Friday, February 6, 2009

Efficiency is a Privilege

A vacation in Hong Kong indeed. Where I could experience convenience and efficiency. I realize that patience is a huge Chinese virtue, and infinitely more required on the mainland than in Hong Kong (which is Chinese now, remember). But the mix of Chinese and European cosmopolitanism I kept gorging on, just taking the rides, walking the streets. Something about the feeling that a governing body thought through what might be the most convenient way for the traveler to move.

Pictured above is the Airport Express, which is at the bottom level of the IFC (International Finance Center) in Central Hong Kong. The IFC is two office towers and also a huge luxury mall. The Airport Express gets you to the airport in 30 minutes and leaves every 12 minutes. You can check in your bags before you board this train, so you need not carry anything. It is so organized that you need only arrive to your gate 30 minutes in advance. If you happen to take a taxi to the Airport Express, the taxi door automatically opens and closes (as controlled by the driver) so if your hands are full you don't need to worry about the door whatsoever. As soon as you get out of the taxi, someone pushes a baggage cart your way, so you don't have to carry it all the way 100 meters to the check-in counter. When the cart first came my way, I was shocked. I might have been in China for too long.

And maybe even used to the U.S. ways. At LAX, there is not only no one there to push a baggage cart your way, it also must be extracted from a machine to the tune of $3.00.

As I might have mentioned, Hong Kong is very steep, very vertical. It is also very high density living, so goes the urban design to keep pedestrian traffic moving consistently. The densest part of the city has what is known as the Mid-Level Escalators.
Downhill, you take the steps as the escalators are ascending for the majority of time.
There are these cool corridors that link the escalators. At the end of this corridor is a yellow machine where, if you put your Octopus (transit) card atop, you automatically get a $2.00 discount on your next subway or bus ride. For no reason, except to boost mass transit incentive and also everyone loves a discount (one way the city can make the citizen happy).
Taking these steps downward has a 'doing hurdles' like rhythm to it. You step down, take three steps, step down, take three steps... hurdles or dancing.
Because there is so much foot traffic going towards the IFC and other office centers in the morning, from 7 --10am, the escalators go downward.
If you get tired of seeing the mod corridors, you have plenty of chance to see the streetlife below.
Now going up, you can just stand to the right and hang out, or you can walk up the stairs for extra exercise and/or speed. Universal escalator protocol.
From the IFC (where I'd go work out) to where I was staying, I counted 15 escalators.
The first 3 escalators are stairless, and then the steps start appearing, though at first more shallow than the usual steps, and then it becomes full on stairs.
As you go higher, there are streets to cross between the escalators.
This is the longest escalator, the one off of Mosque Street. At the top just before the Robinson Road escalator is the entrance to a grocery store. The Park n' Shop between two escalators, how convenient.
Here's proof that Hong Kong is Chinese, no longer British, although China has a long way to go before it has the efficiency of Hong Kong. It was nice to be able to walk with a smile and not be greeted with a sour face--in fact there was much smiling in return. I guess I'm kind of California that way, and I join my warm-weather friends in friendly walking disposition.
Even the road signs are generous in tone.

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