Since I could find no hostels in Macau, I decided to use Airbnb, which is a more expensive, but interesting alternative, as you can live with locals (or long-term residents), explore the neighbourhood and see how flats look like.
But once again Macau proved to be less convenient than Hong Kong. The cheapest accommodation I found in Macau was HKD 279 (around 30 euros). This wasn’t the price for a room, but for a sofa bed in the living room. In Hong Kong, you can find a single room with private bathroom for HKD 264, or a single room for HKD 202. However, the location was good: Rua da Ribeira do Patane, just about 10 to 15 minutes on foot from Senado Square.
The HKD 279 bed was available only for three nights, so I decided to book this bed for two nights and then move to a nearby flat. I rented a single room for about HKD 383 (around 40 euros) per night. The price for these two flats for four nights, including Airbnb fees, was about HKD 1,600 (circa 180 euros). With HKD 1,700 I could have rented a double room at a hotel; in Hong Kong, I paid HKD 1,400 at a hostel for half a month.
Despite all that, I really wanted to see how people live in Macau, so I chose Airbnb.
First Flat – Rua da Ribeira do Patane
The first flat was located in Rua da Ribeira do Patane, one of Macau’s central thoroughfares. From there you can easily reach the most important attractions, such as Senado Square and the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral.
In Macau Outer Harbour, I took bus number 3, which stops at Rua da Ribeira do Patane. This line also stops at Senado Square. I thought the distance would be long, but it took just around 15 minutes. Macau island is indeed very small.
Finding my flat was easy. Following my host’s instructions, I got off at a stop called ‘Mercado do Patane’ and then crossed the street. The building was quite old, probably from the 1960s or 1970s. Surprisingly, old residential architecture in Macau resembles a lot that of some areas of Taipei, although the two territories have never been under the same administration throughout their entire history. The apartment blocks are grey, the facades look neglected, they have the typical ‘cage-windows’ and there are no lifts.
|That’s how many old residential apartment blocks look like
The entrance of the building was next to a bakery. There was an iron door that opened without key. It led into a narrow, dark corridor that looked quite creepy, especially at night. I climbed up the stairs on the left and arrived in front of my flat, which was on the second floor.
|When you open the main door, that’s what you see
The flat itself was modern and clean. There was a living room, a bathroom, a kitchen (this one was quite messy) and two single rooms. My bed was in the living room. A folding partition made sure that people couldn’t see me when I was sleeping.
However, the flat was much more crowded than I had expected. Apart from my bed, there was also a bunk bed in the living room so that a total of 3 people could sleep there. Adding the two large beds in the single rooms, up to 8 people could stay in the flat at the same time. I found it quite extreme, considering the price.
On my first night I was the only person staying in the living room, though. There was a US guy in one room and a guy from mainland China in the other. When I checked in, the host was in Hong Kong, so I didn’t meet her until the next day.
What the flat lacked in comfort was definitely outweighed by the nice atmosphere, and by the friendliness of the host and her friends (more about this in my next post).
My first day in Macau was quite stressful. I spent most of the afternoon and evening looking for supermarkets, 7-11s, stores and restaurants. Being much smaller than Hong Kong, Macau doesn’t have many department stores or convenience stores. Many big stores are concentrated either near the major tourist sights or in the eastern part of the city, closer to the casinos.
It was a really hot and humid day – 30 degrees and 87% humidity. I walked for hours, but didn’t drink enough. When I went back home, I felt exhausted, and I got a headache. The good thing was that my long walk helped me familiarize with the neighbourhood, which is exactly what I had wanted.
Flat 2 – Rua de Joao de Araujo
The second flat was located on Rua de Joao de Araujo, just a few minutes’ walk from Rua da Ribeiro do Patane. But the flat was difficult to find, mainly because the information provided by the host is a little bit confusing. Reading guests’ reviews on Airbnb I discovered that a few people had trouble finding it.
The flat itself is very nice, and surprisingly large! There is a spacious living room, a kitchen, two bathrooms, and four rooms. Two rooms are occupied by the guests, one room is for the hosts, and another room seems to be reserved for the two huge cats they’ve got! Quite luxurious.
My room was very good. It had a large bed, a desk, a closet, and a large window. The air-conditioner was old, but worked perfectly.
