Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Chemistry, or A Brief Encounter in Macau

On Sunday, exhausted from my first day in Macau, I went to sleep at around 2 am (relatively early by my standards). I planned to wake up at 10 am. Eight hours sleep would be sufficient, I thought. I felt weak, dehydrated, and had a headache, probably the result of too much walking and too little drinking. As I put my head on the pillow, I immediately drifted off.

At 10 am the alarm clock rang. It went on for half an hour until it stopped. I felt as if I couldn’t move, I had neither the energy to get up, nor to perform the simple task of grabbing the bottle of water inside my bag to quench the thirst that made my throat burn. I was aware that I was sleeping too long, but my limbs simply would not obey my brain's commands.

All of a sudden, I heard a noise, so loud and persistent that I could not ignore it. I slowly came round and realised someone was trying to open the apartment door. Repeated sighs and the nervous tinkling of the key resounded from the staircase, tokens of exasperation at the stubbornness of the door. After a while, the bell rang.

I pushed the blanket aside, sat up and got to my feet. I walked towards the door, opened it and saw an Asian girl standing in front of me. Tiny beads of sweat shone on her forehead, and her cheeks were slightly red. It was unbearably hot and humid outside. “Hi,” I said. “Hi,” she replied. For a few seconds she fixed her eyes on me; perhaps she was embarrassed, or maybe she had expected Kana, my half Japanese, half Chinese host, to open the door, instead of a white guy wearing pyjamas. “Come in, come in,” I urged her. “It’s really hot outside.”
“Yes,” she said, and pushed a small pink suitcase into the flat.

She had large, slightly round eyes and long black hair. Her features were regular and well proportioned, with faintly protruding cheeks, thick arched brows, and a small nose. Her skin was nearly as fair as mine, but as smooth as a child’s.

There are times in life when you like a person at first sight. It is hard to explain why. Surely it is not just a matter of appearance. There are a myriad of things that make up one’s charm; voice, attitude, manners, outfit, etc. As soon as I saw her, my weariness receded, and I was glad that, of all apartments available in Macau, she had chosen that one.

“Are you a guest?” I asked.

 “No, actually I’m a friend of Kana’s,” she said. She opened the door of one of the rooms and put her luggage inside. While she was unpacking her suitcase, we started to talk. Her voice was gentle and calm, and her eyes were full of vitality.

“I thought you were a guest because of your luggage,” I said. She explained that she had just come back from Taiwan, where she had attended a friend’s wedding. I told her I had lived in Taiwan for two years. 

Monday, 8 June 2015

Nice Flats, High Prices - Airbnb in Macau

Since I could find no hostels in Macau, I decided to use Airbnb, which is a more expensive, but interesting alternative, as you can live with locals (or long-term residents), explore the neighbourhood and see how flats look like.

But once again Macau proved to be less convenient than Hong Kong. The cheapest accommodation I found in Macau was HKD 279 (around 30 euros). This wasn't the price for a room, but for a sofa bed in the living room. In Hong Kong, you can find a single room with private bathroom for HKD 264, or a single room for HKD 202. However, the location was good: Rua da Ribeira do Patane, just about 10 to 15 minutes on foot from Senado Square.

The HKD 279 bed was available only for three nights, so I decided to book this bed for two nights and then move to a nearby flat. I rented a single room for about HKD 383 (around 40 euros) per night. The price for these two flats for four nights, including Airbnb fees, was about HKD 1,600 (circa 180 euros). With HKD 1,700 I could have rented a double room at a hotel; in Hong Kong, I paid HKD 1,400 at a hostel for half a month.

Despite all that, I really wanted to see how people live in Macau, so I chose Airbnb.

First Flat - Rua da Ribeira do Patane


The first flat was located in Rua da Ribeira do Patane, one of Macau's central thoroughfares. From there you can easily reach the most important attractions, such as Senado Square and the ruins of St Paul's Cathedral.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Cheap Accommodation in Macau – Mission Impossible?

Once I met a Dutch guy who had flown to Macau on a visa run, planning to stay there for a few days or weeks. He believed that Macau was much cheaper than neighbouring Hong Kong, the latter being known as one of the world’s most densely populated cities as well as a major global financial hub.

It didn’t take him long to realise that he had made a mistake. The first thing he did upon arriving in Macau was, of course, to look for a cheap hostel. Little did he know that Macau has no hostels! To his surprise he could find no cheap accommodation and had no choice but to spent around HKD400 for one night at a hotel. Macau turned out to be so expensive that on his second day he moved to Hong Kong.

Despite having heard his story, I did not learn the lesson. I still believed I would find a hostel. After all, I had been to hostels in small cities like Triest, Krakow, Salzburg. How could Macau, whose GDP depends entirely on tourism, have no hostels? Probably, the guy should have looked for a hostel online before arriving in Macau, I thought. 

I searched on hostelworld but found nothing. So I googled ‘Macau hostels’. An old article from About.com listed only three hostels. One of them was Augusters Lodge, which seemed to be the best one in Macau; Lonely Planet selected it as one of the recommended hostels on Macau peninsula. I clicked on the link and found out that the hostel had been closed "due to new regulations of the Macao Government". According to the hostel's website, business had been good. Its three rooms "could not nearly meet the demand, nor the expected rising demand within the near future".

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Four Days in Macau

In 2013 I visited Macau with two friends of mine. We stayed there for two days and engaged in intense ‘touristy’ activities, as we went to the major sights, ate local food and strolled around the busy streets of the picturesque, European-style historic centre. After so much walking we were exhausted, but we accomplished our goal: to see as much as possible, as quickly as possible.

Those two days were nice and I had a lot of fun. But I left Macau with that kind of feeling that always accompanies me whenever I visit a place for a short time. I thought we had merely caught a glimpse of the surface, but had not got deeper into the soul of the city. We had seen churches, Portuguese-style houses, temples and nice squares; casinos, alleys and skyscrapers. But it was all too quick, too much. All I could remember of Macau was an incoherent patchwork of images, like pieces of a puzzle scattered around a table.