Sunday, April 22, 2007

What a long strange trip it's been on the Central Mid-Levels Escalator

Hong Kong is pretty busy and we do our best to get into the mix with everyone else. We have done our errands and seen the sights via shuttles, buses, double decker buses, ferry boats, sampans, taxis and of course our own minivan (now known alternatively as both "greased lighting" and "silver-y"). This past weekend we ventured out into Central, once again lured downtown by Tori’s ballet rehearsals, and traveled for the first time via the Central Mid-Levels Escalator.

Hong Kong Island is steep. In addition to hills, it is also humid. What looks like an easy walk can turn brutal quickly, with or without the twins hanging on you. Completely in keeping with its technological leanings, Hong Kong ingenuously eased some of the major hills for its people with a large scale escalator system. In 1993, Hong Kong opened the longest outdoor covered escalator in the world. Starting at Queen’s Road in Central, the system takes one over a half mile up 135 meters of hill to Conduit Road in the Mid-Levels. It is primarily a commuter escalator, running down the hill until 10 am and then switching direction and taking folks up again for the rest of the day. Approximately, 45,000 people use the escalator a day.

After exploring a little in Central and not getting much kid interest in another look at temples or antiques, we headed for the escalator, which we thought would be a sure fire crowd pleaser. It was, despite a modest start with a series of three moving sidewalks (like the type you see in airports). We then emerged from the upwards sidewalks into SoHo, a trendy neighborhood of cafes, bars and shops, south of Hollywood Avenue, a major by-way. From there, a series of short but real escalators took us up and the fun began. I enjoyed looking into the little restaurants, built up to the escalator level and pondering where we might stop in. Of course, we found a Krispy Kreme, brand-new, clean and at the escalator level and this is where we re-fueled.

Basically, the little sections of escalator just kept going and going. At one point, we came to a mosque. We got out and looked around, discovering a mosque which was built in 1915 and maintained in a picturesque green and white minaret style. We were all welcomed in and shown around. Tori was put in full covering garb and of course pictures were taken all around. On other escalator sections, we saw art galleries and musuems. And a grocery store. Our large chain grocery store on the south side has a little shop just off the escalator. All in all, an interesting and literal cross-section of Hong Kong society.

Being us, we did manage a minor injury on the escalator. Somehow Adam stuck his shoe, not once but twice, into the escalator. And being a Hong Kong escalator, akin to the dreaded Hong Kong elevator that does not bounce back when closing on human body parts, it chewed up his shoe and spit it back out. Adam was not hurt, only scared and a little indignant. Perhaps not unlike a little pint sized commuter on his way to and from the office.


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