The only problem with this flat was the initial attitude of the host. When I asked her via e-mail what time I could check in, she said I could come after 8 pm. I think it’s absolutely not convenient for a traveller to walk around for half a day with his or her luggage, enduring the heat and humidity, without the possibility to take a shower or a rest. After all, I paid almost 40 euros. I could have got a hotel room for that price. Moreover, I had to meet someone at 7 pm that day, so I couldn’t have made it anyway.
I wrote to to the owner that 8 pm was too late for me. Then she suggested I check in at 8:50 am. She said she had to go to work at 9:10. Since I was staying at a nearby flat, it wasn’t a problem for me. But it would have been difficult if I had arrived in Macau that day.
The next morning (Tuesday) I woke up early, packed my bag and walked to Rua Joao de Araujo. At 8:30 I rang the bell. The host (I will call her Zhou) opened the door. She looked sleepy, her brows furrowed and her eyes still half closed. Obviously I had awakened her. I said ‘hi’, but she didn’t reply.
She wore a dark blue, sleeveless blouse and shorts. She was a very good-looking girl. She had long, slender legs, a lean body, and average height. Her face had an oval shape, with big eyes, well-proportioned features.
As I was about to take off my shoes, as is customary in East Asia, she stopped me. “No need,” she said. “I’ll show you your room.” She led me to the end of the corridor and opened the door. I put my luggage on the desk. She showed me the bathroom, told me how to use the air-conditioning and close the door from the inside. Then she left. After a few seconds I realised she hadn’t given me the key, so I went back to the living room. “Do you have a key for me?” I asked, “I have to go out.” She looked displeased.
“You can come after 8 pm,” she answered. I couldn’t believe my ears. Actually I still had some stuff in the other flat that I had to pick up. Then I was planning to go to the supermarket to buy something to eat and drink, go out, come back, take a shower and get ready to meet my friend. I hadn’t imagined I wouldn’t get a key! This upset all my plans.
“I will probably go out and come back a few times,” I said sternly.
“Wait,” she said, and disappeared behind a door. A few minutes later she came back. “My friend is staying here. She will be in the flat all day. You can ring the bell.”
“Okay,” I said.
I was furious. It was an awkward situation. What if I came back while her friend was taking a shower? Or what if she went out anyway? I felt uneasy, but there was nothing I could do, for the time being. I thought that if her friend didn’t open the door at least once, I would check in at a hotel, come back at 8 pm to get my stuff and leave for good, applying for a refund from Airbnb and writing a negative review.
I went out and came back several times. Her friend was busy cleaning the flat (I’m not sure what sort of ‘friend’ she was; she behaved more like a cleaning lady) while listening to music. She always opened the door for me. I apologised to her for ringing the bell so often; Zhou had done wrong to her as well as to myself. Her new role as my personal porter must have annoyed her, because she eventually gave me her key.
From that moment on, my stay at that flat, which had started so inauspiciously, took a turn for the better. I kept the key for two days, and Zhou never mentioned the issue again. She was much friendlier than I’d thought. Although we didn’t talk much, she always smiled at me (maybe her smile looked so kind because she was pretty). On my second day, I asked her what time I had to check out.
“What time do you want to check out?” she asked me.
“Hmm, I want to sleep,” I said smiling, fearing she’d tell me to check out before she went to work.
She laughed. “You can check out in the afternoon, is that okay? Maybe another guest will come.”
“I can leave before 12 pm,” I answered.
“1 pm is okay,” she said.
The last night I came back home late. Zhou was sitting alone in the living room. She looked as if she wanted to talk. When I said “good night”, she frowned slightly. Or at least so it seemed to me. I went to my room and got changed. When I came out to go to the bathroom, the lights of the living room were turned off and she wasn’t there any more. I never saw her again.
Airbnb in Macau is very expensive and, as far as the value for money is concerned, maybe a hotel is a better choice: there is a 24 hour service, no hassle with keys or check-in/check-out time. But if you have some money, Airbnb is definitely worth trying: you can meet locals or long-term residents, explore your neighbourhood and get a glimpse of people’s every day life. You will also see parts of the city you’d otherwise never had the chance to go to.
Comparing the two flats where I stayed, the second one was definitely much better in terms of space, privacy and quality. However, it was a little bit boring, as the hosts work all day and the guests’ rooms are so far away from each that you barely meet anyone. The first flat offered only a sofa bed but the price was as high as a single room’s in Hong Kong or other cities. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed staying there, because it was more like a community and people were nice.