Prepaid GSM
Getting around

11.11: KL -> Macau
12.11: Macau
13.11: Macau
14.11: Macau -> KL
Map of Macau

Overview and overall impression
Macau is a mix between a southern Chinese town and a Portuguese town. It is more comfortable and laid back than a hectic place like Hong Kong and has a lot of colonial architecture. It is a very small place, but you can easily spend three days there without getting bored. Macau has many casinos, which at night have some very impressive light effects. Local Macanese are not too fluent in English.

Macau is not exactly a budget destination, although it is possible to find affordable hotels for less than 400 Patacas. The period I chose for the visit was immediately before the Macau Formula 1 Grand Prix and hotel rates were higher than usually. Other expenses such as food and transportation are moderate in Macau. Buses and taxis are cheap.

I ate mostly at local Chinese restaurants, although apparently Macau also has a good deal of Portuguese or Portuguese inspired cuisine. Meals in restaurants are moderately priced: higher than in a developing country but lower than in a developed country.

Macau has recently added and is still adding hotel capacity, mostly in modern hotel complexes in Taipa and Coloane. Inexpensive accomodation up to 300-500 Patacas is available in the historic centre of Macau. If you are interested in visiting the historic core of Macau it is best to stay in this area, otherwise you will need to take a bus or taxi to reach Macau.
There are hotel booking counters at the airport, although these counters will keep a commission.
I arrived to Macau with no advance booking. Tried to book through the several hotel booking sites, but all these sites reported that Macau was fully booked. These hotel booking sites do not list the cheap entry level places.

Money  / Exchange rate (February 2007)
1 Euro = 11.8 Patacas
For current exchange rates check the Universal Currency Converter.

ATMs are everywhere, so that you can easily get cash with a Cirrus/Maestro ATM card. You won't need traveller cheques.

Mobile phones and prepaid cards
There are GSM and UMTS networks in Macau with roaming agreements with European  and other operators. Possibly prepaid cards are available for sale, although I didn't buy one.

Internet access
I found two Internet cafes in a side road off Largo Senado, charging 4 Patacas/hour. The first one, the Chinoy, does not allow you to connect your notebook computer, the second one does. Reasonably fast access speed.


Sunny, blue sky during all three days of my stay. Thick layer of haze limiting the visibility. Warm enough to walk around with a T-shirt during the day, fresh in the evenings.

Health / Vaccinations
None required for Macau.

VISA / Entry requirements
VISA on arrival granted to nationals of developed countries. Speedy immigration procedure. If you do a day trip to Hong Kong you have to go four times through immigration: twice in Macau and twice in Hong Kong.

No issues here, I didn't experience any problems. I read somewhere that Macau is a pretty safe place.


Getting around
Despite being a small place, Macau has a good bus network. Tickets are cheap. Taxis are inexpensive as well. Every 15 minutes there is a speedbaot to Hong Kong (24 hour service).

11.11: KL -> Macau
Hotel Kou Va, Macau. Somewhere in downtown Macau, very close to Largo do Senado. 400 Patacas (38 Euro at the current exchange rate) for a room, clean, basic, not too big. There is a TV, phone, A/C, queen size bed, cupboard (old), table, chair, attached bath with shower. No Internet in the room. The room is ok (great location), but for this price I would get a much better room in Malaysia and a better room in Japan.
Weather: slightly overcast sky in the early morning in KL. Sunny and blue sky in Macau, although there is a thick layer of haze in and around Macao. During the day it is warm enough to walk around with shorts and a T-shirt, after sunset it gets fresh.

I get up at 6:30am, get ready and check out at 7:20am. Some discussion in the reception about the taxi. Initially they suggest RM 120 for the drive to the airport, then they go down to RM80, which is more in line with the metered taxi fare.

At 7:30am I'm in the taxi on the way to the AirAsia LCCT airport, arriving there at 8:25am. At the check in counter my baggage is shown with a weight of 25.7kg, while yesterday in Osaka it had only 24kg. I wonder if the scale they use is tuned. There is a excess baggage charge of RM 150 (10kg x RM15/kg). If on the way back there will be the same excess baggage charge, the total cost of this flight will be around RM1000 - not really cheap.

The plane leaves on time and is about 80% full. I wonder if I will find accomodation in Macau, because all three hotels I have emailed are fully booked. The flight proceeds smoothly and before 1pm we land in Macau.

