From the rural beauty of California to the buzz of Asia; a life style change enthusiastically embraced by an American family in Macau
When the O’Malleys first visited Macau in 2015 they came with a certain amount of skepticism. Why leave their beautiful home, nestled in the foothills of the southern Californian canyons of San Juan Capistrano, for the hustle-bustle, crowded, high-rise lifestyle that we have here?
But that one visit was enough to convince them that yes, a move presented a myriad of exciting opportunities; interesting work challenges for Karen, a good standard of education for 12 year old daughter Lily, for Matt, a chance to take a break from his property valuation business to immerse himself in a new culture, and for the family, a perfect springboard for exploring other parts of Asia.
And so the decision was made and after a short time of looking around at the various options, they soon settled on their preferred choice of home: a four bedroom, 3 bathroom, unfurnished unit in One Grantai. The 6 tower complex, carved into the Grande Taipa hillside ticked all their boxes: “We like it because its removed, private, yet still close to the Cotai strip and Old Taipa village”, explains Karen. The building is relatively new, with stunning views of the Cotai strip, its within walking distance of Karen’s work and Lily’s school, and importantly, “Coming from the wide open spaces of southern California, having the Nature Park’s greenery and walking trails on our door step was a major factor for us”, explains Karen, “it’s a little escape, to get away from the buildings and the traffic. We go out jogging most days with our dog, Abby”, a mini Australian shepherd.
“We’ve chosen not to have a car”, adds Karen, “it’s quite liberating. And the free shuttle bus provided by the building management is amazing. It drops you at Macau Square in central Macau which is brilliantly located for walks pretty much everywhere. And in Taipa it drops us right down town close to all the shops and restaurants.”
“I appreciate the building’s nice amenities”, says Matt, “I use the weight room three times a week. The infinity pool with its view straight down the Cotai strip is awesome! There’s ping pong, pool, tennis and badminton, and a little cinema theater which Lily has used with friends. The place feels more like a compound, safe, well managed; the security team is brilliant”.
The O’Malley’s apartment is bright and airy, with a balcony off the living room that takes in an 180 degree view of Cotai on the left, Galaxy straight ahead, the bird sanctuary and Old Taipa Village mid-view and the high-rises of central Taipa in the distance to the right.
When furnishing the apartment Karen decided on a different style to the one she has at home in the US. “At home its very Spanish hacienda style, lots of stone and rough hewn wood, but here I wanted to try a more contemporary look, clean and colourful using pinks and blues.”
Karen opted to rent furniture, rather than ship from the US or buy new. It’s something that they discovered is not at all common in Macau but they were introduced to Indigo in Hong Kong who offer several lines of rental furnishing varying in style, quality and price. Lily’s room, with its loft bed combo with desk is charmingly styled; perfect for a soon to be teenager.
For the curtains, Karen chose the fabric and had them made up by local shop, Fiona. A lovely rug was found in Zara Home, one of Karen’s favourite shopping haunts, “they have good sales”, and City Square in Taipa, “they deliver and install”. Several Chinese scroll paintings from the Art Museum hang in the master bedroom, and Matt, who enjoys his art, splashed out and bought an original from local Australian artist Denis Murrell which hangs in pride of place above the sofa.
Another good source of purchasing home items is the website ‘Bye Bye Zaia’ face book page. “We bought a double bed for MOP250 which has been ideal as a spare bed.” And they often stop by the little shop, the Greenhouse, near the Kingsville roundabout and buy plants.
And after almost a year of living in Macau, what are the O’Malley’s impressions of the place so far? They have appreciated the warm friendly expat community. “We’ve got active in the Macau social scene”, says Karen, “there’s a lively expat social life and the International Ladies’ Club of Macau has been brilliant for networking with like minded people and for making connections and finding friends especially for Matt who enjoys socializing. There’s something being organized to do most days!”
“For me, I’m enjoying the peaceful tranquility of the hiking trails. We often go up to the Ah Ma temple in Coloane, its ideal for dog walking too, Abby has a great time. I also love exploring the streets and old heritage buildings in central Macau. I’m very interested in animal welfare: we’re big fans of ANIMA, and with work we’ve got involved in several local children’s charities.”
“The food here of course is something we’ve come to like very much”, says Matt. “Yes, I never was a fan of dim sum until coming here”, Karen laughs, “we’re enjoying sampling the fusion of cuisines, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Portuguese, particularly in the smaller family run restaurants.”
The O’Malley’s have clearly jumped in with both feet to living life to the full being here. In less than a year Matt’s been to Japan and scuba diving in Phuket, they’ve ridden elephants in Chiang Mai, Lily’s been to Guilin with school, Karen is off to Cambodia with her brother and the three of them will be in Bali for the Spring break.
The family enjoys the shows; they’ve seen the Magic show, the House of Dancing Water, the Nutcracker ballet performance and River dance. Lily takes piano lessons. They go bowling at the sports centre. Lily has participated in a ballet recital at the Cultural Centre. She’s also learning Mandarin at school which she intends to keep up when they eventually return to California. “And I’m picking up a bit of Cantonese”, Karen enthuses, “which I practice on my team at work”.
And shopping, how’s that been compared with the US? “There’s nothing we haven’t been able to get, even our prescription dog food is available at our local vets, although I’ve had to switch my wine tastes somewhat”, smiles Karen, “as I’ve always preferred a very buttery Californian chardonnay.”
“Its different from the States”, explains Matt, “in that there we will go to one store, buy 7 bags of groceries, pile them in the car, and take them home to super large refrigerators. Here we take our little wheelie. Our fridge is half the size so we tend to buy every day or so in smaller quantities.” “And instead of going to one store in order to fully complete our grocery list”, adds Karen, “in Macau we go to one place for the fruit, another place for the bread and so on. At home we drive everywhere. Here we use the public transport which is nonexistent in southern California!”
Photo credit: Eduardo Martins for the family photo, all others by Suzanne Watkinson