but the tourism in Macau and the stable economy allow the government to invest in these projects of protecting Taipa's past.