Then I go through immigration, retrieve the luggage, go through customs, withdraw cash from an ATM (both HK$ and Patacas are in use in Macao) and go to one of the travel agents in the arrivals hall. Does he have a room?

Initially I speak English, then switch to Mandarin as his English is not that good. Some discussion, lots of places are full, in the end he gives me a room at the Kou Va hotel for 400 Patacas (although on this blackboard the hotel is listed for 280 Patacas - later I hear that the hotel costs indeed less than 300 Patacas, he probably pocketed 100+ Patacas of commission).

I take a taxi to downtown Macau (60 Patacas) and check in at the hotel. Macau has a huge area with large modern buildings, probably a hotel and casino area. Interesting architecture, there is also a hotel called The Venetian which looks like a replica of Venice. The centre of Macau is instead a mix of a southern Chinese town and a Portuguese town. I wonder if people speak Portuguese here.

After check-in I get out of the hotel and start exploring the area. There is not too much to see in the historic centre of Macau although it is interesting to see a mix of a Chinese and Portuguese town.

From 2:20pm to 6:40pm I walk around the old town. In the Fortaleza do Monte there is a museum (ticket: 15 Patacas) with some interesting exhibits which give you an idea of the history and culture of Macau. The panorama view from the fort reveals that there are not many old buildings in Macau.

After sunset the view in the casino area is impressive. The neon lights of the buildings switch on, with some very cool light effects. The entire building of the Casino de Lisboa is covered with thousands of coloured light dots and becomes like a huge display, showing animations, text, graphics and other videos. Very cool sight.
Opposite the Casino de Lisboa there is a hotel with a huge oversize fountain, with a water and music show (similar to the one in Hangzhou).

Around 7pm I have a dinner in a Chinese restaurant in Largo do Senado. Good food, I'll get there again tomorrow. My day ends around 8pm.

12.11: Macau -> Hong Kong -> Macau
Hotel Kou Va. The reception wakes me up by phone at 6am with a wake up call I never requested. The shower has enough water pressure.
Weather: sunny, blue sky. Warm enough to walk around in a T-shirt, fresh in the evening. Strong wind in the evening in Hong Kong. No rain.

After a not requested wake-up call at 6am I get up at 9:30am and leave the hotel after 11am. I first walk to the tourist office where I check my emails until about 11:40am, then I go to the Chinese restaurant on Largo Senado for a lunch. What a cold place - outside it's already fresh enough, and in this place they have switched on the A/C to max. power. I freeze for the entire lunch.

The lunch is so-so. The rice is too loose, not sticky & easy to grab with the chopsticks as in Japan. The chopsticks themselves are of the reusable type, with very smooth ends which do not have enough friction to hold things. In Japan they use everywhere the disposable chopsticks with which it is easy to grab food.

After lunch I walk to the ruins of Sao Paulo cathedral. Very nice and photogenic. A Chinese wedding couple is doing a photo session. Then, at 1pm, I walk towards the Guia fortress making stops at the St Michael cemetery (very nice with monumental tombs) and the Lou Lim Ioc gardens (kind of nice, peaceful, but not that impressive). The Guia fortress is actually a lighthouse with a church and some cannons. Sort of interesting, but very, very small (the area accessible to tourists is very small). Interesting view of Macau from there.

In the meantime it's already 2:30pm, so I decide to go to the ferry terminal, which should be quite close and get the ferry to Hong Kong. I can't find a taxi, so I walk along the road.

I probably take the wrong road, because I make quite a detour. This road is bordered on both sides by guard-rails, which normally are used for Formula 1 races. I later find out that in a few days Macau will host the Macau Grand Prix (15-18 November) and that I'm walking on the Formula 1 circuit. Is this perhaps the reason why most hotels are fully booked?

Thanks to the detour I'm at the ferry terminal only at 3:05pm, too late for the 3:15pm ferry (there is a ferry every 15 minutes, ticket price is 142 HK$; ferry takes one hour; in Hong Kong the ticket price is 172 HK$). The A/C in the ferry is freezing.

At 3:30pm the ferry leaves and arrives in Hong Kong island at 4:35pm. The terminal is in walking distance from the central pier, from which the ferry to Kowloon (Tsim Tsa Shui) leaves. I walk fast and at 5:10pm I'm in Kowloon.

Until 6:30pm I'm on the waterfront taking photos of the skyline of Hong Kong. Then I have some food and after that I start getting back to Macau.

I manage to catch the 7:45pm ferry and am back in Macau at 8:45pm. For this little excursion to Hong Kong I have needed two visas and got four additional chops in my passport.

