Crossing the busy Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro from the Senado Square, dodging buses and busy pedestrians, we rounded a corner and found ourselves on an empty street paved with a series of long rectangular blocks of concrete. The road slopes upward, and on both of its sides were rows of two-storey houses painted in whites with striking red doors and carved window shutters.
|THE STREET OF HAPPINESS, INDEED|
Rua da Felicidade, a street-sign embedded on one of the houses’ walls announced. We’ve gotten used to the looks of Macau’s side-streets during the past days we’ve been walking about, but this one definitely looked far too different from the numerous alleys our feet have treaded on so far.
|SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT|
The sun was rising fast and we were walking straighter, our gait, more excited. The bleariness of waking up at the unholy hour of six in the morning (quite unholy for us, lol) was wearing off. We were finally in the zone for another bout of incessant rambling. We’ve been doing this for the past couple of days, first along the mazes of Hong Kong, and now along the narrow alleys of Macau.
Rua da Felicidade literally translates to Street of Happiness. Well, we were quite happy we stumbled upon it, considering how unplanned our trip was, but there’s more to this street’s name than our own feelings.
|LOVELY RED AND WHITE FACADE|
This street is old and what it used to peddle is even older, like biblical old. This quiet alley we were walking on was once Macau’s red light district and was once the center of fleshly sin in the region. During the heydays of the Portuguese in Macau, the place used to come alive during late afternoons, with the sound of mahjong tiles clacking along velvety tables and the glow of red lanterns signalling the start of the day.
|ENTERED ANOTHER ALLEY ALONG RUA DA FELICIDADES AND FOUND THESE ROWS OF HOUSES|
Heavily made-up pei-pa-chais (pei-pa being four-stringed musical instruments) or sing-song girls, as courtesans were dubbed back then, would emerge from its doors, wearing body-hugging silk and satin dresses as the sun retreats down the clay-tiled roofs of the flower houses or brothels. But these were no ordinary prostitutes; they’re graceful, learned in the arts of music, entertainment, poetry and even Confucian doctrines. They’re somehow comparable to Japanese geishas, but of course, their innermost talent lies in the art of seduction.
|BURNT INCENSE SET AGAINST A GRAY BRICK WALL|
It was said that the most beautiful of these do not come out of the flower houses at all, but stays inside, waiting for the richest and most amorous clients. They don’t come easy, taking days of courtship before intimacy with their guests are achieved.
|MORNINGS AT RUA FELICIDADES, MOST SHOPS ARE STILL CLOSED|
Rua da Felicidade was also a place for vices; gambling and opium being a prominent part of its heady scene back in the day. It wasn’t until the late 1940’s that all that happiness was drained out of the street when the government declared opium illegal.
|NOTICE THE DIFFERENT LAYERS OF PEELING PAINT ON THE WALLS|
Another of the street’s claim to fame, besides its infamous past, is Indiana Jones. Yes, Lucas and Spielberg’s Indiana Jones. Check your DVD racks (or torrent folders, lol) for The Temple of Doom and set your player to about 11:50 minutes into the movie. That chase scene from Club Obi Wan, while pretending to be in 1930’s Shanghai, was actually shot right at Rua de Felicidade.
|FROM WHITES & REDS, STRUCTURES AT THE HIGHER PARTS OF THE STREET ARE IN YELLOW|
|YELLOW BELOW, RED ABOVE|
The street has seen its shares of name changes, from its original, Yee On Kâi, from the first establishment that set its business here, Yee On Kông Si; to Rua Nova da Felicidade Abundante (New Street of New Abundant Happiness), to simply Rua da Felicidade.
|CHINESE INSCRIPTIONS ALONG THE WALLS OF HAPPINESS STREET|
Today, this sloping road is now home to modern shops, traveler inns and local restaurants. From serving opium, they now serve shark-fin soups (look for Fat Siu Lau, the oldest restaurant this side of town); what were once gambling houses were now shops full of trinkets, and what were once steamy flower houses were now cafes. The regal mix of Eastern and European architecture is still present, its notorious past however, is now just a shadow clinging along its white walls. It is still called the Street of Happiness, but a different and more chaste kind of happiness now.
Rua da Felicidade / Street of Happiness
Address: Sau Lourenco, Rua da Felicidade, Macau
Entrance Fee: None
Hotels Near Rua da Felicidade: Click Here
GPS Coordinates Map: 22.194353, 113.537656