Day 9: Travel to Macau
After a great stay in Japan, it’s time for the next leg of the trip and another travel day. Macau was one of the places I was really looking forward to and marked the start of the string of luxury hotels booked with my various elite statuses. The trip was going to get a lot more comfortable and luxurious. Even though it’s my third time to Macau, it’s one of my favourite places to visit in the world – a perfect stopover to relax and indulge. My parents were also ready for some R&R after some heavy traveling in Taiwan and Japan.
We knew from the onset that this would be a tough one given that we had a 9:00am flight. Kansai Airport is also over an hour away from Osaka Station. We got up around 4:30am and left by 5am. The mall we typically walk through was closed, which was a bit concerning. We continued walking on street level in the direction of the trains. After seeing a few more closed doors we saw a security guard which directed us to keep going forward. Eventually we saw an opening into Osaka Station and made it on the 5:22am Osaka Loop Line. We transferred at Shin Imamiya Station for the Nankai Express to Kansai Airport. The light drizzle from the early morning cleared up and we saw a beautiful sunrise from the train. We got to Kansai Terminal 1 by 6:30am, where we lined up to return our transit cards. Then we took the shuttle to Terminal 2 where our Peach flight was departing from. Like AirAsia X from the previous leg, Peach (a subsidiary of ANA) is a LCC. Peach also had the same strict 7kg limit on combined carry on bags, but we learned our lesson and pre-bought the checked bags. This saves about $10 per bag and the hassle of trying to repack your bags while in line. Since Peach is based out of Osaka and there were many early morning flights, the line for check-in was huge. Check-in was also meant to be done at the kiosks instead of the counter, which theoretically is fine, except the machines didn’t work. This was frustrating as the clock ticked towards our departure time. We also had to check in the bags, which had another long line. Even though we learned our checked bag lesson, most passengers hadn’t. There were tons of open suitcases as people realized they exceeded the max weight. I feel you. This made the line take even longer, which made us more anxious. By the time we finally checked in, there was only about 30mins before departure. We raced through security and made it to our gate with just a bit of time to spare.
As a LCC, all the food and beverages were a la carte. I enjoyed a cup noodle and water on the flight as my breakfast. The 4 hour flight (MM63) on the A320 was smooth and uneventful. I slept for most of it, so it passed by pretty quickly. We touched down at Hong Kong International Airport just before 12pm, slightly early. We then cleared customs and immigration, where we would be staying in Hong Kong for literally less than an hour.
By now it was lunchtime, so before we head over to Macau, we stopped by the Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge at Hong Kong Airport. Arrivals lounges are amazing because it’s a chance to refresh, get some food, and relax – ideal if your hotel isn’t ready yet or there is still a long way to your destination. Unfortunately, arrivals lounges are far and few between, but luckily they had one in Hong Kong. We had a fantastic lunch here, with some delicious Hong Kong-style noodle soups and dishes. After this trip, my parents were so spoiled with airport lounges that they can’t travel without them now.
After lunch, we took a double decker bus to the HZMB Port Terminal. This was the Hong Kong side entry point of the HZMB (Hong Kong – Zhuhai – Macau Bridge). As an engineering nerd, I was really excited for this. HZMB is (by far) the longest sea bridge in the world, spanning over 50km of underwater tunnels and suspension bridges. Having taken the ferry from Hong Kong to Macau several times, I couldn’t even fathom the idea of building a bridge between the two. It is one of the biggest engineering wonders of the world and was really cool to experience. The port terminal was beautiful and massive, although fairly empty.
We quickly cleared Hong Kong exit customs and got tickets for the bus. Tickets were about $8, much cheaper than the ferry. There was a large fleet of busses waiting. It seemed like they just left whenever there was enough people, so we didn’t have to wait long. The bridge was brand new, the roads looked great, and the view of the mountains and sea were fantastic. The glaring issue was that the roads were almost empty. Besides the shuttles, there were very few cars using the bridge because of the strict requirements for driving between Mainland China and Hong Kong. This was a shame to see since such a great engineering feat wasn’t being used to its full potential due to politics.
We arrived in Macau in an astonishing 35mins (compared to over 1 hour by High Speed Ferry). The Macau Terminal was also massive and beautiful, but mostly empty and vastly underused.
Since the bridge is still relatively new and most Macau arrivals are still from the Ferry Terminal, the hotel shuttles don’t pick up from here. The signage is in place for when they do, but until then, the bridge operates a free shuttle to the Taipa Ferry Terminal. From there, I saw all the familiar shuttles which took us to the Cotai Strip.