Then I try to take a bus back to the hotel, but the bus driver throws me out because I don't have the exact amount. Apparently they give no change and you must pay the exact amount (cheap at 2.50 Patacas). So I take the next bus with which I get somewhere near the Hotel de Lisboa and from there I walk back.

By the way, in Macau they drive on the left side, which is absurd because it is a former Portuguese colony and Portuguese drive on the right and also in mainland China they drive on the right.

13.11: Macau
Pension Florida, Macau. 280 Patacas for an old run-down room, with old furniture, hard beds. not so clean. Very old toilet, which sucks horribly. Lies in a side street near Largo Senado. At 280 Patacas this place is probably overpriced by 200%. Have to move to this place because my room in the Kou Va is messed up, the Kou Va hotel has no other rooms and all of Macau is fully booked (see below).
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day. The air today is more clean, i.e. has less haze. No rain, warm enough to walk around in a T-shirt even at night.

I sleep late until 10am, then get ready and leave the hotel at 11am. I ask in the reception where there is an Internet cafe and the lady points to one of the side streets. And indeed there there are two Internet cafes (4 Patacas/hour): the Chinoy and another one. Both can be reached from Largo Senado by taking the first street to the west then turning right. At the Chinoy they don't allow to use your own notebook computer, but at the second Internet cafe they do.

Until almost 12pm I'm at this Internet cafe, then I go to the KFC restaurant for some lunch. Then I take a bus to Taipa village, arriving there at 1:20pm. The centre of Taipa is a peaceful, laid back area with interesting colonial architecture, Chinese temples and Christian churches. Along what once used to be a beach (before they merged the islands of Taipa and Coloane), are a number of early 20th century colonial houses for the Portuguese. These houses are now a museum. While I'm there a Chinese wedding couple pops up for a photo shoot.

I'm in Taipa until 2:50pm then look for a bus to Coloane. The only bus going there from Taipa is Nr. 15 and the next only arrives at 3pm. I'm finally in Coloane at 3:20pm.

Coloane is even more laid back and peaceful than Taipa. There is some colonial architecture, some Chinese temples and Christian churches. Another Chinese wedding couple with a team of photographers arrives for some photos on the beach. The girls is fully made up and is wearing the wedding dress. The groom is having a fun time, while the girl is having a tough time carrying the white wedding dress on the beach. Ha ha ha, she will be soon carrying a baby inside her belly and fighting to raise kids... I guess the fun is over for her.

I'm in Coloane until 4pm. There is actually more to see in Coloane, but not in this spot at the western end of the island where I am at the moment. The problem is that it seems to be complicated to get to the A-Ma temple on the mountain or to get to the eastern end of the island.

Since no taxi is showing up I catch the next bus, which is heading toward Taipa instead of the eastern end of Coloane. So I get off at this new resort called "The Venetian", which lies in the Cotai strip of new land between Taipa and Coluane. In this area, near the airport,  lots of construction in ongoing - huge hotels, casinos etc. This is supposed to become the new Las Vegas of Asia.

The Venetian is essentially a combination of theme park, hotel, shopping complex and casino. It's a replica of Venice, with a copy of the San Marco clock tower, the Rialto bridge, Venice buildings and canals complete with fake gondolas and gondoliers (gondola trip costs 100 Patacas for 12 minutes). The staff wear Gondola rowers uniforms.

This is a version of Venice from a fairy tale book, it reminds me of the Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh (Vietnam), which has been described as the "most outrageously vulgar building .... built with serious intent". For somebody who has seen the real thing this is a pompous fairy tale copy, but it could be a commercial success here in Asia.

It's 4:50pm when I take the taxi to the next place, the Macao Tower. It costs 80 Patacas to get on the top. A skywalk (walking outside secured by a rope costs 300+ Patacas, a bungee jump will set you back by 1080 Patacas. Have fun and enjoy jumping down from a 233m high tower. The view of Macao could be quite decent if there wasn't so much haze.

I'm in the Macao tower until after sunset, then get down, take a bus and head to the Largo Senado where I have a dinner at 7pm.

When I'm back in the hotel shortly before 8pm the unpleasant surprise begins. Already in the lobby the guy tells me that some painting was done on the walls and that I should keep the windows closed. Back in the room there is a strange chemical smell. After about 10 minutes I realise that there is a huge stain on the carpet, full of some chemical solvent.

