Hong Kong &  Macau
by Diarmuid Corry © 2001-2002   

Enroute to Australia, Diarmuid & Orna Corry, of Dublin, Ireland, checked out the wonders of Hong Kong & Macau.

The following notes are based on a visit to Hong Kong in January 2002. If you have any questions I can be contacted through this website. For background, I am a T4 paraplegic who uses a manual wheelchair. My chair is quite compact and narrow (64cm/25.2" wide) to help me get around Dublin, my city of residence! Bear this in mind if I talk about "tight" access below - your chair may be wider. I travelled with my wife, Orna, who is able-bodied and also some friends who live in Hong Kong. 

I try to mention my personal access experiences for the places I have been. I do not pretend to offer a comprehensive guide to Hong Kong! 

GENERAL POINTS

ACCESS

Hong Kong is singularly the worst city I have visited from a wheelie point of view. The streets are narrow, with steep hills and difficult curbs. Some streets are so steep that the pavements turn into stairs. The streets are very busy and many can only be crossed by elevated walkways, which are only accessible by steps. Many of the shops have a curious device at their entrance, whereby you go up two steps onto a ledge, before descending two steps into the shop. I presume this is for flood water or something - only the very paranoid would think it was a deliberate anti-wheelchair device!

However, most hotels have some form of access, many restaurants are at street level or have only one step in. The larger shopping centres may have access (but don't bet on it!). Taxis are everywhere and are cheap, although it is frustrating to have to pay a taxi to take you to a building that is on the other side of an uncrossable street! See notes below on taxis. 

And Hong Kong is exciting with a capital X! It's one of those places that has to be seen to be believed. 

GETTING THERE

THE FLIGHT

I flew with Cathay Pacific (http://www.cathaypacific.com/) from London. It's a long haul - about 12-13 hours. 

Long haul flights present special problems for a wheelie. I used a Jay Protector (search in seating products at http://www.sunrisemedical.com/) to sit on to minimise pressure sore risk. Note that Jay do not recommend using the protector for more than 3 hours at a stretch - so I would pull it out for a few hours then push it back under me. The theory is that the change in surface helps redistribute the pressure. I don't know if that is what a doctor would recommend - but it worked for me! After a flight like that you are going to be tired, dehydrated, and in my case my feet and legs were bloated. 

Cathay Pacific was efficient in all but one aspect of travel. The staff was friendly and the seats in economy were comfortable with reasonable leg space. Each seat had a personal screen with a good selection of entertainment. Food was good. Where they fall down is in the process of getting you on and off the plane. The staff appear to have no training at all. In all four flights that I took they produced an aisle chair from the aircraft. No one appeared to know how to unfold it and set it up for use. Luckily I travel a lot and have seen nearly every variety of chair out there so I could set it up myself. In one instance I had to ask another passenger who was boarding to unfold the chair, as I had not the strength to do it myself. A novice flyer would have been in trouble. The next problem is getting on and off the aisle chair. The air hostesses were prepared to lift me themselves. However, I am not a small man, and they were not large ladies, so I don't think it would have worked. I am strong enough to transfer myself, but if you need assistance either bring it yourself or make your needs known to every one you see as you make your way to the aircraft. I am sure that they could have found some strong assistance if required, but again the assistants were not trained in lifting. 

One final point: It is (apparently) Cathay Pacific policy not to bring your chair to the aircraft door when disembarking. This is the first time I have ever encountered a policy like this, but this is what I was told in Hong Kong (when they didn't bring it). If you want the chair at the aircraft you must mention this at check in. It does no harm to mention it when boarding, to both the ground crew and the purser on board. In fact, tell everyone. 

THE AIRPORTS

Cathay fly from Terminal 3 in Heathrow, London. The terminal is fully accessible. There is a shopping area, accessible toilet and waiting lounge. Be aware that the gate can be 15-20 minutes walk away from this area.

Hong Kong Airport is modern and fully accessible. We received courteous and friendly ground assistance right from the plane to the train that brings you into Hong Kong itself. The Airport Express train is accessible; the carriages at the each end have spaces for a chair to park. A really great feature when you are leaving Hong Kong is that you can check in your bags in Hong Kong central station, then take the train, unencumbered by luggage, out to the airport. We checked our bags in about five hours before our flight, so we were able to go for a last meal and some last-minute sightseeing with no luggage worries.

