early retirement, living with cancer, and traveling

Recent Posts

Fantasy vs. Reality in Early Retirement

Fantasy vs. Reality in Early Retirement

I had a fantasy before I early retired. Fantasies are normal–they are what allowed me to get through the daily grind of full-time work. I built it up in my mind as something fabulous. My fantasy was to solo travel. We Dragons love to travel. […]

Cleaning Out the Kitchen

Cleaning Out the Kitchen

Back in October 2018, I was re-inspired by the FIRE movement to start decluttering again. But with the start of the new year, I decided to push myself to take on a decluttering challenge and get rid of 1,000 items in 1 year.  I’m so excited […]

2019 Dragon Goals

2019 Dragon Goals

With the new year here, everyone’s writing about their goals and resolutions. To be honest, Dragon Gal was always very overwhelmed when she was teaching full-time, but she sometimes felt the need to feel the accomplishment that can come with completing “New Year’s Resolutions.” So […]

A 20% Decrease in Spending – Our 2018 Financial Wrap Up

A 20% Decrease in Spending – Our 2018 Financial Wrap Up

Last week we posted our year end blog review where we highlighted our top ten posts and a general summary of 2018. This week it is time for our 2018 financial review. We haven’t talked about our financial numbers in awhile, but so many other […]

Our Top 10 Posts and Wrapping Up 2018

Our Top 10 Posts and Wrapping Up 2018

2018 has been an eventful year! Before we welcome the new year, we always like to look back on the past year and celebrate our successes and reflect on our challenges. YEAR IN REVIEW FOR 2018  Dragon Gal finished her first year and a half […]

Insurance and Early Retirement – Reflections After My Hospital Stay

Insurance and Early Retirement – Reflections After My Hospital Stay

I’ve discussed a few times on the blog how finding the right health insurance is my largest stumbling block in terms of retiring early.  The biggest challenge is that The Cancer Hospital is not a part of any of the marketplace plans in our area. […]

Declutter Challenge: 1,000 items in 1 year

Declutter Challenge: 1,000 items in 1 year

I’m taking on a decluttering challenge. I want to get rid of 1,000 items in the span of 12 months.  I got rid of about 1,200 items in the span of 3 years from 2015-17. I went on a huge decluttering rampage after reading Marie […]

11 Days in the Hospital

11 Days in the Hospital

It has been quite an interesting month for us Dragons.  In November, we went to Thailand for almost two weeks, spending our time in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. We had a great time there exploring temples, eating cheap and delicious food, and trying our best to […]

My Schedule in Early Retirement

My Schedule in Early Retirement

The number one question I get when I tell people I quit my job is “What are you doing with your time?” One of the biggest issues for me was what to do with all that time during the day when I used to work. […]

What’s Up Next Podcast Guests

What’s Up Next Podcast Guests

Doc G and Paul Thompson invited us to be a guest on their podcast “What’s Up Next.“ They wanted to do an episode with us on health and FI. Screaming! I was so excited! Big names in the blogging world and they both thought of […]


Our Travels

Macau – The Las Vegas of Asia

Macau – The Las Vegas of Asia

We enjoy visiting as many new countries and U.S. states as possible.  So when the opportunity presents itself to color in another country on our Countries Been app, we don’t hesitate to take advantage of it.

Spending over a week in Hong Kong put us very close to Shenzhen, China.  However, US citizens need a pricey visa to go from Hong Kong to China, so our first trip to mainland China would have to wait.

Fortunately, just an hour ferry ride away from Hong Kong (and not requiring a visa) is Macau, an independent territory of China.

Macau was a former Portuguese colony, under control of the European nation until 1999.  Although there are signs all over the country in Portuguese, very few people speak the Portuguese language (less than 1% according to the front desk agent at our hotel).  We realized this quickly when we went through immigration upon arrival.  DGal said “Orbrigada” (thank you) to the agent but he didn’t respond or acknowledge her thanks at all.

A decade ago, Macau overtook Las Vegas as the gambling capital of the world.  In 2017, Las Vegas’s 60 casinos generated $7.1 billion in revenue.  In contrast, Macau’s 40 casinos (20 less than Vegas), generated over $33 billion in revenue.  Most of the gamblers come from mainland China and Hong Kong.

Now this isn’t going to be a post about gambling, as we spent $0 gambling in Macau and $0 gambling the last time we went to Vegas.  Gambling is definitely not a way to maintain a frugal lifestyle and probably isn’t the best side hustle to pursue either.

GETTING TO MACAU

Getting to Macau is very easy.  There is hourly ferry service between Hong Kong and Macau, with two different companies operating the roughly 60 minute voyage.  Depending on where in Macau your hotel is generally determines the best ferry provider to take as there are two ferry terminals in Macau.

Our hotel was located in the Taipa region, so it was convenient for us to take the Cotai Water Jet ferry (blue boats) to the Taipa Ferry Terminal.  There is a second ferry company, TurboJet (red boats), that mainly services the other ferry terminal.

