Travel: Our Macau/Hong Kong Getaway (6D/6N)!

Follow our 6 day, 6 night adventure in these lands of amazing food, awesome culture and astounding sights. See how we ate, shopped and laughed our way through Macau and Hong Kong! :)

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Travel: Macau Day #1 - Best Western Hotel Taipa, Bus 33, Senado Square

It was the trip we had waited 10 months for. 5 People (originally 6 - that's you Laura!). 2 Destinations. Lots of bags. It was a whirlwind trip 6 days 6 nights at Hong Kong and Macau, and Boy was it hectic! Over the next few posts we'll be covering all the things we did during the trip, while paying special emphasis on the wonderful food and attractions we visited along the way. We hope that sharing our experience helps your planning, and most importantly, helps you decide on where to eat while on holiday!

Looking sleepy having had to wake up at the crack of dawn!

We flew from LCCT at 6:45am. Flying time to Hong Kong or Macau is around 4 hours; not too short, but not too long to give you deep vein thrombosis. The flight was about 70% full, with a majority of passengers from Malaysia or from China (heading home I presume).

A little bit of introduction to Macau: Macau is divided into four parts - there's the Macau Peninsula up north (where you're able to walk over the border to Zhuhai, China), the two main islands of Macau, namely Taipa (where the airport is) and Coloane, and in between the two islands, there's Cotai (the name is a combination of Coloane & Taipa :p) which is a new strip of reclaimed land where all the glamourous casinos are.

The Venetian free shuttle bus from Taipa Temporary Ferry Terminal

For our first night in Macau we stayed at Best Western Taipa Hotel Macau. This was the cheapest 3-star accommodation I could find about 2-3 months before the trip - it cost us about RM90 per person. I had read that the easiest way to get nearer to the hotel was to first take the free shuttle from the airport to The Venetian, which is what we promptly did upon landing.

There's plenty of free shuttles to the five star casinos/hotels with helpful staff ready to assist, so this is a easy and great way to travel if you're on a budget. No time (or money) to feel thin-skinned about scrounging off a free trip. =P

Presenting the newest band in town - The Suitcases! =P
The Venetian really does look like a grand hotel, and there's always the hustle and bustle of people checking in and out of the hotel.

For us, we stood in there awe-struck and snapping pictures for awhile, until finally we pulled ourselves away to catch a cab to our own hotel. The cab ride from The Venetian took no more than 5 minutes and cost us about MOP 25 to 30 per cab with baggage. We made a similar trip back to the hotel at night after spending some time at The Venetian and it only cost us about MOP 15 to 20.

(P.S. - The currency of Macau is called Pataca aka. MOP, but Hong Kong Dollar is also accepted here. In fact it is preferred. The rate is 1:1, so don't worry about using HKD in Macau! =)

The facade of Best Western Taipa
Best Western Taipa is actually located just down the road from the Cotai Strip where all the 5 star hotels are. It's near enough for a quick drive, but a bit too far to walk. Cab drivers seemed familiar with the hotel (if they do not, try telling them "Gak Lan" Hotel (格蘭酒店), which is the hotel's name in Cantonese), and its located next to a main roundabout so it's easy to find.

The lift lobby.

The process of checking in is fast, but getting to my turn took awhile because only one person mans the reception desk. The wait wasn't long enough to warrant a complaint, but it's something that could be improved.

The rooms were clean and tidy, the toilet and shower worked well and there was proper TV reception - all the important requirements for a standard hotel room. =P

All of us agreed the beds were way too hard though; any harder and we might as well have been sleeping on wood! But we were only there for a night, so it was bearable for all of us. 

Walking out for the bus - our first glimpse of Taipa!
It was about 1pm by the time we checked in and dumped our bags. Best Western is located in Taipa, so we needed to travel either by bus or cab to cross over to the Peninsula - we were starving by then, so lunch was first on our minds!

The nearest bus stop from our hotel - Flower City

Crossing from Taipa to Macau is actually very easy because there are countless buses plying routes that overlap quite a lot. But of course we still needed to know a bus number before we could our trip. Thankfully the bell boy at our hotel understood enough of our questions to recommend Bus No. 33, which became the only bus we used for our entire time in Macau! =D

The view crossing over to Macau =)
The route for Bus 33 is actually just a continuous loop and gets you from around Taipa, across the bridge and around Macau Peninsula, and back again. The cost of each ride is MOP 4.20, no matter how far you're going. It's advisable to have the right change ready because none will be provided to you!

We weren't sure exactly where to get off, but we followed the crowd and we found ourselves in front of Senado Square! I didn't realize it at first because truth be told, I was expecting something a bit grander than that. But anyway, there lots of people were walking around so we knew we were in the right place. The famed wavy tiled ground gave it away too. It was all decked out in hanging lights, which we suspect was for Mid Autumn Festival. If you're taking Bus 33, stop at Av. Infante D. Henrique (毁皇子马路), it's the second stop after you cross the bridge. :)

For lunch we were actually looking for one of the places on our To-Do List (which we will also share with you readers!) called Cheung Kei, that apparently does very good Har Zi Meen (shrimp roe noodles). We started off confidently thinking we should be able to find the place knowing the name and address, but as we walked and walked we realized it was going to be a lot tougher than we first thought.

The area around Senado Square are all walkways where no cars can go through, and paths branch off in all different directions. There are signboards to the major landmarks like the Ruins of St. Paul, but looking for a specific road can be like looking for a needle in a haystack!

Asking locals doesn't help either, because they won't be familiar with any of the Portuguese road names. Do come armed with Cantonese (or Mandarin should do too) names and addresses since that will be much more useful compared to the English ones, as we found out the hard way many times. (That's why we'll also be trying our best to give you the Chinese names of the places we went to, if we can.)

After a long and arduous trek around Senado Square that lasted about 15 minutes, I was getting hungry and very thirsty (because the weather was so hot!). The nearest place to get a drink was Cafe Golden Carriage 金馬輪咖啡餅店. They also sold egg tarts, and that's where our egg tart adventure began!

I also bought some funny-shaped sponge cake, but that was unremarkable. Many local butter sponge cakes taste better than that. 

This is the egg tart from Cafe Golden Carriage. It cost MOP 5, and the taste was just so-so. It was definitely an unconventional start to our food hunt, but at least some place different from all the popular spots, although the place also showed off some newspaper clippings where it was featured. Not a place we will recommend though.

A little down the road from Cafe Golden Carriage, Wendy spotted a small stall selling some street food that she immediately stopped for. Kai Dan Zai (MOP 6) - loosely translated to egg cakes - is a popular street snack in Hong Kong & Macau and is slightly similar to waffles, only much sweeter.

The batter is put into these skillets with round grooves to get the cute egg-like shapes. It's honestly nothing spectacular, but eating them is quite fun - tear a ball off and pop it into your mouth and you'll be greeted with a sweet waffle-like texture, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Best eaten piping hot!

....So that ends the first post of our trip. Watch this space for our next post which will cover the restaurant we finally stopped at for lunch! =D


Best Western Hotel Taipa Macau (Gak Lan Jau Dim) 澳門格蘭酒店 | Site
Estrada Governador Nobre Carvalho
No. 822, Taipa, Macau SAR-China.
Tel: (853) 2882 1666; Toll Free Tel : 800 - 903295
Fax: (853) 2882 0333; Toll Free Fax: 800 - 903296

Cafe Golden Carriage 金馬輪咖啡餅店
50 R. dos Mercadores,
Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, Macau Peninsula
Tel: 853 2857 2385
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