A two-bedroom bachelor pad in down town Macau is home to Dutchman and logistics specialist Oswin Pepels
Adjacent to the pink Macau Government Headquarters, formerly the Governor’s Palace, on Nam Wan’s Praia Grande (colloquially referred to as ‘O Duk Fu’) is a small unassuming low rise residential building, accessed from an alley at the back. A few retail shops make up the ground floor, tired and shuttered, likely casualties of the pandemic. Then four storeys of apartments are above, with caged windows and an indiscriminately installed labyrinth of air conditioning drip pipes, their white tentacles standing starkly against the green of the building.
Through the building’s metal gate entrance and up one flight of narrow stairs, I am greeted warmly by the first floor occupant, a tall, jovial Dutchman ushering me in to his home and thrusting a large cup of coffee in my hands. “I love this place, I’m right in the middle of everything, and take a look at the great view!” he exclaims. And sure enough, walking a few steps through the living-dining area to an open, spacious kitchen, there’s a built in bar with high stools set against large sliding windows, and below, an impressive view of the Palace and Nam Wan lake.
The apartment is a long thin space oddly configured with a back-to-front feeling. The bright yellow kitchen with its dated turquoise cabinets is located at the front taking up the best light and views. Originally 3 bedrooms, it’s now two decent-sized double bedrooms with one ensuite bathroom and a second guest bathroom. The master bathroom is quirky; one has to walk through the shower to get to the toilet. There’s a small balcony – useful for laundry – at the back that looks on to the alley. Floors are tiled, furnishing is basic and there are a few personal treasures. Whilst it’s a cozy and ideal bachelor pad for Oswin the place would benefit from a professional re-design, a re-orientation and some money spent on it. As the current owner, by coincidence also Dutch, is in the process of selling to a local family, one hopes that this will be achieved.
“I like living in a house next to the No. 1 Palace,” Oswin smiles. Being on the first floor he will open the window, sit at the bar with his morning coffee, wave and greet passersby. “So I feel part of the scenery, part of the street activity. I step out and have the feeling of being in Europe. I walk everywhere, everything is within walking distance, it’s fantastic.” Like most self respecting Dutchmen Oswin loves good bread – “there are bakeries at every street corner, in the last 20 years I’ve found the best bread here in Macau. And across the street is the No. 1 department store New Yaohan where I get my Edam cheese!”
Oswin Pepels is Country Manager, Macau for TKHS Group, one of Asia’s logistics service providers, best known for providing quality warehouse facilities and management for the luxury hospitality and gaming industry. With its state of the art warehouse located right off the Cotai strip, since 2016 TKHS has proved essential in supporting the growth of Macau’s integrated resorts.
Prior to Macau he spent fifteen years in Kuala Lumpur. “I’ve been in logistics all my life, I’m one of the few people in the world that studied logistics and continues to work in logistics. I studied in Venlo, near Rotterdam, the second biggest logistics town in the Netherlands and the number one for throughput to Germany.” How did he get into this business? “I like boats. I saw these big containers in Rotterdam harbor, I fell in love with the activity, especially at night. As a teenager I was fascinated by that.”
“My first experience of Asia was December 1998. I was in my late 20’s, working for a logistics company in the Netherlands. After my first week with them my boss asked me to accompany him to Singapore where he was making a presentation pitch to a company on WMS, Warehouse Management System. I went to carry the bags! It was a special week for me. Imagine; my first Christmas in the sun, walking in T-shirts down Orchard Road all lined with Christmas decorations. The hotel, the beautiful service, the wonderful Asian food, that week was such a unique experience that left a marked impression on me and changed my life. I fell in love with Asia.”
By 2002 Oswin had arrived to take up a job in Malaysia. “It took me at least a year to start appreciating and liking the place, to feel comfortable. Friends and family from the Netherlands visited for holidays. This helped me settle.”
Oswin soon learned that in Asia his career could progress much quicker than back in Europe; “At 29 I saw the opportunity for a normal guy like me to become a boss much quicker. Especially if you have the right combination of being a good sales guy and having good operations experience.”
As with many businesses in Macau and for many expatriates here, the past 18 months has not been an easy ride for Oswin. “I arrived and for the first six months I worked like hell” on reorganizing the company, justifying costs, taking care of clients and then the virus hit around Chinese New Year and travel was essentially stopped. For a newcomer this was tough. He felt a sense of isolation, of loneliness; “I can’t visit my friends around the region and they can’t visit me.” Work is “all consuming, its everything, 6 days a week, 10-12 hours a day.”
“I miss KL, I miss good conversation. I like to go for a beer. In other countries I can go to the same bar and meet different people. Here in Macau however, and with the current travel restrictions, 60% of the people you meet are the same. With Covid even at the Macallans Bar in Galaxy there’s not much happening there these days.”
Oswin however has made friends within the small Dutch community and as time goes by Macau is gradually getting under his skin. ““Food, compared with Malaysia, is nothing special, but I like Macau’s mix of European-Chinese style. Its a unique special place with such a strong European flavor but within a short trip of Hong Kong” and other places in Asia.
“Public transport is easy, you don’t have to drive an hour to get somewhere. People complain about Macau being small but perhaps we don’t explore enough. I came across a group of Macau-born locals by the Hac Sa rocks in Coloane recently and one of them, in his 30’s, said that he’d never been there before!”
Macau may be small but you can still discover new corners, a new hill to walk, a new building, an untried restaurant. “Macau has some secrets you have to find. I may fall in love with Macau still. Macau can be my base, but I need to travel!”
Article by Suzanne Watkinson, Managing Director of Ambiente Properties, for the Macau Closer magazine.
Photographs by Suzanne Watkinson