My trip to Macau and HongKong last March 28-31 was all about faith and great favor from God.
The moment I got my first ever Starbucks planner (I’m not really a fan but hey! the planner looked cool!), the first thing I scribbled was MACAU TRIP COME WHAT MAY and I put that on the March 24 page. I wrote that by faith. I don’t have much moolah to spend on an out of the country trip that time but still, I firmly believed that God would bless me with that earnest desire of my heart. I also included that Macau trip in my list of faith goals for 2011 alongside Seoul, Korea trip.
Blame all this Asian-travel-dream hang ups to Lee Min Ho and the rest of the Boys Over Flower cuties. I was so gagah over this Koreanovela that I was really in a fine frenzy, desiring to walk on the roads that Jun Pyo walked and have a picture on those places he went to in the said TV series.
Actually, Seoul was really a top priority and if God would let me choose one country to visit this year, without battling an eyelash, I would really answer SEOUL. I only listed Macau just in case the Seoul trip won’t materialize considering the visa application and the airline ticket price. At least Macau is more plausible.
I prayed and prayed for those trips. And on the 5th day of January, God gave the first installment of His answer to my prayer. I thought of checking Cebu Pacific’s website to check if they already have cheapo fare to Seoul or Macau. Thankfully, I saw a promo fare going to Macau. It was only priced at Php3400 roundtrip, all-in. I didn’t know who to invite that time since my sister didn’t have a passport yet and my mom won’t go if we’re not complete. Then I thought of my friend Charity. So I texted her and blessings of all blessings, she answered yes. She even invited her younger sis to join us. Few ayaaans and pilitans, we were able to lure two of our friends, Saldy and Bheck, to join that first out-of-the-country trip. And since we’re already 5 in the group and HongKong is just an hour away from Macau via ferry, we decided to include HK in our itinerary, too.
And we’re all set!
Right after that booking confirmation, I already started looking for budget hotels in Macau and read lots of travel tips on a budget. I listed everything I read online, read reviews and other stuff I need to know about travelling in a foreign land. It was my first ever International trip so I’ve got to be well-prepared.
But here’s the challenge: I didn’t want to spend that much on that international trip since it’s just a leisure and I didn’t have much to spend also so I decided to challenge myself on a P12,000 budget, all-in, for both Macau and HK. I didn’t know then if that was possible but based on my computations prior to the trip, it’s possible if you will not do a lot shoppings and you will only stay in some guesthouses or budget hostels. Since I’m more of a sights-and-scenery person than a shopping freak, I knew than that I could take on the challenge.
Departure from Manila
The completion of God’s answer to my Macau prayer:-)
You need to know that for international flights, there are still some fees you need to pay for at the airport. I listed down the step by step things we did and the fees we paid for at NAIA before we boarded the plane:
1. We went to the Travel Tax Section, presented our IDs and Passports and paid Php1620.
2. We went to the Cebu Pacific Counter and got our boarding pass. Perfumes and all our canned goods baon were in the check-in baggage so we didn’t have problem with our hand-carries.
3. We paid Php750 for the terminal fee.
4. We filled up a form on which country to go to and where to stay and went to the immigration to have our passports stamped.
We left Manila at exactly 7:30pm of March 28 (only few days difference from my original March 24 plan:-)).
Arrival in Macau
We arrived in Macau at 9:30pm of the same date. It was freezing cold when we arrived there. We went to the Immigration Section of Macau International Airport to have our passports stamped. We then got for ourselves Macau maps and guides brochures displayed in the airport so we’ll have an inkling on where to go and what to ride, etc.
The first thing we looked for after we got our bags was the Money Changer. We exchanged our dollars to Macau Pataca which is the currency in Macau. The exchange rate that time was MOP1 = P5.41.
Good thing about Macau is that there are lots of Pinoys there. In the airport alone, we saw two Filipino already working in Macau airport. You can easily spot a Filipino in the sea of Chinitos and Chinitas because Filipinos are naturally smiling and warm people. The Filipino guy helped us on which bus to ride to get to Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro.
In Macau, their main means of transportation are buses. They have a specific bus number for each route and the fares ranges from MOP 3.20 to 4.20. They also have taxi cabs and flag down rate is MOP 13. I, however, read in a blog post that it’s expensive to ride a cab when you’re from the airport or if you have luggages since aside from the metered fare, you will have to pay MOP 3 per luggage.
