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I saw a lot of the inside of my hotel room, but at least it had an amazing view!

I really didn’t want to do this post for the sheer fact that I felt like this was a total travel- FAIL. But, this past March I went to Shanghai and didn’t see anything. Seriously. Well, just not as much as I wanted to see. I had some other business that kept me busy most of my 10 day trip, so I only got to sight see for 3 days. I know. How pathetic. I should get my passport revoked. Anyhow, I did talk to a lot of expats who gave me tons of tips on what to do, so I thought I’d share them.

General Tourist and Money Exchange Tips :

Cell Phone: If you want to have a cell phone with you on your trip, bring an UNLOCKED GSM cell phone compatible with the Chinese system.  Then you can take a SIM card and plug it into the phone.  SIM cards are cheap. They are about 50-60 RMB and include a free phone number and 50 RMB in call credit. If you are there for a short time, get the lowest value. Any hotel concierge can help you get one or you can buy one at any newsstand. China UNicom and China Mobile are the 2 major providers.  Mobile has better coverage on the edge of Shanghai but if you are staying in the city, either one is fine.  Unicom is like 0.01 cents US cheaper… so really immaterial difference.

Taxis: Go ahead and take taxi’s anywhere… its really inexpensive and safe.  Try to take cabs that are lighter in color,… WHITE, Light Blue, Light Green. These are the 3 best cab companies for knowledgeable drivers and clean cars.  Try to avoid the RED and DARK BLUE cabs, are known to be dirty (often with cow manure).

Money Exchange: DONT EXCHANGE ANY MONEY HERE. OR AT THE CURRENCY EXCHANGE BOOTHS AT THE AIRPORT.  ALL BANKS  IN CHINA are regulated and must give the same rate. There is a bank in the airport right after you pass customs and the luggage claim area.  As long as it says “bank” you are good.  Travelers Checks get a better rate than cash but they charge commission so you end up less well off.  The BEST WAY is to usean ATM card (Citibank does not charge a fee if you use their ATM’s, and First Republic Bank does not charge ATM fees at ANY ATM of any bank in china).  The other way is to grab a DISCOVER card.  While in the US they are NOT accepted.  Most places will take it in China under the UNION PAY signage with no foreign exchange fee depending on your plan. Call your bank and find out.

Paying with a Credit Card: If someone hands you a keypad when you use a credit card, just press enter.  IN china, everyone uses pin codes even for credit cards, but in the USA we dont do this.

(Tips written by J. Chu, Shanghai expat)

When I was researching hotels, I found that a TON people seemed to always have a problem with staff service. Actually, the more I read them the more it seemed that Macau’s  hotel industry didn’t really give a rats ass about customer service.  So, after consulting TripAdvisor, I narrowed it down to two places I wanted to stay at: Fousada de Mong Ha and StarWorld Hotel. Unfortunately, the Pousada de Mong Ha was booked for the entire month, so I opted for the StarWorld Hotel.

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Let me just say… The StarWorld. Is. The. Best. Hotel. For. Your. Buck!!!! This super chic and amazing hotel and casino was an amazing experience! Not only were the staff amazingly nice and super helpful, but this hotel is more than reasonably priced. For $130 USD a night, we had a gorgeous and super spacious room overlooking Macau. I thought the room and service we got was easily worth $300 a night (not that I’m complaining). We were definitely impressed! I highly recommend this hotel. They even have bizarrely tall and gorgeous women greet you in every room. We weren’t sure what they did other then look stunning and make you feel bad that you just ate a bazillion egg tarts. But, hey, they were definitely gorgeous.

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Originally, the whole reason why I wanted to go to Macau was because I had a Portuguese-style egg tart in Hong Kong once and I was HOOKED. After lots of research, I finally got to try out a lot of different Portuguese, Macanese, and Chinese food that’s unique to Macau.

Macau’s tasty tasty tasty food:

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1. Margaret’s Cafe e Nata: Hands down the BEST THING I ate in all my travels in 2008. The place is pretty hard to find, but it’s completely worth looking for it. The egg tarts are served fresh and warm with a mouth watering egg custard in a really light flaky crust.  I loved this place so much  I went back twice and had a total of 6 egg tarts to myself. SO GOOD. Behind the Gum Loi Building. Rua Alm. Costal Cabral (Along Avenida D. Joao IV and near the Sinatra Hotel)

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2. Litoral: This Macanese/Portuguese restaurant came highly recommended by a local. After I couldn’t get a reservation at A Lorcha (which I hear is the best in Macau), I opted for Litoral. To tell you the truth, the food is completely forgetable. The service was horrible and the food was just meh. We had Paella, shrimp soup, and lamb. I almost wished I just ate more egg tarts.  261A Rua do Almirante Sergio

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3. Seng Cheong Crab Porriage: Another place that came highly recommended. Located in Taipa, we had to take a cab out here and spent the rest of the day exploring Taipa after lunch.  Luckily we got there before the restaurant opened, b/c the line was incredibly long! We got the house specialties: crab porriage, eel, and prawns. Unfortunately, I also discovered that I don’t like eel cooked Chinese style.  So needless to say, I only really like the crab porriage.  Worth the trip? Sure. I’d take this place over Litoral any day.  28-30 Rua da Cunha, Taipa Island

img_3051_resize4. Tai Lei Loi Kei: Also located in Taipa, this VERY no frills outdoor cafe is known for their Pork Chop w/ Pineapple Buns. They start serving this Macanese snack at 3pm and by 4:30 (when we got there), they were sold out. Unfortunately for us, we only got the pork chop with toast. It was still tasty!  Largo Governador Tamagnini Barbosa 18 Taipa (near the Cunha bus station)

img_2894_resizeThis is another porkchop bun that I got at a small bakery.

Additional Reading and Resources:

Macau Food (Part 1): Taipa- Lazy Bone Blog

Where to Eat in Macau- World Foodie Guide Blog

Macau Food, Restuarant and Dining- Ola Macau Guide

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Part One: Macau: Walking through the Suburbs of Macau from Temple to Church

We got up early  a super rainy morning to finish our walking tour. So unfortunately, a lot of these pictures are really dreary looking! Oh, how I wish I was better with photoshop!

Macau Walking Tour (Part II):

macau-square

1. Largo Do Senado: This town square is also known as the “Square of the Senate”. It’s a really gorgeous town square surrounded with very distinctive Portuguese architecture. It’s a great place to start.

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2. Church of St. Dominic & Macau Cathedral: The Church of St. Dominic is gorgeous with stain class windows and icons of Jesus and Mary. The definitely represents the strong Catholic presents in Macau. The Macau Cathedral, on the other hand, is not as impressive, but it’s prime location is worthy of a quick stop. macau-ruins1

3. Ruins of the Church of St. Paul: The most famous tourist destination in Macau is the Ruins of the Church of St. Paul. Originally built in the seventeen hundreds, this Jesuit church burnt down in the nineteen hundreds and all that’s left is this amazing facade. We were able to climb to the to top and catch a breathtaking view of Macau.

Additional Reading and Resources:
Ruins of St. Paul- Macau Travel Tips

Macau Walking Tour: Historical Churches near Senado Square- Asiahotels.com

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One of the highlights of my trip to Macau was a simple walking tour through the suburbs of Macau. With my Lonely Planet guide in hand and their suggested walking tour, I had a fantastic time walking through the streets from landmark to landmark and through narrow sidewalks where parents were walking their kids home.

Stops on Our Walking Tour of Macau Peninsula:

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1. A Ma Temple: We actually skewed off Lonely Planet’s perfectly planned out itinerary and ended up taking our time (re: two days) to finish their itinerary. We started off at A-Ma Temple, which is a smallish Chinese temple dedicated to A-Ma or Tin Hau. While it’s not the most impressive temple I’ve seen, it’s interesting to see how the temple is incorporated into the side of a hill.

macau-moorish-barracks

2. Moorish Barracks & Largo Do Lilau: Built in 1874, this old, beautiful building looks like a millionaire’s home in Portugal. However, it actually houses the  maritime police and can pass for a modern day home with it’s high ceilings and gorgeous black lanterns. Near by, the Largo Do Lilau is in a beautiful public square with old trees and the famous fountain. If you drink from the fountain, you’re destined to return to Macau.

macau-largo-de-lilau

3. Church of St. Augustine & Leal Senado: Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go into the Church of St. Augustine, but that really didn’t stop us from taking in it’s beautiful architecture. One of the beautiful things about Macau is the juxtaposition between bright, colorful Portuguese style buildings, older buildings that the locals live in, and the narrow hilly roads.

