"Everyone walks in Hong Kong" this statement from friends when we came here was greeted by me with skepticism. I am a walker but not a regular one and the idea of reaching destinations on foot was not only improbable but torture.
Now one year on, and I think I need a new pair of Nikes. My stilettos and wedge heels are confined to the back of shoe cupboard as I bought flat heels to compliment my Nikes to travel by bus, tram, cab, MTR and ferry. The arterial and subterranean walk ways connect subways, malls, offices and commercial areas that one does not need to step onto the tarmac. Catch the ferry, the bus or MTR and one is in destination in minimum 20 minutes. The first time I was meeting a friend staying at the end of the MTR line I estimated a 40 minute commuting time. She did not say anything but when we met in less than 20 minutes she said she was surprised at my calculation. I was still in India mode where you say 30 minutes and reach destination in one hour and thirty minutes.
My favorite walkway is the Mid-level escalator starting from Queen's Road, Central to Mid levels, considered the ‘dress-circle' area of Hong Kong. At one time the rich, famous and expats had their houses here with lower rung of social hierarchy residing along the Bay. Today the visible social barrier is extinct with Mid-levels becoming a bourgeoning commercial and residential area.
The Escalator started in October 1993 is a mind boggling 800 meter long and breaking down to connecting 20 escalators and three moving walkways or travelators to Conduit Road in Mid Levels. From here one can go to the starting point of the Peak tram or to different levels to their homes, offices, or stores or restaurants. It was featured in Batman's film The Dark Knight (2007) and more recently in Fashion TV's cool summer destinations with models riding the Escalator.
Hong Kong residents talk about the time when the Mid Level escalator was not there and it was a problem especially for women with children or carrying shopping bags. Technically the escalator starts from central from where the motorized walkway begins but one gets the feel from Central Pier itself. There are 29 points to enter from and exit the Escalator amongst them being the IFC Mall, Des Voeux Road, Central Market and Hollywood Road. If on a visit, one can get off at Hollywood road, the famous antique street of Central that stretches from the colonial Central Police Station all the way to Man Mo temple and Cat Street or Upper Lascar Row.
Spend a few hours admiring the antiques or purchasing, then return and resume your journey to SoHo or the food street, Staunton Street. This is the happening end of the Island with a heady mix of world cuisine from Italian, French, Thai, Mexican, Indian, Australian, Japanese, Pizzas (universal flavor), Gelato or frozen yoghurt scoops, natural fruit juice bars, presented in colorful settings. The eateries are every where from streets or along the escalator. Lan Kwai Fong is close and this place literally blossoms 7 p.m. onwards.
The next stop is the Masjid Stop or Jamia Masjid and the quieter area. The Jamia Masjid was built in 1915 and is still located on its original site. From this level or from Shelley Street leading to Conduit and Robinson roads the contrast is visible. The area becomes quieter as it is the beginning of the residential area. At certain points one can peep through the windows or savor the smell of different cuisine.
The end is the Conduit Road stop and from here one can walk to Peak tram stop or walk all the way down to starting point. Depending on energy level and inclination take the stairs to Staunton street or Lang Kwai Fong and watch the lights go on. It will be a day well spent.
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Published on 6/22/09