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Hong Kong by escalator

Mid-Levels Escalator (detail)

Stretching 800 metres uphill from the financial district, the Central – Mid-levels Escalator snakes through one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most fascinating neighbourhoods. Conceived by engineers in the late 80s as a creative solution to solve the area’s traffic woes, it is billed as the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world.

Countless journeys along this unusual corridor inspired my second contribution to They Draw & Travel – one that highlights a few of the treasures that can be found just steps away from the escalator. Had I more room I would have included the well-worn steps of Pottinger Street, designed to allow policemen to travel on horseback, and the curious case of Rednaxela Terrace, whose name stuck after its sign was mistakenly painted right to left, in the old Chinese manner.

Two decades after the escalator’s construction, its success in achieving the intended goal is still debatable. The streets of the Mid-levels remain as gridlocked as ever, but its new landmark has played a major role in rejuvenating major portions of the area. The 1990s saw the swift emergence of SoHo, South of Hollywood Road, an artery named by the British long before the creation of its famous American namesake.

Since then, rising rents have caused the profusion of art galleries, hip bars and restaurants to trickle down the hillside, jostling for space with wet markets and traditional Chinese stores. Between the high rises a few remaining colonial structures look on over weekend revellers and the day-to-day activities of long-term residents. Treading a precarious balance between old and new, it’s an eclectic blend that is reflective of Hong Kong as a whole.

Mid-Levels Escalator

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Love the map!

    January 28, 2013
    • Thanks Animus – glad you enjoyed it!

      January 28, 2013
  2. Hey James!!
    Is it that super long escalator that just goes up and up and up?
    We went up that one and it was just amazing as you could see the streets outside as we went up the hill, it was great! And the area around was so interesting and cool! 🙂

    January 28, 2013
    • It is, Sophie! That escalator passes right through one of my favourite parts of HK. Surprisingly I haven’t given it much coverage so far… but that should be rectified in the next few months. 🙂

      January 28, 2013
  3. I remember most of the places in the map, but I need to come back to HK to explore further up of the escalator as I missed the tree. This map reminds me of my excitement to wander HK’s pedestrian-friendly walkways – something Jakarta really needs. As a matter of fact the hilly terrain of Istanbul reminds me a little bit of HK. I think they should have one (or more) for Istanbul. Another great map James!

    January 28, 2013
    • Next time you’re in town I’ll have to take you all around that area – there’s a new set of escalators further to the west that crosses an up-and-coming neighbourhood. I can’t believe how quickly things have changed in a few short years. Can’t wait to see your photos and stories from Istanbul when you get back!

      January 28, 2013
  4. Great job James! You have added so much detail and those lamps are evocative somehow! Wandering that area is one of my most delightful memories of Hong Kong. Have had some great meals there as well 🙂

    January 28, 2013
    • Thanks Madhu! I adore those lamps; they’re delightfully simple but so representative of Hong Kong. Given their strong presence in all the wet markets these ‘egg lights’ have evolved into something of a cultural icon. Someday I hope to have them hanging over my dining table. 🙂

      January 28, 2013
  5. The escalator is a great idea. I love all the covered walk ways in Hong Kong. I don’t know why more cities don’t have these.

    January 28, 2013
    • They’re even better in the summer – it makes a real difference to get around without dealing with traffic fumes, sweating from the humidity or getting wet from torrential rain. Hong Kong really does have efficiency down to a tee.

      January 28, 2013
      • I agree, the above ground walkways are so sensible. Hong Kong is remarkably efficient for a huge city. I really like the city check in for the airport and the train to the airport is the best I have used anywhere.

        January 30, 2013
  6. Those drawings are great! I remember riding escalators to get around when I visited Hong Kong last year. I’m trying to figure out if they were THE escalators that you’re talking about here. They probably were. We were using them during Chinese New Year, when everyone had flocked downtown to watch the parade one night, and the fireworks the following night, and the escalators were packed! But we still packed in and went on them, because the thought of walking up the steps alongside them was just too daunting!

    January 28, 2013
    • They probably were, Rachel! I’m glad you got to see them in holiday mode – Hong Kong is fantastic during Chinese New Year. 🙂

      February 4, 2013
  7. love.it. Seriously. Love this illustration and layout!
    I also didn’t know they had map ones! (I’ve seen the They Draw and Cook site before.)
    How did you learn how to draw digitally? It’s mind boggling to me.

    January 30, 2013
    • Thanks Erica! TDAT was an offshoot of They Draw and Cook, and they’re planning to publish a book as well. The secret is that I drew everything by hand before scanning and filling in the colours with photoshop. So not nearly as hard as it looks. 😉

      February 4, 2013
      • Ah, that would make life easier for the digitally impaired likes of me. Though I think that coloring in things on PS would take me at least a month to learn. heh. Regardless, I absolutely love it! Do you showcase your illustrations anywhere else?

        February 6, 2013
  8. BEAUTIFUL.

    January 31, 2013
    • Thank you, Dakota. 🙂

      February 4, 2013
  9. mumun indohoy #

    You can draw too????

    December 29, 2016
    • Yep, back when I had a lot more spare time!

      January 1, 2017

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