GETTING AROUND

As mentioned above, the Airport Express is the best way to get from the airport into town. It stops in both Kowloon and Hong Kong. The total journey time is about 22 minutes. Buy a return ticket at the airport when you arrive for the best value.

In town, the only option is taxi. There are no accessible taxis, and all the taxis seemed to be the same model, a standard saloon type vehicle. You will need to be able to transfer from your chair into the car, and then your chair gets put in the trunk or backseat. The taxi driver may or may not speak English, so it helps if you travel with someone who knows how to manage the chair! Taxis are required by law to pick up disabled passengers. We had no problems.

The underground (metro) is not accessible, nor are the busses. 

Walking is not really an option either, as the pavements are difficult to negotiate and there are many hills. 

The famous "Star Ferries" that ply from Kowloon to Central Hong Kong and back are sort of accessible, and that is a journey that must be done at least once. They give a great view of the city from the water and are very cheap.

Driving in HK is horrendous, and not for the faint hearted. Personally, I would not even consider it! I did not see any disabled parking spots but they may exist somewhere. 

SIGHTS

There's a lot to see and do in Hong Kong and in our short time there we did not cover it all. 

The Peninsula
This must be one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Located in Kowloon it has an old world grandeur that is worth seeing. The hotel is accessible via a ramp from the street. Inside, the lobby and coffee areas have level access. There is an elevator to the shopping arcade. Our budget did not stretch to staying there, but it's worth a look!

The Peak
The highest point of the island is referred to as the Peak. It is marked by an award-winning building, like an upside down half-barrel on stilts, and (this being Hong Kong) a shopping centre. It has fabulous views of the city. The only way to get there is by taxi - the famous tram is not accessible. The lookout platform is not accessible either, but there are plenty of spots to get a good view. 

There is a very pleasant walk, about 3km, around the peak on good paved road. One or two spots have steep inclines but it should be completely manageable for manual or powered chair. At various points there are fabulous views out over the city and harbour. 

The island - Shek O
There is more to Hong Kong than just the city, and some of the rest of the territory is very pretty indeed. One way to see it would be to get a taxi to the village of Shek O. This is a small fishing village with a beautiful little beach. The public toilets by the beach are accessible. 

The village itself is well worth wandering around, although some of the streets are very steep and assistance from a fit person may be required!

The drive to and from the village has some spectacular views over the harbour so pick a nice day to visit. 

The drinking district
The main centre for nightlife is also one of the steepest areas of the city. We got a taxi to Lan Kwai Fong. Ask to be dropped at the top (the highest point) since the streets are very steep. Disembarking at the top, I then wheeled down through it. Most bars are inaccessible, although we had a drink outside one. The main problem is braking - these are very steep streets! It is not advisable to use the pavements as they regularly turn into stairs! 

Central 
The central area has only a slight gradient so it is manageable to walk around. The most famous building, arguably, in Hong Kong is the HSBC bank. This building is well worth visiting. There is a range of elevators on the left hand side (entering with the harbour to your back). Ask a security guard which one to take to the banking floor as some are for staff only. 

ACCOMMODATION

The Park Lane
310 Gloucester Road
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2293-8888

http://www.parklane.com.hk
Top class hotel close to shopping and eating areas. Kerb outside hotel has a short steep ramp. Level access from kerb. Plenty of good sized elevators. Reasonably large bedroom. Bathroom has some adaptations (small, badly positioned, hand-rails) but is large and has plenty of room to move about. No roll-in shower, a bath instead. Shower hose is hand-held. Bar beside reception is accessible. Restaurant on top level has three steps, although there is a coffee area that is accessible. The staff were eager to carry me up the steps, but I declined. Basement café not accessible. Rooms have full room service and if you bitch and moan about the lack of access to the café you can get room service at café prices. 

