Monday, March 30, 2015

Wandering the Streets of Macau

Rua da Felicidade, Macau
Husband & I recently spent a long weekend in Macau, a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (like Hong Kong). Located just across the bay from Hong Kong, Macau is only a 1.5 hour direct flight from Kaohsiung.

We traveled on Tigerair, a discount airline which recently started flying direct from Kaohsiung to Macau. During a December promotion for the new route, we scored two roundtrip tickets for only US $112. Once we commenced our search for accommodations, however, it became very obvious that Macau is not really a destination conducive to budget fares.

St. Augustine Church Square, Macau
Macau has a dearth of budget accommodations. Usually we can rely on hostels or homestays, cheap hotels at the very least. Not in Macau. Apparently, due to government regulations, Macau has no hostels in operation and the one YHA requires special permission for lodging. At first we found this disheartening. We're a single income family and budget travel is our only real option. Perhaps we couldn't afford to go to Macau?

Accommodations are key to a budget holiday. Food and entertainment can usually be adjusted to meet your budget but accommodations and flight are static. If they're not within budget the trip is going to be irreparable. Happily, we persevered and eventually discovered the amazing (yet slightly terrifying) SanVa Hotel.

our room at the SanVa Hotel #nofilter
For only US $150 we spent four surprisingly restful nights in something akin to a third-world prison, albeit in one of the best neighborhoods and on one of the best streets in all of Macau. The SanVa was awesome and added an extra memorable layer to an already memorable experience.

Part of the reason staying at the SanVa was such a pleasant experience (rather than a traumatizing one) was because we sprung for a room with a window (thank god!). There were interior rooms without windows available, and some right next to the bathrooms, which made me very sad for their unfortunate occupants. But, we were quite happy and comfortable in our little room with a fan and window. I wouldn't go so far as to say we'd happily stay there again but we are happy we stayed there.

Some other highlights from our trip include:
    Coloane Village
  • The colonial villages Macau is a former Portuguese colony and maintains much of that colonial history in its three district villages; the peninsula of Macau, Taipa, and Coloane. Cotai, the fourth district of Macau, misses out because it is recently reclaimed land connecting the formerly separate islands of Taipa and Coloane. 
We stayed in the village area of Macau (on the street where Temple of Doom was filmed). Coloane's village houses Lord Stow's Bakery, the creator of the now ubiquitous egg tart, and a very scenic waterfront area where we caught our first glimpse of China and stumbled upon a filmset. Taipa's village was the most European. All made up our favorite parts of Macau.
  • Egg tarts How have I never experienced these before? Delicious!
    Macau's casinos
  • Macau's casinos The new casino area on Cotai, and the main impetus behind its creation, currently consists of three large casino complexes: The Venetian (the world's largest), City of Dreams, and Galaxy. There is also the Sands and some giant luxury shopping complexes. They've dubbed this area the Cotai Strip, trying to emulate the Las Vegas Strip in both name and feel and, like Vegas, this area has plenty of wow but zero charm. The older casino area on the peninsula of Macau is where all the charm is and we spent many hours enjoying it.
The food, scenery, culture, and vibe of Macau are very enjoyable and we had a great long weekend experiencing it all. Despite our earlier concerns, Macau turned out to be a very inexpensive destination (if you stay away from the gambling tables and score a room at the SanVa) as we did everything we wanted to and still came in under budget. Any holiday where that's the case is a successful one.

For more pictures, please visit my Facebook album here.

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