Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Mid-Levels Escalator

As I said in a previous post, my favorite thing in Hong Kong might have been this chain of covered outdoor escalators and walkways that stretches between Central and the Mid-Levels, providing easy transport on foot up and down the side of the mountain. The escalators run down in the morning until about 10:30 and then switch direction and go up until shutting down at midnight, with lots of on and off points along the way. The escalator hooks up with the Central walkways, allowing me to make a leisurely 30-minute walk from the street where my hotel was down to the ferry piers at the waterfront, while hardly setting my foot on ground-level sidewalks or having to dodge traffic or wait to cross a street. I went down it almost every morning and back up almost every night.

All kinds of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and such have grown up alongside the escalator, of course. The way the city just continues blithely up the side of the mountain, as crowded and crazy as ever, has endlessly fascinating results in terms of the public space. There are all these weird little steps and stoops and odd spaces squeezed in on the slope - moving through the area is a bit like being inside an M.C. Escher print. It's hard to capture in photos, so just take my word for it.

Looking down a street crossed by the escalator. A good example of how even ordinary buildings in Hong Kong are often a lot more colorful than American ones.

Someone's apartment so close to the escalator you could almost reach over and steal their laundry or the incense from the shrine above it. Everyone hangs their laundry out the window - racks for that purpose are standard equipment on apartment buildings.

Below, the Jamia Mosque just on the other side of a wall by the escalator, founded in 1850 (the present building was only built in 1915).

A three-level alleyway behind some apartment buildings:

One of the many Englishy or Aussie establishments in the area. Don't ask me what the whale means.

A lot of cleaning goes on in Hong Kong - there are always people in uniforms with brushes and mops and hoses and such working around  you. And yet it's still a pretty dirty place.


  1. Hi Michael --

    At last, some updates! :b

    "Everyone hangs their laundry out the window..."

    Er, I may be in a minority but I don't! ;b

    Also, I'm betting that most people on really high floors won't -- not least because of the big gusts of wind that can do such as suck stuff out of rooms if the windows are left open!

    "A lot of cleaning goes on in Hong Kong... And yet it's still a pretty dirty place."

    Hmmm... it's all relative, I guess. I can think of far dirtier places than Hong Kong... including Hong Kong back in earlier days and decades. Actually, I am inclined to think that what you may take for dirt is more likely simple wear and tear. Re the pavements (sidewalks to you Americans): they may not look sparkling but think of the thousands, if not millions, of feet that pound on them daily...

    1. When I say "everyone" I don't mean "everyone"! Duh, everyone knows that.

      "big gusts of wind that can do such as suck stuff out of rooms if the windows are left open!"
      [gaping] That. Is. So. Cool. Has anyone ever used that in a movie?

      Oh, there are certainly dirtier places. It's the contrasts that are so striking. The subway stations and trains are immaculate (which is stunning to a New Yorker - ours are grotesque). Then I'll emerge from one beside some Kowloon alleyway that makes me afraid of slipping and falling in... whatever that is on the pavement. I took it as one of the charms of the place. On the other hand again, the sidewalks are in very good shape, I thought, especially compared to NYC's... but they're probably a lot newer in many cases (like the transit system).

  2. Hi again Michael --

    Aiyah, that "everyone" usage... it brings out the anti-generalizing anthropologist in me -- i.e., the one who was taught that "there are invariably exceptions to every rule"!

    Am not sure about their use in movies... but surely people living on the higher floors of New York high rises also have had the "big gusts of wind" experience? ;D

    Re dirty places... aaah, Kowloon alleyway... I see what you mean now. It's just that I was thinking previously in terms of Central (since your street cleaning photo is from there)... ;S