RESTAURANTS/BARS

Due to the general inaccessibility of buildings, we wheelies are confined mostly to hotels for bars and food. Having said that, there are many side street "food bar" type places with a single step off the street where you can get snacks very cheaply. There is a food mall in Causeway Bay, just across from the Excelsior Hotel, which has completely level access and has a range of different options for eating. 
Restaurant Petrus
Island Shangri-La
Pacific Place
Supreme Court Road
Central
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2820-8590

Located on the 56th floor this restaurant has a stunning view of the city. This is not an everyday place - it ranks among the top two or three restaurants in Hong Kong, and is certainly one of the best that I have ever had the pleasure of dining in. We went there for a special occasion. Dress is jacket and tie, and the service is formal and impeccable. The food is French, and exquisite, one of the most superb meals I have eaten. You need to budget US$100 head minimum. The wine list is spectacular. Don't be put off by the prices on the first page, there is some value to be found if you look for it (try working through the menu from the back!) Seriously, this is a fabulous restaurant and well worth visiting when in Hong Kong if you have some special occasion to celebrate. The interior of the hotel has some breath-taking murals as well. 

Access is no problem - there is level access to the lobby from the kerb, and elevators to the top. The deep pile carpet is the only obstacle! There are accessible toilets. 

Shek O Chinese and Thailand Seafood Restaurant
No. 303 Shek O Village
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2809-4426
Hours: 11:30-22:00

Located close to the beach in Shek O this place serves a range of appetizing and reasonably priced food. Level access from street level. There is an accessible toilet in the public toilets close by. 

Talk of the Town Asian Grill and Bar And Café on the 1st
The Excelsior
281 Gloucester Road
Causeway Bay
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2894-8888

http://www.mandarinoriental.com/excelsior

Talk of the Town (TOTT) bar is located on the top floor of the Excelsior. Access to the Excelsior is from the side, up a ramp leading into the back kitchen areas, then turn left and through a door which brings you out into the lobby. There are elevators to the top. The bar has four steps into it, but the staff have a ramp that they will set up to get you in. Unfortunately the toilets (not adapted, but large and accessible) are down these steps, so it can get a bit tedious if you have a weak bladder! The bar usually has live entertainment and the dance floor is accessible, however the seating by the window is up several steps so you won't get the opportunity for a great view!

Café on the 1st is on the first floor and offers a range of Chinese dishes. It is a popular place for Dim Sum. Level access from elevator.

Thai Dai Pai Dong
This Thai restaurant is in the Lan Kwai Fong (as for Rat Alley). It's rough and ready, with tables outside served from a small restaurant. The food is very good and the prices very reasonable. Strongly recommended. No toilets though, although there is a dark alley close by!

The Peak Lookout
121 Peak Road
The Peak
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2849-1000

This is a large and popular restaurant at the peak, serving a mixture of cuisine styles. It has several different levels that make it awkward for wheelies. There are two steps in, and several more steps to reach the toilet level. Staff are more than happy to assist you, but in reality it is not a very comfortable restaurant for a chair. 

The Peak Lookout
121 Peak Road
The Peak
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2849-1000

This is a large and popular restaurant at the peak, serving a mixture of cuisine styles. It has several different levels that make it awkward for wheelies. There are two steps in, and several more steps to reach the toilet level. Staff are more than happy to assist you, but in reality it is not a very comfortable restaurant for a chair. 

Macau

The other territory that is now Chinese but once belonged to someone else's empire is that of Macau. This formerly Portuguese territory was handed back to China in 1998. It is an hour's ferry ride from Hong Kong and worth a day trip. The ferry is accessible with assistance from the staff. Bring your passport as you are officially crossing an international border. 

Macau is completely different from Hong Kong. No skyscrapers, and very little of the ostentatious wealth. Its main attraction is gambling, and the Casinos operate 24 hours a day. The city is old and crumbling, with fascinating little streets. There are two other islands, joined to the main island by bridges, which have a lot of parkland and some nice scenery.

The way to get around Macau is in a Mini Moke. You will need an able-bodied driver, but this tiny open topped car is great fun. It fits three and a wheelchair comfortably. They are available for day hire at the ferry terminal. Bargain hard for the rate!

There is good shopping in Macau for traditional items and furniture. The Portuguese influence has also left some good restaurants. Fernando's on Coloane Island is very typically Portuguese and has good food. The toilets have one step and are spacious enough for a chair, although not adapted in any way. 

Check out Diarmuid's other travel adventures to these destinations:

Australian Holiday Amsterdam Getaway
Portugal: Lisbon & Madeira

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