adventure · thoughts · travel

How Not to be conned in Macau —and live to tell the tale (Part I)

(Author’s note: She and her friends went on a Birthday vacation last July 7-11 in Macau; this is a late post for Day 3)

“We seriously need to find a hotel otherwise we’re going to be like one of those helpless characters in Koreanovelas that have nowhere to stay.”

That was the frantic conversation that my friend Meryll and I had on our third day in Macau. We just checked out one of the hostels in my list, and seeing that it was within budget, our only consideration now is its location —it was too far from Senado area and the place wasn’t ideal: it was like those dirty alleyways in Divisoria. I honestly didn’t want to stay in a rundown, shabby hotel where I would constantly worry about my things and my personal safety. But the thought I had in mind was, “beggars can’t be choosers.” Was this going to be our only option?

We needed to decide soon because the next day, we were checking out from our hotel. Keren and Kay were going back toManila, leaving Meryll and me two more days to spend inMacau. Staying in that same hotel wasn’t an option; the room wasn’t available for extension and if it were, it was more expensive with just the two of us paying. I already anticipated this scenario. I researched and prepared a list of hostels and hotels nearby that are within budget. But what we didn’t anticipate was the unavailability of almost all the hotels we checked because of the thousands of tourists from mainlandChinavacationing inMacauthat weekend. “Great, this is when you can say the Chinese are really everywhere!”

Our second option was to call the Pastor that we met on our first day inMacau. He was inSenado Squaredistributing tracts, and, divinely I should say, he approached us that Thursday and we introduced ourselves as fellow Christians. He invited us over to church and Meryll promised we would drop by that Sunday. Thankfully, we got his cellphone number.

“Pastor Dante, this is KZ po. We still haven’t found a place to stay and all the hotels are fully-booked. Baka po may alam kayo?” He said he will ask one of their church members with the promise he would get back to us that day.

As we were talking to him on the phone, a man seated just behind us was listening. He looked Filipino. After hanging up, he said, “naghahanap ba kayo ng lugar?” “Opo, hindi kasi available yung mga rooms sa hotel.” He pointed us to a hotel nearby, but we had already checked that it was fully-booked. “Kung gusto ninyo, mag stay kayo doon sa house ng kasama ko. Babae siya, may room dun tsaka 50 MOP lang ang stay.”

Wow! 50 MOP translates to just 270 pesos. I didn’t want to jump in right away so we asked some more questions, like where the place is located, who lives with the lady, things like that. We got the vibe that he was bent on helping us; he seemed genuine. So he gave us the number of Ate Belinda and I called her. I introduced myself, told her our predicament, and right then and there, she offered the room. On top of that, she even offered to tour us around Coloane and Taipa —the places we planned to visit for the next two days.

“Maselan ba kayo? Wala kasing aircon dun, electric fan lang.” Normally, I would be honest and tell her I was maselan, particularly with the bed and the CR. A clean bathroom is just my fetish and I wanted a decent bed to go with that. Part of the reason we didn’t consider the first hostel anymore was because it looked shabby. But desperate as we were, we needed to be sure we had a place to stay the next day. So I politely told her I didn’t mind that there was no aircon and that we would mostly be out of the house anyway.

To be helpless and homeless in another country is every tourist’s worse nightmare. No amount of research can really help you at this point. You’re just at the mercy of kind strangers, and every inch of your being Filipino wishes for that Filipino trait of hospitality to be real and true. We’ve experienced Filipino hospitality from day one —as we were leaving the airport and boarding the right bus to take us to our hotel, to asking for directions when we got lost or got on the wrong bus. Filipino hospitality is a trait well-admired by everyone, and for the most part of our vacation, we were thankful we have been recipients of this practice. Was this any different?

So it was set: We were going to wait for Belinda in front of our hotel the next day and she would bring us to her place.

When we met up with Keren and Kay that evening to head to the Venetian and excitedly told them about the arrangements, Kay was particularly suspicious and jokingly said, “They’re out to con you.”   

To be honest, I already thought about that. While they seemed very helpful and genuine people on the phone, the proof of the pudding they say is in the eating. We were going to see and test for ourselves tomorrow if they were genuine or not; but in the meantime, our only option was to trust. That does not mean we weren’t going to be cautious or smart when the red light is on. We were just going to ‘test’ it for now and pray that this Filipino hospitality will still hold out in the end. 

What Meryll and I didn’t know was just how eerily true Kay’s words were going to be the next day. 

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