HK and Beijing with a walker

I took an 8-day trip to Hong Kong and Beijing, China, Nov. 8-16, ’04, booking my trip through Asian Affair Holidays (800/742-3133 or, an arm of Singapore Airlines. I am a 76-year-old female with a shoulder replacement (not great), osteoarthritis (knees and left hip) and spinal stenosis that requires me to use a walker (four wheels) and to need a handicapped-equipped bathroom (i.e., handheld shower plus rails on the sides of the toilet).

Going through security at San Francisco International, people had to take their shoes off and get a complete pat-down, and I also had to remove a money belt worn bandolier style under my T-shirt (with no privacy). Elevators were available to and from the gates, and my walker was put on board the plane in a closet.

Vivian Wilder with the Great Wall of China in the background.

At the Hong Kong airport, elevators were available to various levels. Buses to hotels on either side of the bay were handy and cost HK$15 (near US$2) for approximately 1_ hours max.

I was booked into the Sheraton Hong Kong (Kowloon side). The bathroom and shower stall were perfectly equipped. In fact, one of the rails alongside the toilet could be moved out of the way for a wheelchair — very clever.

Getting around Hong Kong with the walker was no problem. On the buses the first step was very high, so I did not take them, but the subway and MTR had lifts down to the ticketing level, though they were not easy to find. Lifts to the tracks were also available. People all were very helpful. The Star Ferry is still free for seniors, but the Hong Kong side has stairs which were awkward; the Kowloon side is easier with ramps with bumps.

As I use the walker to get around, I always carry a backpack and wear my purse bandolier style. If there is any shopping I want to do (bottled water, etc.), my hands are still free to control the walker.

The weather in Hong Kong in November was too warm for me (70s), so, having been there several times before, I scheduled a very short time there and went on to Beijing. Security at the Hong Kong and Beijing airports was very similar to that in San Francisco, and lifts were available.

Beijing in November is usually chilly (50s), which was perfect for me.

The Peninsula Palace Hotel is a huge, relatively new hotel, but it had only one handicapped room. Due to a mixup, I had to put up with a regular room for one night. The hotel housekeeping staff was able to locate a commode for the first night, and I was moved the next day to the handicapped room. It was very similar to all handicapped rooms — although why they all have a rail/bar behind the back of the toilet I have not been able to figure out.

The sidewalks on Beijing’s main streets are paved with Pirelli-type bumps at each corner and also slope down, and traffic stops at main intersections are 3_ minutes long. With all the bikes and people inching out onto the street, the car drivers have to be very skillful to maneuver around them. I did walk around some on my own.

There was a walking (shopping) street within two blocks of the hotel, and behind the hotel was a small old section where I was able to buy a banana.

I found that Beijing could have been any big city, and I was disturbed by the push to the general populous to spend, spend, spend.

My travel package included tours in Beijing — the Great Wall plus the Ming Tombs (lunch included); Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and the Heavenly Temple — all with a private car, driver and guide. I was able to get to the lower level of the wall, but to walk on the upper part was not possible as it was almost straight up. Going up would have been manageable but coming back down, perilous. Alley-oop! All of the other places were accessible for me and my walker.

I flew from San Francisco (a little after midnight) to Hong Kong round trip on Singapore Air and from Hong Kong to Beijing on Air China, with the return to Hong Kong on Dragonair. Excluding airfare, the trip cost* of $2,900 included hotels; airport/hotel transport in Hong Kong and Beijing; full American and Oriental breakfasts, and one tour in Hong Kong and two in Beijing (one lunch).


San Francisco, CA

*The same package is not available from Asian Affair Holidays in 2006, however approximate prices for their 4-day “Hong Kong Discovery” trip, including air from San Francisco, start at $1,060, and three nights in Beijing, including air from Hong Kong, start at $1,280.