Hotel Online Special Report

Going Out In Style - Macau's Bela Vista 
Signals the End of an Era
Macau Travel Talk - April  1999 - The historic Hotel Bela Vista - one of the most elegant and atmospheric buildings in Macau - goes out in a blaze of glory this month.

Special functions and glittering parties, thrown by private citizens and the Macau Government, mark the last days as a hotel of the century-old building House full signs were already going up in February. Those lucky guests who booked early have a few more weeks to enjoy the luxurious, colonial-style surroundings as the graceful old lady sited above  the  Praia Grande prepares for a new life.

"'The last guests will stay on the night of March 27," says manager Paul-Andre Guidat. "A joint farewell evening for owners and management will take place on March 28 and at midnight the shop closes. Then, at midnight on March 30, the Bela Vista will be handed to Portugal."

The building will undergo minor changes to prepare it as the official residence of the first Portuguese Consul General when the enclave reverts to Chinese administration from December 20.

The Bela Vista Ball, a sumptuous affair organised by Hong Kong's king of the parties Ted Marr, will be one of the highlights in March, with 300 to 400 guests.

"There  have been a lot of inquiries about holding last-minute celebrations and farewell parties," says Guidat. "All weekends are full. It's possible to get a table in the restaurant on weekdays but the weekends will be very busy."

Guidat moves to a supervisory capacity at the Mandarin Oriental Macau. After extensive European experience, he managed the Conrad Hotel in Hong Kong at its opening and was five years in Malaysia with the Shangri-La group. Manager since 1993 when the Bela Vista reopened after a costly renovation, he admits that the handover  has tugged at his emotions.

"After five or six years with a hotel like this, it's your pride. But nobody can stop history. After 130 years, it's one more phase in its life."

The hotel building, with its characteristic shady terraces and arches, was constructed around 1870, possibly by a wealthy trader. Masonry from the 17th century Bom Parto Fort may have been used in the foundations.

William Clarke, a young British sea captain, bought it and with his wife, Catherine Hannack, opened the Hotel Boa Vista. There was indeed a "good view", looking out over the Praia Grande (big bay) with constant movement of junks, sampans and schooners.

Distinguished visitors included Sir William Robinson, Governor of Hong Kong, and Baron and Baroness of Ladario of Brazil.

But tourism slumped as revolutionary currents swirled through China. By 1899 Clarke had to seek a 15,000 - pataca loan from his steamer company. Two years later he tried to sell out to the French consul -the French wanted to create a sanatorium for troops  from Indochina.

This sale was blocked by the British government who wanted no French foot-hold in Macau and the Santa Casa da Miseric6rdia, the Portuguese charity, purchased the building.

In 1909 Auguste Vernon rented the hotel, but he was forced to return to Europe due to illness. Albert Watkins, who took over, fell foul of the law when clandestine roulette tables were discovered in the hotel and he was evicted.

In 1917, when the world was at war and China in turmoil, the Boa Vista was closed and converted into secondary school.  Renowned  poet  Camilo Pessanha was on the staff.

However, in 1923 the building reverted to being hotel, until in 1932 it was sold to Mrs. Ieong Pat for 55,000 patacas. She rented it to the Hong Kong government as accommodation for civil service cadets.

It was briefly reopened as the Hotel Bela Vista in 1936, but after Japan invaded China the Portuguese refugees crowding into Macau were billeted there.

After World War Two it served as a British service-men's rest centre, then in 1948 opened once more as a hotel. Adriao Pinto Marques, a well-known Macanese took over management in 1967, being succeeded by his son in 1986.

The Macau Government had declared the Bela Vista an historic monument and in 1990 a joint venture company, formed by the government, Shun Tak Holdings and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, took over.

A 45-million-pataca renovation scheme converted the building - delightfully eccentric but showing its age - into a luxury boutique hotel, with decor resembling that of a traditional Portuguese mansion. Eight suites and an elegant 60-seat restaurant were installed.

Its style and charm won praise from clients and international travel guides. A succession of colourful characters and celebrities have stayed at the hotel and it halls featured in a number of films - in 1988 Peter Ustinov and Pierce Brosnan were there - for a TV version of Around the World in Eighty Days.

French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy waxed eloquent about the Bela Vista: "It is a magical place, it is a mythological place. It is somewhere which one cannot believe does not have a fantastic legend to its name. where you feel the presence of Bogart... or Bacall... or Loretta Young, or Hemingway .....
Macau Government Tourist Office
9,Largo Do Senado, Macau
Also See: At Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group; Jan Goessing Appointed GM at Kahala Mandarin Oriental and Alan Hepburn as GM at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta / Nov 1998 
Westin Resort Macau Sets New Financial and Environmental Benchmarks in Energy Management / Feb 1999 

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