The painter must have dropped some paint on the carpet and tried to clean it with a chemical solvent after that. Now there is a big stain in the carpet full of chemical solvent. No idea what this is, but it could be hazardous for health or cause cancer. It's out of question that I will sleep in this room.

I go down to the reception and try to explain to the staff, who speaks only Chinese the situation. Initially they do not unterstand and think that the smell is coming in from the outside, so after some discussion a girl who speaks some English follows me to the room.

In the room I show the stain to the girl. More discussion follows. Now the painter who caused all this shows up. He only speaks Chinese, but I understand that he insists that this is nothing, that he breathes this stuff every day or so. Looks like this guy is pretty careless with his health. I ask to change rooms. Sorry Sir, we are full, there are no empty rooms.

So we go down to the reception. More discussion follows. The hotel owner or manager shouts some angry things. I say that if they have no other room I will move out, but want the daily rate refunded. Actually they should be paying damages to me for causing such a mess.

The manager says he wants to take out my stuff soon and rent the room to somebody else. This guy is really brainless. In the current state nobody would want to sleep in such a room. It will probably take a few days until the chemical is gone.

After 10 minutes the manager and I leave the hotel and start looking for a room in another hotel. We check five or six places in the area. Except for one for 980 Patacas (most likely way overpriced) every place is full. In the end the guy calls somebody and finds a room in a run down, 0.5 star place. Way overpriced at 280 Patacas, but at least there is no chemical stuff  inside. 

I pay in advance, then head back to the hotel. With the hotel manager watching me (doesn't he have anything better to do?), I pack my stuff and move out. Upon checkout I get 300 Patacas back (I paid 400 at the airport) and the key deposit of 100 Patacas.

Needless to say, the whole evening is messed up. I wonder what went wrong. Perhaps in a higher class place such a mess would not have happened, or perhaps they would have had a spare room available, or they would have removed all traces of the chemical solvent before my return.

After depositing my stuff at the new place, I process the photos of the day, then head to the Internet cafe where I download my emails.

14.11: Macau -> KL
Hotel Boulevard, KL. RM 315 for a superior room, which essentially is a standard room, but in-room Internet access is included (otherwise it would be RM60/day extra or RM160/week) as well as access to the lounge on floor 26 with American breakfast in the morning and drinks and snacks in the afternoon + reading corner.
Weather: in Macau sunny, blue sky, with a few little clouds. Warm enough to walk around in a T-shirt. In KL overcast and tropically hot. No rain after 5pm.

I get up at 9:25am, get ready and pack my things. At 10:30am I go to the Internet cafe, where I download my emails.

Then, after getting some groceries from 7/11 store I head back to the hotel, check out and take a taxi to the airport (54 Patacas), arriving there at 11:40am.

At the AirAsia check-in they send me to the ticketing counter to pay the excess baggage fee (342 Patacas). I lose lots of time queueing up there, then again time queueing up again at the check-in to get the boarding pass. This is annoying. This excess baggage fee is increasing the ticket price by 50%, while with a standard airline I would not have paid such a fee and I would not have lost so much time.

In the meantime it's 12:10pm and I jump into a taxi, telling the driver to get to the A-Ma temple and bring me back to the airport. It takes 15 minutes to get to the temple and it is really worth it. The A-Ma temple is beautiful. You can see that is has been built recently, but the decorations and the setup are great. I'm back at the airport at 12:50pm (the taxi trip cost 125 Patacas).

I go through immigration and since there are a few minutes left, have a noodle soup at a restaurant. The flight leaves with about 15 minutes delay, because the plane arrived late. The plane is about 80% full. The dumb women sitting in front of me leans back with her seat, making it a torture to type text into the notebook computer. She says with the seat leaned back it's more comfortable for her. Comfortable my ass.

The plane lands at 5:25pm in Kuala Lumpur's LCC terminal, which is a terminal at KL international airport with no gates and only basic infrastructure. Outside it's not that hot, but very steamy. Feels like a bathroom after a shower.

Then things proceed smothly and fast. I go through immigration, get my luggage and purchase a taxi coupon for the Boulevard hotel for RM 61.60. By 5:40pm I'm in a taxi to the hotel. The taxi reaches the Midvalley shopping complex already at 6:45pm, then needs 15 minutes to get to the entrance of the Boulevard hotel because of the heavy traffic jam. It seems that the traffic in Kl is getting worse every year. In the hotel I join again Shirley and Alissia.

Copyright 2007 Alfred Molon