Tag Archives: pram

New MTR exit and underpass in Wan Chai now open

Updated 2019: Hear hear, an opinion in SCMP that reflects my sentiments….

If you live in the Avenue on Lee Tung Street, you’ve now got a nice underground walkway to get you to the Wan Chai MTR station without navigating street traffic across Johnston Road. This underpass took around two and a half years to build so I’m relieved it’s finally done.

To get to it, take either escalator or lift down to the basement where the supermarket is and walk along the corridor until you get to the end where you’ll see an escalator taking you down to the tunnel.

Okay, so it’s escalators in the middle, stairs to the right. What about barrier free access?

Initially I thought this was a ramp. (Yay!). But no… it’s a lift for wheelchairs 🤔🧐.

The big pain is that you can’t just use it like in other buildings, you have to call the staff to switch it on. (Call in advance! 3791 2103) That is just so lame. Why couldn’t they just put in a ramp or just leave it on for the convenience of anyone in need of it. Why create another step and waiting time?? MTR Corp you are slowing down my journey!!! Hell, I’ll just use the escalator for my stroller. I feel sorry for the wheelchair users.

When you do get down into the tunnel, it’s nice and wide (at least 3 meters wide), slopes uphill going to mtr station and downhill if you’re walking to Lee Tung Avenue. From the design of it, Sino Land and Hopewell seem to expect a crowd heading in their direction. I suppose this is in anticipation of their next development and continued connection to Hopewell Center II. There are spaces created for a few new retailers in the station too.

That’s a new circle K shop coming up next to the platform lift (under repair until May 2018).

And here’s another shop undergoing renovation on the left opposite Circle K. Not sure what it is yet.

I’m not sure if behind this white sheet there will be a shop or an advertising installation. You can see beyond it however that there’s a corridor for future expansion into Southorn Playground’s new underground mall when that gets done.

So this exit is D and here’s a reminder of the opening hours.

I guess the arcade corridor access and lifts to the surface remain operational during these hours too. Check out the promotions from the basement arcade shops below.

Bringing your stroller to Wan Chai by MTR? ACCESS DENIED.

This is just bordering on ridiculous. How can The lift serving the concourse to platform be out of order for renovation for 7 months?!!


Ok MTR Corp, in May I’d like to see 3 lift shafts where there was only one before and each lift capable of taking at least 5 strollers instead of the 3 that we can pack in like sardines (if all mobile people take the escalators). 


If any renovation lasts more than 3 days, MTR Corp should be obliged to put up a proper explanation of what is being done to justify the inconvenience, extra staffing and general annoyance this causes the public. 


I’m waiting for my reply.

Intriguing sign at Wan Chai MTR

One of the two elevators at Wan Chai MTR breaks down every few months. They take turns. More often, it’s the one that slogs the lazy people (and the occasional handicapped person or stroller family) from the basement concourse to the ground floor and the overhead bridge. But I don’t think it’s the lazy people that’s the cause of the breakdown, though they are a major contributing factor. 

It’s the goods hauling guys who use this as a cargo lift. They shift weights that could be the density of two or three people on a single trolley. It’s almost downright dangerous to have elderly, disabled people and babies or young toddlers in the mix. 

Too often I’ve seen able bodied people squeeze into this elevator when there’s an escalator nearby to both ground and overhead bridge. Here in Hong Kong, people must be tired of commuting and even a few extra steps saved is worth inconveniencing others who need the priority access passage. 

Look at this ridiculous sign showing the realistic yet ironic situation at the lifts.


If you were in a line 7 strollers (prams) deep, it might take you half an hour to get from the ground floor down to the concourse. One lift only fits one family.

What can or should MTR Corp do about this?

SOLUTIONS?

  • Firstly how about putting the escalators next to the lift so that everyone standing in the queue has NO excuse not to use it. 
  • Or, put signs on the floor directing people to the escalators.
  • Then how about lifts that can actually move  at least 20 people at one go. We’re talking airport sized lifts, not small cramped coffin style ones from the 70’s.
  • All goods hauling has to go by a separate lift.
  • Signs indicating that only 1 able bodied person should accompany the baby or disabled person. How often have you seen 3/4 people accompanying one stroller or wheelchair user? The flocking is laziness. They should just meet at the platform. 

Hong Kong MTR Corp needs to put some of its profits (US 1.32 billion) to making the transport system accessible to everyone. It’s an efficient train system no doubt but the old stations need renovation and a re-think on providing barrier free and priority access to those who need it. 

Safety and Speed. Both important considerations in this busy metropolis. The MTR planners and architects should try pushing a stroller on a weekend to see where the chokepoints are.