Our ride to and from Macau.
Our ride to and from Macau.

We traveled during the week so we were able to just show up and purchase our tickets for the next ferry (as opposed to needing a reservation).  The one way fare was about $22 USD.  The ferries seat several hundred people and you get assigned seats when you board.  Although there is a snack bar on board, we brought our own food with us for the journey.

Upon arriving in Macau, although we had to go through immigration, we did not receive a stamp in our passports.  We didn’t get any stamps upon arriving in Hong Kong either, so zero for two in new passport stamps.  I don’t like it when there are no passport stamps; almost seems like we didn’t travel to the country.  First world problems, I know.

From the ferry terminal there are free shuttle buses that transport visitors to the nearby hotels and casinos.  Given that Macau is only one hour from Hong Kong, many people make it a day trip to go gambling and shopping, so the shuttle buses make it very convenient for people to get around.

MACAU HOTELS

We spent two nights at the Conrad Hilton.  I used Hilton points that I had accumulated over the years.  At the time I had Gold Status at Hilton, so we got upgraded to a one bedroom suite.  The room was enormous! We had never stayed at a Conrad before.  Usually they are too expensive in the U.S., but hotels were much cheaper in Macau (and the point values were decent as well).

Our suite at the Conrad Macau.
Our suite at the Conrad Macau.

Macau has a lot of the same hotels that are on the Vegas strip: the Venetian, the Parisian, MGM, and the Wynn.  On our very first trip to Las Vegas during college, we casino hopped up and down the strip, exploring the different designs of each hotel.  We did a similar thing in Macau, visiting all of the hotels and casinos in our immediate area.

Many of the hotels have unique experiences or shows.  The Venetian had an evening outdoor light show and played holiday music (it was late November).  In another hotel there was a holiday show with dancers performing on Segways.

Enjoy the Holidays on a Segway?
Enjoy the Holidays on a Segway?

The Wynn Palace has dancing fountains (just like the Bellagio in Vegas).  They also have a cable car that you can take to get from the street to the hotel.  We timed our ride perfectly to watch the fountain show one evening from the cable car.  The ride is free going from the street into the hotel.  However, there is a fee to take the cable car out of the hotel.  By avoiding the fee and walking through the hotel to leave, we were able to see the colorful ferris wheel floral sculpture in the lobby.

The Galaxy hotel has a Diamond Show where a giant diamond emerges from a fountain and rotates high above the crowds.  When we went to Vegas for the first time, we came up with our own creation for a hotel and called it The Galaxy Hotel.  So we were very disappointed to know that someone had stolen our idea for a hotel!

Ferris wheel at the Wynn Palace; Diamond show at the Galaxy; Dancing fountains from the cable car at the Wynn Palace.

MACAU SHOPPING

Also similar to Las Vegas, high end shopping is very common in Macau.  Each hotel was connected to a mall and each mall had multiple high end shops, such as Michael Kors, Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, etc.   In fact, there are 4 different Louis Vuitton stores within a 10 minute walk. Just in case store #1 didn’t have the 4 figure purse you were looking for, there were 3 other options within quick walking distance.

Is 4 Louis Vuitton's not enough?
Is 4 Louis Vuitton’s not enough?

DGal noticed that it wasn’t just the women who were into the shopping.  “Some of these men are carrying better purses than I do,” she commented after seeing someone quickly pass by with a high end bag in hand.

TAIPA VILLAGE

Since casino hopping does get old pretty quickly and being on FIRE means we don’t do any shopping anymore, we needed something else to help us pass the time.  Fortunately there are other things to do in Macau.

Near our hotel was Taipa Village, a traditional village consisting of small, colorful houses and local shops and eateries.  There are a handful of restaurants serving Portuguese and Macanese food (the combination of Chinese and Portguese).  We had lunch at one of the restaurants and spent a few hours roaming the streets and exploring the shops.

It was a nice break from the bright lights and loud noises of the casinos and malls.

Scenes from Taipa Village: a tile mural; street signs in Chinese and Portuguese; a shop owner making sweets; beef jerky, multiple flavors; a row of shops.

TAIPA GRANDE HIKING

Taipa Grande is a hill not far from the cluster of hotels we stayed at.  There are various nature trails that circle the hill and provide panoramic views of the surrounding areas.

To get to the start of the nature trails we had to take a free funicular up from street level.  We took a trail that led us to the highest point in Macau.

We spent about two hours on Taipa Grande hiking and enjoying the view points.

The funicular and views from atop Taipa Grande.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Two nights was enough time for us in Macau.  Although there is a lot of gambling in Macau, the place did not seem as overwhelming or as seedy as Las Vegas.  It felt like a much cleaner version of Las Vegas.

We were able to enjoy our time without spending any additional money on activities.  Exploring the casinos is free, as is the hiking on Taipa Grande.

Most importantly, a visit to Macau added another country to the list of places we have been!