THE AIR TRAVELER was boasting. “I flew from Newark to Singapore in Y class and LIVED,” he said. “Nineteen hours in one seat.”
Everyone gasped. They say every time someone survives the infamous US-Singapore route 21 in economy class, a thrombosis blood clot is executed by its fellows for letting the species down.
“So what?” I sneered. “Last week I was in the air for 136 hours non-stop.”
It was true. Many major cities in Asia are being criss-crossed by walkway systems—raised pedestrian bridges that run for kilometers in bewildering lines, like an arrack-drinker’s conversation.
At the time of writing this, I have skipped merrily from the place at which I am staying to the office at which I’m working without touching Mother Earth for several days.
(Red circles show walkways: my office is the orange striped building)
It’s all thanks to walkways. Many cities have these, but Hong Kong has the most. Linked to the walkway system I was on were transport hubs, shopping malls and a store selling large jars of Nutella. What more could anyone want?
The downside of losing touch with the ground is that property developers frequently exploit our confusion.
On Hong Kong building sites, numbers 13 and 14 are not used, so floor numbers jump straight from 12 to 15. I’m told this fools the Bad Luck Gods, who cannot count. So how did they get to be gods? Is there no entry exam?
At least once a day I encounter people who have think they are on the ground floor but who are not. They press “up” to go to floor one when they are actually on floor two or three already.
Once I had to go to an address described as being on “Level Two” of Festival Walk, a Kowloon Tong shopping mall which has 82 escalators (not a joke). (The pic of it below is not Photoshopped.)
I arrived at the basement car park and went up three levels. Was this Level Two? No. Car park levels didn’t count.
So I went up two more. Level Two? No, I’d passed Lower Ground Level One and Lower Ground Level Two.
I went up again, to find a floor described by staff as “the upper level of the Lower Ground Level Mezzanine”. (I am not making this up.)
To cut a long story short, Level Two was 11 floors up from where I’d started. Had I fallen out of a window, I would have gone into geo-synchronous orbit, a small brown satellite.
(Diagram of walkways in Central Hong Kong by The Atlantic magazine)
One creative developer recently deliberately mis-numbered the levels of his building to create “extra” lucky floors. He advertised apartments for sale on the 66th and 88th floors of a 46-storey block. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. It would take a lot to persuade me to hand over my life savings on the 88th floor of a 46-storey block. (Other people eventually did.)
I was telling someone from Europe about how Hong Kong has multiple fake ground levels, and he got excited, seeing it as a solution to “turf wars” around the world.
“Hong Kong developers could pave over Israel and Palestine and re-label everything so that the whole place has multiple ground layers,” he said. This could actually work.
(What Israel/ Palestine could look like after Hong Kong redevelopment, everyone living happily together)
While writing this piece, a friend asked me to meet him at the Hopewell Centre, which is on the side of a hill. The ground floor at the south entrance is 17 floors above ground floor at its north entrance AND there’s a walkway part way up.
I got lost.
On the phone he told me: “Use Google Maps on your phone.”
I replied: “We’re in Hong Kong. I don’t need Google Maps, I need an altimeter.”
I’ve decided that I live in a sci-fi movie.
Every night I do my obligatory bit of exercise, running 10k along the Kowloon harbour-front, and this is the view on the side of my track:
These pictures are to tempt you to come and say hello. So, Grandpa, Liftie, Rafan, TS, Lucy, etc, when are you going to come visit?