Trimming Down and Packing Up

By Jane Mountain | January 6, 2014

8,008 km so far.

Since it’s our last day in Hong Kong, today was a big day for crossing the last few to dos off our list. We spent our energy fighting through crowds in Hong Kong’s Central district to visit the post office, two coffee shops, and several bookstores.

Heavy Decisions

We were looking for a travel book on Southeast Asia. After our experience in Europe with the digital copies, and then using actual books in China, we’d decided that physical books are much easier to use. I was all set to buy a Lonely Planet, until Stephen saw the size of it and felt how heavy it was.

He convinced me that since we are downsizing, we should try the digital version again. I’m not sure this is the right thing to do. When we can’t decide definitively on something, we usually take the “see how it goes” approach: we choose the lighter, cheaper, easier option, with the caveat that if it doesn’t work, we will change our minds down the road.

coffee sign hong kong

Outside Cupping Room, Sheung Wan.

The good thing about touristy Southeast Asia is that we’ll be able to buy a guidebook to the region pretty much anywhere we go.

We did buy a paper map of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos though. The scale is only 1:1.4 million, but in these countries, where there are relatively few roads, it should be useful for planning our general routes. We’ll also keep using the amazing, digital, offline mapping app Pocket Earth, of course, especially in cities, where a paper map is useless.

After deciding to postpone haircuts until we get to the mainland, where we can get the same service for about a tenth of the price, we had a little time left over.

New Heights

Hong Kong Island is a hilly place, as islands tend to be. The city is built on reclaimed land near the coastline, and then rises up the steep hillside towards Victoria Peak. The park surrounding the peak is still wild mostly because it’s too steep to build on.

The result of this geography is the presence of thousands of staircases throughout the city. All this stair- and hill-walking can really do a number on your quads and calves, so some bright soul decided in 1993 to build a series of escalators all the way up the hillside through Central.

This is the mid-levels escalator, which transports more than 50,000 people per day (I know, crazy, right?) up from the flats to the heights. We’d been using parts of the escalator daily during our visit, but had never risen to the top.

Mid-levels escalator goes all the way down, Central.

Mid-levels escalator goes all the way down, Central.

It’s a pretty cool journey, since the escalators just go on and on and on, for 800 m to be exact. Every time you think you’re at the top, there’s one more section in front of you.

We finally summited, and took a quiet walk through the mid-levels back to Teresa’s flat. Up this high, the bustle and noise of the city gives way to peaceful parks and quiet lanes. It was a welcome relief from the lunchtime crowds we’d left below.

Fern-covered tree in the mid-levels, Hong Kong.

Fern-covered tree in the mid-levels, Hong Kong.

We ended the afternoon by reorganising our panniers and deciding what to leave behind. We ditched four shirts, one lacrosse ball, a packet of potpourri, some green tea, a couple packets of powdered sesame dessert, and our collection of spices. The last was the hardest to let go of, since we have relied on it to make our simple meals tasty for the last 9 months. However, we’ll be so unlikely to cook over the coming six months, that it just takes up valuable space that can be given to something more important.

We hope Teresa will put it to good use, and that she’ll think of us when she sits down to a home-cooked meal.

Mainland Nerves

Tomorrow, we hop on a train and head back to the mainland. I have to confess, I’m kind of anxious about it. The last leg in China was so exhausting, and we’ve been living such a lazy, cushy existence for the past six weeks, it’s going to be hard to transition back into being bicycle adventurers. In Hong Kong, we’ve been able to speak English to everyone, ask all the questions we need to ask, and read all the signs we need to read. We will sorely miss the ability to communicate so effortlessly and get anything we want at any time.

Also, the weather is supposed to be cold and rainy for the next few days, so that will add a little misery to the adjustment.

Still, it is past time for us to get back on the bikes and we can’t wait to start exploring this corner of the world.  

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