We actually had a hard time discerning which bus to take since we don’t know how to read Chinese characters and whenever we tried to ask the Macau people also waiting for the bus, they would just look at us and would make signs that they don’t understand English. So we were left to figure out for ourselves which bus to take. When the freezing weather already got on our nerves, we decided to just ride whatever bus will pass our way. Good thing the bus that came (Bus 10A) will also pass by the bus station where we could ride another bus that will take us to the place near Senado Square.
From the bus station near the Ferry Terminal and Grand Prix, we rode another bus (which I forgot the number but I think it’s Bus 18) that took us to the route near Senado Square. We only knew where to got off through the help of the three Filipinos who were also riding the bus with us. And in the quiet streets of Macau that night, the loud screeches of our luggages were heard.
We walked and walked until we finally found that street where Pastileria de Koi Kei is situated. Since I’d already searched for some prominent places and landmarks in Macau online, I knew then that we could find some cheapo inns in that place. Thankfully, we were able to find Villa Universal. It’s just beside Hotel Ko Wah which is a more famous hostel in the place. I would love to stay in Hotel Ko Wah but we got a much better deal at Villa Universal. We got a room that could fit all 5 of us for only MOP 350/night. That’s actually a good deal considering the place is nice and clean and they even have free wi-fi (which we never got to use) and complimentary toothpastes, toothbrushes, towels, and hot water.
Bheck and I weren’t yet sleepy so we decided to go around the area and look for mineral water. We chanced upon a convenience store near Ponte 16 were I also got to taste the heavenly Cadbury Bubbly Mint-flavor for only MOP5. I didn’t bother converting the currencies for I knew that I’ll just be upset with the amount. All I knew then was that I had MOP 800 that time and it won’t hurt if I’ll buy that Cadbury Bubbly. I decided to split my money in two so i’ll have equal amount to spend in Macau and HongKong.
Going Around Macau
The next day, we woke up early so we could tour the most of the city. We had our breakfast in the hostel first courtesy of our baons: bread, reno liver spread, Century Tuna, Nescafe 3-in-1 coffee, Lemon Square Cheese Cake and Fudgee Bar.
We first dropped by Pastileria Koi Kei which is just across Villa Universal. I had my first free-loader moment there. I had a free taste of the famous beef jerky and it was sooo yummy.
We then went to Senado Square and dropped by St.Dominic Church. Another great thing about Macau’s that you can go to various tourist spots just by walking. Plus the weather was good and cold so we didn’t bother walking around the city. We then went to St. Paul Ruins where we had some photo sessions and some free taste of almond cookies and beef jerky along the way.
We also went to Museo de Macau which is just a stone’s throw away from St. Paul Ruins.
The Macao Museum is a space dedicated to the history and culture of Macao. Here, we saw a rickshaw which used to be the main means of transportation in Macau.
We decided to buy some pasalubongs at Ching Chong Fong which is located along Rua dos Ervanários and Rua de Nossa Senhora do Amparo near St. Paul Ruins. We got captivated by the cute smile of the Chinese saleslady who charmed us with her flair to speak few Tagalog words such as bili ka na, ganda, masarap, and mura lang. Plus, she let us have more free tastes of the beef jerky:-) We got almond cookies (4 pcs for MOP 50), egg roll (MOP 25), Beef jerky (MOP 48 for 1 kilo), peanut brittle (4 pcs for MOP 50).
We were already feeling hungry after that pasalubong shopping so we decided to look for fancy restaurants along the area. We then chanced upon Ristorante Cafe Vitoria. We ordered for minced beef with rice (MOP 25), fried rice with beef (MOP 25), seafood with fried rice (MOP 30), and chicken with rice (MOP 25). The food were good enough and they’re all in big servings. It’s advisable to just order one dish for two persons.
After we dropped off our pasalubongs in the hostel, we then went to Grand Lisboa Hotel to have some sightseeing and hoping to have a free bus ride going to The Venetian. Unfortunately, the Grand Lisboa’s bus was only for hotel guests and those who played the games in their casino. So we left the hotel and just decided to ride a bus going to The Venetian. We didn’t know which bus will pass by The Venetian but the barker in the station told us to ride Bus 10. When we tried to tell the driver to drop us at The Venetian, the driver shook his head and pointed us the Barrier Gate on the map we showed him. We didn’t know where’s that but we just followed suit.
It was a long bus ride. I think we were able to tour the whole city because of that ‘bus ride mistake.’ The driver didn’t ask for additional fare, though. We really had fun in that long bus ride even if we didn’t know where we were heading that time. It was a fun and unforgettable experience.
We finally got off at the Barrier Gate where hotel buses were parked waiting for hotel guests and visitors who would want to play in their casinos. I immediately looked for The Venetian’s bus. Delightedly, The Venetian was still there waiting for other riders.