By this time, it was already late in the day, so we decided to head back to our hotel to clean up for dinner. Luckily, we were able to walk to downtown from here and grab a Portuguese egg tart before going back.

Up next: Largo do Senado, Church of St. Dominic, Macau Cathedral, Lau Kau Mansion, Monte Fort, Ruins of the Church of St. Paul

Resources and Reading Material:

A Ma Temple – Macau Heritage Net

He Who Drinks From the Lilau Never Forgets Macau -Articles Base

Macau Moorish Barracks- Ola Macau Guide

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Traveling tips for getting around in Macau:

1. Language Barriers: Don’t expect to be able to speak English to everyone in Macau, including cab drivers. They speak Cantonese in Macau and I was able to get by with my limited Mandarin, but we definitely still had a lot of language barriers. So before I headed out to the cab line at the hotel, I’d stop off at the conceirge and asked her to write my destination out in Chinese. It was much easier to hand the driver a note then to get dropped off in the middle of nowhere… which also happened.

2. Roads: Considering that the streets signs, like Rua do Almirante Sergio, were in Portuguese, I made the horribly bad mistake of assuming the cab drivers would know where I wanted to go. Wrong again! Despite having Portuguese street signs, the signs also have Chinese names, which are not as apparent to me. I’m not sure what the point of having Portuguese street names are if the cab drivers don’t use them. But that’s a mystery for another day.  After awhile, I just started telling cab drivers to drop me off big casinos, and I’d walk to wherever I needed to go.

3. Currency: Macau and HK dollars run in almost the same denomination. Example, 25 HK dollars is close to 25 Macau dollars. Yay! No need for currency conversion in your head. HK dollars is widely accepted in Macau. So if you’re coming from HK, you can use them easily. At big hotels, if you use HK dollars, you may receive your change in HK dollars. In smaller stores, you will probably receive it in Macau dollars.

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I’m back! It was extremely tiring to travel from DC to Houston (layover) to SF to LA back to SF to Narita (layover) to Hong Kong to Macau to Hong Kong to Taipei to Hong Kong to Narita (layover) to SF to Houston (layover) then FINALLY back to DC. Wow. Looking at all those trips makes my head spin. Needless to say, my jet lag is HORRIBLE. Uh, can you say cold pizza at 4am? But, I’m BACK! and I had a ton of great adventures to share!

Surprisingly, one of the highlights to my trip was my 1.5 day trip to Macau! Considering that everyone who heard I was going described Macau as a dirty version of Vegas… uhhh.. SO not so! okay, maybe a little, but I had a great time! But first off…

How to Get to Macau from Hong Kong via Sea:

1. How to get there by sea: Getting around in Hong Kong is really easy, so I wasn’t that surprised that getting from Hong Kong to Macau would be any different.

  • TurboJet, New World First Ferry, Cotai Strip are a few of the ferry companies that will take you by sea. My experiences are with TurboJet, which I found to be really easy and runs almost like a 2nd rate plane boarding. Otherwise, buy ticket and 20 minutes before you board the ship. Pretty simple.

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2. Costs: For appoximately $20 USD, you can book a ticket online or at the Shun Tak Centre in Hong Kong (MTR: Sheung Wan Station). If you use your Visa, you do get a little bit of a discount.

3. Standby: After seeing everything and eating everything we wanted to eat, we decided to head back to the Macau Ferry Terminal early to see if we can go standby back to Hong Kong. Apparently this is a very popular idea as there were lines and lines of people trying to do the same thing! Luckily Turbo Jet doesn’t charge a change fee and they basically have a ship sail out every 30 minutes. Horrah!