Functional Map of Swatow Street, Wan Chai

I’ve finally gotten around to drawing my functional map of Swatow street, Wan Chai.

Access from Johnston Road for pram/ strollers/ wheelchairs. Everyone else take the stairs from Queen’s Road East.

Lots of cool cafes and trendy takeaway stalls are populating the street, you now see only a few electrical stores and sand/ cement shops left. There’s a friendly stationery shop that is very comprehensive.

It’s loaded up in full resolution and I’ve tried to make the text bigger this time round.

Street map of Swatow Street, Wan Chai

A walk with a stroller from Central to Wan Chai

It was a balmy Sunday afternoon. During lunch, small person decided she was tired. So she requested to sit in her pram and fell asleep soon after. 

What a treat. What could we do with this precious hour or two? We decided to walk to IFC to check out the sales. 

After an unsuccessful shopping experience (only 20% off tags at American Vintage), we browsed the new iPads in the swanky and perpetually crowded Apple Store. 

Then out onto the overhead walkway by CitySuper to cross over to the Star Ferry. There is a lift which will take you down to the ferry concourse level where it’s a 3 minute walk to the big Ferris wheel.

Note: if you exit out to the overhead bridge near the Apple Store, be prepared to carry your stroller down the stairs. (This has to be one of the most unfriendly and thoughtless designs in the entire IFC complex, a ramp would be easy to insert).

We decided to walk back to Wan Chai via the waterfront.

  
It was smooth going all the way from Central through to Admiralty’s Tamar Park. Then the walk from Tamar to Wan Chai was less pleasant. The construction of the east-west bypass and the new MTR line had created chaos with roads and pavements. To be fair, part of the road was sectioned off for pedestrians and since traffic was light on a Sunday, it was tolerable. 

Well, it was until we hit the intersection where we cross from Admiralty into Wan Chai. To get to either the convention Center or HK Arts Center, we were forced into using an overpass to get across (large plastic road barriers prevented us from simply crossing the road).

  
This wide, old, circular overpass that went up two stories had steps… Very wide steps… The type that you practically have to skip down if you’re running. Not funny. So husband had to hoist the stroller with sleeping baby in it up two floors.

barrier to wheeled access

On the other side of this overpass, the only way down to street level without stairs is via the elevator in the HK Arts Center. Up a few steps which is still a hindrance. It would be equally easy to have included a ramp.

From here, it was again a smooth stroll past the fire station and Grand Hyatt to the lifts at the Center, which lead to the overpass back to Wan Chai MTR.

I suppose once the bypass is complete, the boardwalk above it should be the route to take. It is very important that city planners note the current flaws and aim to fix them.

For now, a temporary traffic light for a street crossing would be easy to do and provide barrier free access from this side of Wan Chai to Tamar Park. 

Currency Exchange Challenge in Wan Chai

Go and find a money changer“, he said. “We only need to change a bit and the money changers will give a better rate than the bank“.

I’ve seen them all over Wan Chai, these narrow money changer shops. It’s often women sitting behind steel grill locked doors with the standard deep inset glass window with a slot for the transaction. 

The receptionist at my previous building looked horrified when I asked her which money changer she would recommend. “I don’t trust any of them” she said, then after a brief pause “I would recommend a bank”. Hmm.

The currency board displays are sometimes printed, sometimes electronic and occasionally hand written. I find it way too complex to stand there for five minutes trying to figure out how much I’ll get, so I’m very grateful for my iPhone currency exchange app that preps me in advance.

My online search for a reliable money changer in Wan Chai produced dodgy results at best. Google answered my question with old forum posts and many remittance managers and banks advertising their services. No tangible information there. There was one forum reply that said he used the money changer by the Wan Chai MTR but that’s not much to go on.

I needed to change 2000 HKD to Taiwan dollars. According to my app, I was looking to get anything between 8000 to 8400 Taiwan dollars. So off I went to see who would offer me the best rate. Small person was asleep in the pram, so I could only visit the pram accessible street side locations. 

The first one I visited was a small shop on Queens Road East, more or less opposite Hopewell Center between Amoy and Swatow Street. The lady listened to my request, rapped out a number on her calculator and turned it so I could see it through the glass. 7,840. Hmmph what a rate… Not even my lowest. I shook my head and told her it was too low and pushed off down to the Avenue where I cut across Johnston Road to the MTR side.  

The second one I visited was one that I’d walked past many times, in the Southorn stadium building. It’s next to a property agent and along the same row as a shop that sells fabulous sugar cane juice and the herbal tea. There was a lady there changing money and her son was playing by the entrance. She asked him what time they closed for the day. 