And finally, my most awaited Macau moment: The Venetian!
It’s a bit overacting I know, but the moment I stepped inside The Venetian, I could literally feel my heart would want to melt. Blame it on my Jun Pyo addiction again. I was in super high spirits that time because I felt in one with Jun Pyo for I was already walking on the floor where Jun Pyo walked during the BOF shoot at The Venetian. Alright, I’m such a fan!
That completed my Feeling-JunPyo’s-Jandi-in-Macau rage:-)
After The Venetian, we went to the City of Dreams hotel where we also got to have a view of the Hard Rock Hotel. We then rode the free shuttle ride going to Macau Tower. At the tower, we only got to see the second floor since you have to pay MOP 80/person if you want to go to Level 58 Observation Lounge and Level 61 which is the Observation Desk.
We capped off that first night in Macau by going to Grand Emperor Hotel to supposedly have a taste of their noodles which I read in some blog posts was only for MOP 10. However, according to the waiter in the hotel, they’re no longer selling that noodles so we went to Senado Square and looked for a place to eat. We chanced upon Macau Recipes Cafe which is located on the second floor of a building where McDonald’s is. They’re already near closing when we got in but they still accommodated us. Since we were craving for noodles, we ordered for stewed beef noodles which was priced at MOP 20 and curry beef noodles priced at MOP 23. Bheck ordered for fried rice with chicken pineapple for MOP 35, while Justine ordered for braised rice with porkchop for MOP 38.
That Macau Recipes Cafe experience was another funny one. Since they’re already near closing, the staff were already leaving one by one. We were only left with the one who took our order and the other one from the counter. Then the other lady closed some lights. We were feeling a bit jittery since we thought that the ladies will actually leave us there, so we hurriedly finished our food. Then the lady who took our order got our payments, closed all the lights, left all the stuff we used in eating on the table, and joined us in the elevator. We were all laughing inside the elevator and even the two Macau Recipes Cafe ladies were also laughing as if they could understand what we’re talking about.
Nakakahiya naman kila ate, kumain pa kasi kami. Ayan tuloy na-late sila ng uwi. Hindi na tuloy nahugasan yung pinagkainan namin:-)
Second Day in Macau: Prelude to HongKong Experience
The next day, we woke up again early enough so we could still tour some scenic spots in Macau which are worth visiting according to the posts I read online. Our first stop on that second that was the Macau’s Fisherman’s Wharf.
It was such a beautiful, beautiful place. If only I could put in my luggage all the wonderful places in Macau and bring it in the Philippines, I would definitely bring home Macau Fisherman’s Wharf. I love the facades of the buildings, the chic-ness of the place and the feeling like as if you were instantly brought to some European country with those brick roads and all. This was my top favorite in all the Macau spots I visited.
We would love to visit Lou Kau Mansion, the Guia Fortress and Lighthouse, the A-Ma Temple, the Sam Kai Vu Kun Temple, the Mandarin House, and still many other famous spots in Macau but we were already short of time. We needed to pack our bags and head on to the Ferry Terminal which will then take us to HongKong.
Before we went back to the hostel, there’s still one remarkable thing about Macau that I’ve yet to try and I won’t leave that place without experiencing that: the Portugese Egg Tart!
So we headed to Senado Square again and went back to the street going to St. Paul Ruins and had a taste of the yummy egg tart (MOP 5) at Tea Plus. This was actually where Jandi and Jihoo brought egg tart in BOF:-) I also had some ice cream which was also tasty enough:-)
After that delicious egg tart experience, we headed back to Villa Universal, packed our stuff and left the place. But before that, God gave us another blessing: the old man gave us MOP 50 when I returned to him the room key. I think it’s some sort of key deposit, but we didn’t expect that so it was really a blessing. Now we have money to pay the cab fare:-)
Macau’s really a lovely place. I love the simplicity of the place. I love the weather when we got there. I love that it’s just like Philippines because I could see a lot of Filipinos everywhere in the place. I love the scenic spots. I love that it’s like a mini-Europe in Asia. i love that I felt so close to Jun Pyo when I first stepped my feet on its ground. I just love everything about this place.
Expenditures in Macau:
Hotel – MOP 140
Food: MOP 45 (we had lots of baons so we didn’t spend much on food)
Cadbury Bubbly : MOP 15
Bottled water: MOP 20
Pasalubong: MOP 200
Fares: approx. MOP 20
Total: MOP 440
Next stop: HongKong