Saturday, 16 November 2013

Hong Kong: Escalators

Before I relay all the details of my adventures in Hong Kong - the sights, the places, and the food - I need to tell you about my quest to reach my hotel. Because when you suffer from topographical disorientation, every mundane journey becomes a riveting experience.

Arriving in Hong Kong: So Far So Good...

As mentioned in a previous post, I am slightly apprehensive at the prospect of trusting a random stranger with my life, and therefore prefer to walk or take the metro whenever I arrive in a new city. 
Before reaching Hong Kong, I had carefully planned out my route: I would take the metro from Mong Kok to Yau Ma Tei station and onward to Central station, where after I would walk the 3 km to my hotel on Hong Kong Island.

Hong Kong Metro Map

But upon arriving in Hong Kong, I made 3 fatal errors, in alarmingly quick succession:

1. Deviating from The Plan

After a late afternoon meeting in Mong Kok, I allowed myself to be talked into taking a taxi to Hong Kong Island. In peak hour traffic. 
It was mentioned, as an after-thought, that the taxis might not be going from Kowloon (where I was) to Hong Kong Island (where I needed to be, preferably before dark), but that I would quite likely find my way since I was resourceful, wasn't I? (Wait... what?!)

Peak-Hour Panic

After waiting in line with approximately 134 people for an equally unbelievable duration, I was told, in no uncertain terms, that no taxi in Kowloon would be going to Hong Kong Island at that hour. I was, however, welcome to wait until midnight, when all taxis would be making their way back to Hong Kong Island for the last journey of the day.

Hong Kong Taxis

And so, viciously angry at myself for deviating from The Plan, I headed to the Mong Kok station. By then my heavy suitcase and I were in the midst of full-on Hong Kong Friday afternoon peak-hour traffic. It felt like all 7 million locals were out on the sweltering streets of Mong Kong, with the single aim of trying to run me over. 
They mostly succeeded too.

Mong Kok Madness

2. Underestimating the Distance

By the time I had made it to Central station, night had fallen. I was tired from walking, shoving and dragging my suitcase. And I still had 3 km to go. Even so, thought I would easily walk (or perhaps even skip) the last 3 km. I had, after all, run distances of 3 km x 7 numerous times before. No sweat.

Jogging 3 km in the cool of the day with shorts and state-of-the-art Asics, is something completely different to walking 3km, in 30 degree C heat, in a skirt and high heels, while dragging a by-then enormous, humongous suitcase. 
It. Was. Torture.
It did not help that my suitcase and I had to cross numerous streets bursting with foreigners in the Lan Kwai Fon area, all smartly dressed for after-work drinks and a night out on the town.

No-So-Happy Hour

3. Outsmarting Googlemaps

Through all the shoving and dragging, I had noticed that Googlemaps was directing me along a certain, longer path up the hill but I kept to (very steep) side streets in the hope of reaching my hotel sooner. 
No such luck. 
Eventually, halfway up a dangerously steep path, I stopped and threw my hands up in despair. 
And that was when I saw it: The world's longest, covered outdoor escalator system, beckoning from right above my head.

Before: Struggling Up Steep Streets

After: Escalating with Ease

If a first-time visitor were to ask me what to do in Hong Kong, I would say: "Look up!"
This seemingly inconspicuous act would make your introduction to Hong Kong much more pleasant than, although definitely not as memorable as, mine. 

Above Board: Hong Kong Walkways Throughout the City


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