Cotai is very similar to the Las Vegas Strip. In fact, many of the Vegas casinos have their own Macau branches here, which are much bigger and generate far more revenue than their US counterparts. However, I still prefer to stay in the small luxury chain hotels rather than the large resorts since the service is usually better. I stayed at the Sheraton and the Four Seasons in my previous trips to Macau. This time I was staying at the Conrad, which is part of the Sands Cotai Central Complex. Conrad is the flagship brand of the Hilton chain of hotels. I recently matched my Marriott Platinum status for 3 months of free Hilton Diamond status, which is their highest tier. This status gave us an excellent free upgrade to a 1100 sqft deluxe suite with 2 queen beds. This also gave us access to the club lounge, which I’ll go into later. Their concierge had reached out to me a few days before arrival. I had booked the king room because of the cheaper rate, but requested 2 beds for the upgrade. I was pleasantly surprised they were able to fulfill that request. Not only that, they extended the club lounge access which is typically only for 2 guests, to all 3 guests free of charge. This is usually a pretty expensive add-on, so I really appreciated the gesture.
Service was also amazing from the get go. As soon as we walked in, the concierge took our bags and recognized us as Diamond members. Instead of the lobby, they escorted us to the Club Lounge on the top floor for a private sit down check-in. We were blown away by the upgraded suite, which was stunningly luxurious and massive, especially coming from that tiny room in Japan. The entry way had a guest bathroom, large closet, and a coffee/tea set. This led to the dining area with a large table and chandelier. Behind that was another table, which had a Handy phone – this time with unlimited data and hotspot usage.
Next to that was the main living room with a huge curved couch, large TV, and additional arm chairs.
The bedroom had 2 large queen beds, each with a Conrad Macau bear on the pillow. There was another desk and TV in the room as well.
Finally, there was the master bathroom, which came in past the walk in closet. The bathroom was covered edge to edge with marble. It had everything you would want in a five star bathroom, including his and her sinks, a gorgeous tub, a water closet, and a huge walk-in rain shower. There was even a Conrad ducky with dice inside to signify Macau.
I also had a personal welcome letter and a jar of custom Conrad Macau candies, which were very tasty.
We had a great view of neighboring Venetian Resort.
Oh and I only paid $180 per night for this room – here is the rack rate which was displayed by the door for this particular suite.
Obviously rack rates are much more expensive than prepaid rates, but still this was a huge upgrade which we enjoyed very much. But enough about the room, that’s not even the best part of the hotel. At this point, it was about 4pm, which meant we still had some time left to catch the afternoon tea. My mom and I are big fans of afternoon tea and I had high expectations after experiencing some great ones in China on our last trip. As soon as we entered, the attendants greeted us by name, escorted us to our seats and took our drink orders. Conrad did not disappoint, providing a big spread of luxurious and well made sweet and savoury snacks. The coffee and tea selection were also excellent. The best part was that there were very few people in the lounge. This allows the lounge to cater to its limited elite guests with excellent service and provide food that is far better than most American or European lounges.
After the tea, we went out to explore the strip. The Cotai Central complex is massive and consists of 8 hotels including 2 mega resorts, the Venetian and the Parisian. Just next to our hotel was the new flagship Macau Apple Store. The store had the new design elements with a beautiful marble staircase and lots of bamboo. There were these huge semi transparent panes of glass which made up the facade, giving it a really cool look at night. Unfortunately, they did not have the new AirPods in stock either.
Since it was my dad’s first time to Macau and it’s also changed a lot since my mom was here, I took them for a tour of the Cotai Central complex. We crossed the street over to the Venetian, which was lit up beautifully at night.
The palatial feel of the Venetian never gets old, and same goes for the canals and painted sky.
After some browsing and exploring, we ended up at the Parisan and the Eiffel Tower.
By now it was dinner time, so we made our way up to the club lounge for yet another free meal. I’ve been to a lot of these hotel lounges now and know to keep my expectations tempered for their dinner service. It’s supposed to be more like evening hors d’oeuvres, not a full meal. The dinner at Conrad lounge though was quite special. While it’s still clearly not full dinner service, the quality of the food presented was spectacular. Parma ham cut from a whole leg, smoked duck breast, grilled beef tongue, and the bean curd roll were some highlights from the first dinner. It paired nicely with the beer and champagne, part of the extensive bar selection available. It was all delicious and the service was great. In fact, my dad started a conversation with one of the attendants (who was actually the manager for the lounge) who we found out was also from our hometown of Dalian. We learned about her story and life here, the changes in Macau over the years, and so much more. We talked so long that the dinner service was already over and they were closing for the night. Since the number of club guests are so limited, she was able to chat with us all night without compromising service for other guests. Definitely a memorable lounge experience that puts this one above and beyond the rest.
When we got back to our suite, we found that they had done turndown service. They had our slippers out by the bed on a towel, cups of water on the night stand and three more Conrad bears. The slippers and bathrobes were also very noteworthy. The slippers were black silk for men and purple silk for women, embroidered with ‘His Conrad’ and ‘Her Conrad’. It was very luxurious and comfortable – so much so that I used it for all my upcoming flights and still use it at home. The bathrobes were by far the most comfortable ones I’ve ever used. It was plush, soft, and warm on the inside, while still being silky smooth on the outside. This was such a nice arrival in Macau and we were very excited to spend more time here.