“Three o’clock” he said.  

I made my usual inquiry.

8064” was the verbal answer. I repeated the figure to confirm it. Yes, he nodded. Ok at least that met the minimum figure. 

image
The third one was the money changer by the Wan Chai MTR station between the stalls selling lok lok, those sinful egg waffles and the discreet methadone dispensary. This lady behind the counter was chatting animatedly on her mobile phone, not even bothering to look at me or pause to ask what I wanted. I stood there somewhat patiently waiting for her conversation to end. It never did. 

About two minutes later, a local man who was hovering around outside the booth looking at the various signs on the money changer stepped in to the small space beside me. He spoke loudly and asked how much renminbi he could get for three thousand Hong Kong dollars. She didn’t stop talking on the phone. Without missing a haha or heehee to her friend on the phone, her fingers punched the calculator. She didn’t even look at him when she turned it towards the glass. 

Satisfied with the number he produced the money and pushed it through the slot and she had the corresponding currency stack which she placed in the note counting machine. How silly of me. Of course this is Hong Kong and it’s never rude to interrupt when it’s business and everyone is expected to multi-task. When he collected his money and left, a tall black man in a suit stood by the entrance and a well dressed lady behind him squinted to see the rates over my shoulder, I quickly made my inquiry. 7846. Nope. Outta there.

The fourth one was a shop I saw when I was crossing the road to head to the fifth one. This one was on the main thoroughfare of Fleming road near Hennessey. It had big bright signs and looked bigger than the last three so I thought I’d try my luck. 

7460. What?!! The rate was just getting worse this side of Wan Chai

Onwards to the fifth, a larger money changer with a premium position on the triangular pedestrian area between Johnston and Wan Chai road. The lady turned the calculator. 7485. Yikes.

So best of five. 8064 was the best I would get. I headed back to Southorn and without saying anything presented my 2000 HKD. The bespectacled man nodded and then told me he didn’t have small notes, so he’d give me 8000 Taiwan dollars and 16 HKD change. 

The rate I got was around 4% above the interbank rate. Not as good as the 3% credit card rate but better than the 5% standard kiosk rate. image

It’s a difference of 600 HKD between the lowest and highest quote. Worth a 45 minute investigation to know which money changer I would revisit…both in terms of the exchange rate and customer service. 

King Chi money exchange, Southorn stadium building facing Johnston Road. Just off the tram stop for Wan Chai MTR.

Ps. Just for the record I went to the bank the next day and for the same 2000 HKD I would’ve got 8070 TWD at the money changer. At Standard Chartered, if you’re an existing client with an account, they offered 7914 TWD. 

Hokkaido Dairy Farm: Family friendly HK style “tea house”

I have possibly the biggest baby pram/stroller in Wan Chai. I have seen a few others of the same make and model but yet to see one that’s larger. Many people grunt and tut when they see me coming, some even grumble audibly. Well, the kid is comfortable in it, it’s got big wheels to glide over the nasty bumps and I’ve got tons of space for toys and groceries. So there.
A cha chaan teng in Wan Chai that will allow you to bring a stroller in? It’s pretty much unheard of. Parents with a stroller and kids in tow are relegated to eating only at Eric Kayser or Starbucks (or Passion at off peak hours). Where can one go for a Hong Kong style breakfast that will allow a mommy, baby and monster stroller in?

Hokkaido Dairy Farm
This is an important announcement to all mothers wanting a HK style breakfast. If you have your pram/ stroller with you, you can forget about eating in the famous Kam Fung or Capital Cafe. Famous they may be, but so popular that space they have none. They fill every square inch of space with a table or a stool. Aisles between tables are so narrow, you need to crab walk by them to squeeze into your seat… My pram barely made it through the front door of Capital Cafe and it got stuck in an aisle by the open tables. The staff yelled at me to shut the pram but I yelled back that it wouldn’t make a difference. That’s when they threw me out. Oh well.

Not at Hokkaido Dairy Farm. At off peak hours, this little cha chaan teng is quiet, service is fantastic (look out for a staff by the name of Mui Lee- super switched on), and the food serving is hearty.

Breakfast at HDF

The menu is the similar to other HK cha chaan tengs so at least you’ll get your fix. There’s a kids menu too. My little one wanted macaroni so that’s what she got.

Menus at HDF
If my stroller fits through the doors, yours will too.

  
Here’s how to find it. On Johnston road, between Hennessy Primary School and the iClub Wan Chai hotel. If you’re lost, look around for the 759 store and go towards the left as you look at the entrance.