How to enjoy Macau without placing a single bet

Story highlights

  • Coloane island, part of Macau, is a world away from the territory's frenetic casinos
  • Baked tarts, classic restaurants and old architecture add to the appeal

Coloane, Macau (CNN)Just 30 minutes away from the casino glitz, Macau's island of Coloane feels a world apart from the fast-paced gambling mecca.

En route to Macau's southern tip, opulent resorts with names like City of Dreams, Studio City and the iconic 550,000-square-feet Venetian Macao give way to Coloane's cobblestone streets, narrow lanes and pastel-hued houses.
    Scenes like this lend to the island's timeless feel.
    Coloane's many quiet corners are packed with stories written by the area's unique blend of Portuguese, Macanese and Cantonese influences.
    From natural beaches and hearty flavors to rich vernacular architecture, Coloane offers a memorable Macau experience that doesn't require placing a single bet.

    Where to eat

    Lord Stow's Bakery and Cafe
    Batches of Lord Stow's Bakery egg tarts are freshly baked and available for take-out.
    The Macau custard tart is a culinary phenomenon that began in 1989 as a modest village affair -- the result of British-Portuguese cross-pollination in China's first and last European colony.
    English industrial-pharmacist-turned-baker Andrew Stow came up with the popular Macau trademark after learning about the pastel de nata that's ubiquitous in Portugal's streets.
    Made with a pharmacist's precision, Stow's version has the creamy filling of a British tart that's not too sweet with a Portuguese-style caramelized top and an airy crust.
    The Coloane institution is rivaled only by Café e Nata, on Macau's mainland -- opened by none other than Margaret Wong, Stow's ex-wife.
    Lord Stows Bakery, Coloane Town Square, No.1 Rua Da Tassara, Macau; +853 2888 2534
    Fernando's
    This beach side Portuguese restaurant just celebrated its 30th birthday.
    Fernando's has become touristy over the years, but locals haven't abandoned it.
    Lines get long especially on weekends and owner Fernando will seat you himself if he's around.
    The red-and-white checkered tablecloth and rustic farmhouse decor are matched by the restaurant's generous, homey dishes.
    Their garlicky clams in white-wine and tomato sauce, best enjoyed with warm house-baked bread to mop up the gravy, is a favorite.
    There's al fresco garden seating at the back, while homegrown vegetables are picked from the restaurant's own plot.
    Fernando's Restaurant, 9 Praia de Hac Sa, Macau; +853 2888 2531
    Hon Kee
    Hon Kee's hand-beaten coffee thickens into a creamy foam after a few hundred rounds of high speed stirring.
    This cafe is tucked behind ghostly, decaying docks lining the coast of a sleepy and picturesque street north of Coloane Village.
    Providing a glimpse into Macau's much-forgotten maritime history, the path leading to the cafe might make you second-guess its location.
    You'll find owner Leong Kam-hon hustling away in the humble, high-ceiling shack, where patrons crowd around big communal tables.
    "Little has changed in Coloane," says Leong Kam-hon, who has run his secluded roadside cafe in an idle shipyard since 1991.
    "We're Macau's countryside with a rhythm of its own."
    Hon Kee's specialty is Leong's hand-beaten coffee, which whisks instant coffee powder into an unusually thick layer of foam and cream through sheer, motor-like vigor.
    He learned this technique from a foreign couple in the early 2000s -- mostly through gesticulations due to the language differences -- and never heard from them again.
    Leong has never been to Hong Kong, which is a 55-minute ferry ride away from Macau, though he modestly says his business is styled after the sister city's classic Cantonese "cha chaan teng" -- a casual diner.
    The variety of toasts, sandwiches and noodle soups on offer will definitely satisfy your Cantonese comfort food fix.
    Hon Kee Cafe, Estr. de Lai Chi Vun, Coloane, Macau; +853 2888 2310

    Architecture

    Open from Monday to Saturday, Coloane's library provides a near-silent place to read.
    Colonial buildings
    The Chapel of St. Francis Xavier, built in 1928, is the centerpiece of Coloane Village.
    Painted in a cream, sunny yellow with bright blue doors, the small and intimate Catholic church fends off couples looking to take wedding photos without permission with a sign at the door.
    The baroque-style structure faces a cobblestone courtyard lined with casual seafood joints and magnificent, towering trees.
    A Southern European-styled library first constructed as a school in the 1910s is just a few steps down in the village, which continues to unfold into a hushed and vibrantly colored network of small houses and black alleys.
    Chinese folk religion
    A small, inconspicuous Kun Iam Temple is hidden in a backyard.
    Tin Hau Temple, built around 1763 during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, is perched on a small slope at the back of the village.
    The A-Ma Cultural Village offers a more curated look at the region's longstanding religious and culture traditions.
    Yet others are weaved into backyards and alleys, like an unassuming Kun Iam Temple nestled behind a brilliant red house under a row of air-drying laundry.
    These sightings are part of the charms of wandering and getting lost in Coloane Village.

    Nature

    Hac Sa Beach, known for its black sand, gets its color from minerals in the seabed that are washed ashore.
    But erosion was gradually chipping away at the beach, so the government decided to top up the kilometer-long shore with a pale replacement that has muted the dark sand.
    Fernando's Restaurant is located right by the shore.
    The smaller Cheoc Van Beach is bordered by lush hills and a public swimming pool.
    Getting there: Regular ferries service Macau from Hong Kong's terminals. Coloane is accessible by bus, minibus and taxi from Taipa and Macau.