While ambling hand-in-hand through the streets of Macau, we often imagined ourselves roaming the piazzas of Southern Portugal instead. Again and again one of us would make a little comment on the pastel-colored houses, the cobblestone-laden alleyways or the streets bearing Portuguese names. In these moments it was as though we would close our eyes and suddenly awake in Europe, naturally donning a large-brimmed sunhat and picnic basket of cheese. But then a small detail, like the smell of incense drifting past via a nearby temple, would remind us that we were in fact firmly rooted to Asian soil. It was this mix of Eastern and Western cultures in Macau that truly enchanted us.
It was also this mix of cultural influences we were looking for in a hotel. While we pondered the idea of staying at one of the top-notch casinos (the main reason most tourists find themselves in Macau) we ultimately decided we wanted accommodation that had more character—something that paralleled the vibrancy of Macau itself.
Enter the Pousada de Mong-Ha, an educational hotel located just outside the heart of Macau. An educational hotel? That sounds a bit risky. We know. That’s what we thought when we first stumbled upon it, too. But with recommendations in the Michelin Hong Kong Macau Guide and awards from Trip Advisor and Green Hotel, the training hotel warranted another look. Additional research via the hotel website revealed that the Pousada de Mong-Ha was not only an educational facility, but also a hotel where history flourishes and traditional Chinese and Portuguese cultures intertwine. The description matched our requirements to a tee.
We were sold.
Upon arriving at the Pousada de Mong-Ha, we were immediately taken with its serene location outside the center of Macau. While it may not be the most convenient for exploring Macau’s commercial district, it is perhaps the most beautiful place to unwind. Situated on a quiet hillside and adjacent to lush walking trails, staying at La Pousada de Mong-Ha equates to utter relaxation. No raucous noises and lights from the casinos, just natural surroundings and green gardens (where the restaurant happens to grow much of its food).
With our first steps inside the hotel, we were highly impressed by the staff. Saying they were eager is a bit of an understatement–not in an over-the-top-pushy kind of way, but more like a genuine-desire-to-provide-quality-service kind of way. It is clear they are trying to impress their teachers by receiving the best possible feedback from the clientele, while also passionately looking to advance their studies and future careers. But regardless of the motivation behind it, the attitude of the staff is superb. They will go above and beyond to ensure you are as comfortable as possible during your stay, whether it’s escorting you to your taxi, making your dinner reservations, or simply offering a cool drink while you wait in reception. It’s the kind of quality you expect from top-notch hotels, with little indicators of a training aspect at all.
So we’ve covered location and service, which means it’s time for the crème de la crème: the rooms. We were upgraded to a suite (in return for writing a review of our stay), and didn’t glimpse any of the other rooms on offer. That said, we were quite impressed with our accommodation. The decor is best described as a fusion of traditional Portuguese and Chinese influences, exactly as we hoped. Dark wood furniture, blue ceramic tiles, and Chinese artwork are just a few of the details you’ll notice. While the rooms lack an elegant, modern feeling, they do capitalize on their authentic, vintage vibe. We especially loved the small porch overlooking the gardens, perfect for sipping on an inexpensive bottle of Vino Verde. The addition of a personal computer (only in their suites) was particularly convenient for looking up some last minute dinner venues. We would have preferred the suite without the large wall dividing the bedroom and living area, if only to make the room more spacious.
[color-box color=”gray”]Note: Before arriving, we had read a handful of reviews stating that the rooms had a bit of a mold problem. This was definitely not the case in our room, either in the bedroom or bathroom—and we went on a mission to look for it.
Our only regret about our stay at La Pousada de Mong-Ha was that we were not encouraged to eat at the attached restaurant until we were setting off for our ferry back to Hong Kong. In the end we only had time for a brief happy hour, but boy was it happy indeed. The romantic ambiance permeating the small interior of the restaurant was perhaps the most entrancing we experienced in Macau. After walking through a small hallway lined with an impressive wine collection, we entered a room with crisp white linens, amorous dark lighting, and commanding glass windows. We would later find out this restaurant is rated number one on Trip Advisor, and without even tasting the Macanese food on offer we can understand why. The happy hour was delightful, with large glasses of quality wine and strong cocktails on offer. The service was quite the same as the hotel-eager and excited without being too much of a good thing.
[color-box color=”gray”]Note: While students learn to bake pastries and wait on patrons, they take no part in cooking the meals delivered to you; this is to ensure the food is consistently of the highest standard.[/color-box]
We greatly support IFC (La Pousada de Mong-Ha) and its mission to provide quality educational experiences to its students while over-delivering on its services to guests. To get in touch with the hotel or make a reservation, visit their website, call (853) 2851-5222 or e-mail [email protected]
Please note: La Pousada de Mong-Ha is under renovation until August 2013. Room rates will be reconfirmed then. At the time of writing, prices averaged US $80-$190 a night, depending upon room type and day of the week. Please check with the hotel for the most updated prices and deals. And yes, this is budget friendly for Macau…