Additional Reading and Resources:

Getting There: NYTimes.com

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Over the course of planning for this trip to Hong Kong, I learned a lot about random stuff in Hong Kong. I thought I’d share them since they were tips given to me by friends, internet, etc.

Hong Kong has a lot of really fancy hotels. But since The BF are not high rollers, we’re going to be staying at a friend’s place for most of the time. However, we will be staying 2 nights at two different hotels for different reasons and convenience’s sake.

Of course there are other hotels in different price ranges, but I thought I’d share some examples of the different price ranges you can go with.

Different types/levels of hotels in Hong Kong:

1. USA Hostel: We arrive in Hong Kong in the middle of the night, so we decided to find a place to crash for the night since our friend lives fairly far. USA Hostel also has private hotel rooms for a mere $60 a night. I don’t expect it to be fancy for the price we paid, but it’ll serve it’s purpose.

ymca

2. YMCA of Hong Kong: We’re not booked at the YMCA, but I was tipped off that Hong Kong’s YMCA is not like the YMCA we’re use to in the US. In fact, their hotel rooms can be considered budget (although not as budget as USA Hostel) for $150 a night. It’s located on a prime location and their Harbour View rooms are suppose to have an absolutely gorgeous view of the harbor.

w

3. W Hong Kong Hotel: It’s no secret that The BF and I love Starwood. For New Years Eve, we’ll be staying at the W. Realistically, we only paid $60 and used up a lot of points to get this room, but it’s definitely a pretty penny if we were to pay for it in full.

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I’m just about to start my crazy holiday travels. After a quick stop over in CA for Christmas with the family, The BF and I are heading to Hong Kong to attend a wedding on New Years Eve (party included)! Since we’ve both been there before, we thought it’d be a great idea to head over to Macau for day or so.

Macau is considered the Vegas of Asia. It’s annual revenue is/or already has exceeded Vegas. Personally, I’m not much of a gambler, so I’m more excited to see the old Portuguese buildings and sample the Portuguese and Macanese food. Macanese food is SO great. Because it’s so heavy, I’d liken it to soul food.

Planned places to eat in Macau:

pasteis

(image source)

1. Portugues-style Egg-Custard Tarts: If you’ve ever had the Cantonese version of the egg tarts, you’d LOVE the Portuguese-style egg tarts. It’s slightly bigger, juicier, and burnt on the top. One of the most famous bakeries to visit is Lord Stow’s Cafe. His rival, Margaret’s Cafe e Nata, is his ex-wife’s shop. I think there’s a good chance I’m going to sample both!

800px-porkchopbun

(image source)

2. Pork Chop Buns: Another Macau snack is the pork chop buns. Basically, it’s like a pork chop slider. Tai Lei Loi Kei, is supposedly the best place for these. Since they sell a very limited amount, people start to queue up by 3pm for these buns. They sell out by 4 or 5pm.

3. Crab Porridge- After doing a few hours of Macau foodie research, I came across Seng Cheong Crab Porriage. Some bloggers have mentioned that after doing the foodie tour listed above, they were surprised to find that they most enjoyed the crab porridge at Seng Cheong! They also do crab curry, but I’m not much of a curry person.

Addresses (good luck finding it on a map!)
Lord Stow’s Cafe – 9 Largo do Matadouro

Margaret’s Cafe e Nata- Gum Loi Building, Rua Alm. Costal Cabral (Along Avenida D. Joao IV near the Sinatra Hotel)

Tai Lei Loi Kei- Largo Governador Tamagnini Barbosa 18, Taipa. (Near Cunha bus station)

Seng Cheong Crab Porriage – 28-30 Rua da Cunha, Taipa Island


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MADEinHK recently posted pictures from his new city, Beijing, China. The pictures are great! And I hope he’ll be sharing more Beijing pictures soon!

Additional Resources:

Beijing Travel Tips: Things to See and Do in Beijing

Seattle Times: Beijing Goes for the Gold

China Highlights: Beijing Public Transportation Maps

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