East Rail Line
The final MTR line. The last one. No more to go.
I left the East Rail Line till last since I felt I knew it the best, having cycled around the Tai Wai, Sha Tin, Tai Po area many times before. I also left it till last because I knew I would have an even bigger problem than the bridge to Lantau Island. The last two stations are Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau they are the cross-border checkpoint stations into China. As such, they are both in what’s called the Border Frontier Zone. No-one is permitted into this area unless they have a permit provided by the government.
The day started out not too badly until I realised I didn’t actually know how to get to Mong Kok East without checking the map. Its a station so close to home, and visit frequently by foot, that I wasn’t immediately sure how to navigate the winding traffic filled streets to get there on bike.
Heading north was no problem, however I again remembered I needed to actually find the entrances to the stations to take my photos, rather than flying by them all as I had been accustomed to.
This line was done on a Saturday, so when it came to the Racecourse station, there weren’t actually any races on – on non-race days the station stays closed. Not wanting to do without it, I instead I chose to snap a quick picture outside the clubhouse before heading back up the hill to find University.
University station belongs to Chinese University of Hong Kong which is built entirely on the side of a hill and is a little maze with all its little roads winding around. Eventually I managed to find my way out and continue my journey – although admittedly having climbed a hill or two I didn’t strictly need to.
The next four stations were also not too much trouble as they all lie along a valley with the Lam Tsuen river. I’d cycled in this area of Hong Kong arguably the most of any. A slight frustrating hiccup to report though – finding your way into Tai Wo station is definitely not easy. Buried in an estate and hidden behind a shopping centre it took a lot long than I’d have liked, dragging my bike up some number of stories in an old freight elevator and through a surprisingly shiny shopping centre in full cycling gear.
By the time I got to Sheung Shui I was in need of refreshment. Normally in these cases the MTR stations themselves are handily equipped with 7-elevens. This time though, I didn’t want to try and run the gauntlet – the station was packed at this time of day with people from the mainland returning home. I searched around for some shop in the back of Sheung Shui that sold water, finally managing to stock up before heading off for what I knew could be potential disappointment.
I reached the checkpoint on the road I knew would be there with the intention of just having a chat and trying my luck to see where it would get me. as it turned out this plan turned out to reasonably successful. As expected the officers told me I wouldn’t be able to proceed along the road with an explanation of my intentions just to visit the station for a photo. The police sergeant came out shortly after though, and after proceeding to explain what I had already suspected, he started up a conversation about where I was from and what I was doing. He told me that his son was studying in the UK at the University of Manchester and was delighted when I told him I studied there too.
The kind sergeant invited me into their porta-cabin to top up all my water bottles (something I was very glad of on this extremely hot day) and also offered me food – which I had to turn down. I really didn’t want to be waiting too long before getting on my way again. His parting actions were to get one of his officers to draw me a map of where I could find a road which takes me much closer to the station to get a good view of it. That was enough for me so off I set, very grateful indeed.
I managed to get my picture of Lo Wu station and was awestruck by the contrast either side of the border. The northern part of Hong Kong is rural, quite green and is actually very pleasant, one might almost say peaceful. Across the border however the sleeping dragon lays and there are skyscrapers immediately beyond the no-entry zone. It all felt very ominous.
I did however have one more station to try and get a photo of. It was Lok Ma Chau and was even less optimistic about getting it than Lo Wu. After consulting my map I noticed I was on a very small road which seemed to snake all the way along the border towards my new destination. With nothing to lose I set off. What I found I was definitely not expecting.
A mere few hundred metres away lay all of China. That sleeping dragon lay almost within arms reach, dreaming of a grand and prosperous future; all surrounded by the natural beauty and peacefulness in front of me. The apparent endless construction work which protruded from just behind the trees seemed to reflect life and growth which was happening all around. In the quiet peaceful summer’s evening I felt quite inspired indeed.
I couldn’t stop for too long though as I needed to investigate that last station on my list. Carrying on, I explored many different back roads to see where they would emerge, most just ended in a little farm or came up abruptly on a large barbed wire fence which made sure I knew I wasn’t permitted any further. Eventually I found my way to the main road going into Lok Ma Chau station. It was getting dark now and the road was packed with taxis and mini-buses crammed with people trying to get back across the border before too late. The guard at the end of the road shook his head when I approached to makie it known I wasn’t allowed to go any further, but I knew already.
In the end I didn’t mind not getting the picture of the last station though. What I had seen and the places I had found more than made up for it.
These are the stats for the last day of my Cycling MTR Challenge: