Friday, May 27, 2011

Kai Tac Airport

Kai Tac Airport was Hong Kong's International Airport from 1925 to 1998.  It was ranked as the 6th most dangerous airport in the world. I copied the following which explains why it was so dangerous.

Layout of Kai Tak Airport prior to its 1998 closure

The "Checkerboard Hill" , which was a major navigational aid for the Runway 13 approach, as seen from Kowloon Tsai Park.
The landing approach using runway 13 at Kai Tak was spectacular and world-famous. To land on runway 13, an aircraft first took a descent heading northeast. The aircraft would pass over the crowded harbour, and then the very densely populated areas of Western Kowloon. This leg of the approach was guided by an IGS (Instrument Guidance System, a modified ILS) after 1974.
Upon reaching a small hill marked with a checkerboard in red and white, used as a visual reference point on the final approach (in addition to the middle marker on the Instrument Guidance System), the pilot needed to make a 47° visual right turn to line up with the runway and complete the final leg. The aircraft would be just two nautical miles (3.7 km) from touchdown, at a height of less than 1,000 feet (300 m) when the turn was made. Typically the plane would enter the final right turn at a height of about 650 feet (200 m) and exit it at a height of 140 feet (43 m) to line up with the runway. This maneuver has become widely known in the piloting community as the "Hong Kong Turn" or "Checkerboard Turn".
Landing the runway 13 approach was already difficult with normal crosswinds since even if the wind direction was constant, it was changing relative to the aeroplane during the 47° visual right turn. The landing would become even more challenging when crosswinds from the northeast were strong and gusty during typhoons. The mountain range northeast of the airport also makes wind vary greatly in both speed and direction. From a spectator's point of view, watching large Boeing 747s banking at low altitudes and taking big crab angles during their final approaches was quite thrilling. Despite the difficulty, the runway 13 approach was nonetheless used most of the time due to the prevailing wind direction in Hong Kong.
Due to the turn in final approach, ILS was not available for runway 13 and landings had to follow a visual approach. This made the runway unusable in low visibility conditions.


I took all these pictures off the net as of course l don't have any of the old days!   Blaine met an old fellow who has lived here all his life and he said the noise was unbelievable.  It must have been an awful place to live with planes almost on top of you.
They say you could see the people in the flats as you flew past!
 This picture was taken almost right where our building stands.  Of course none of these old ones are here now as Sky Tower was built on the site, but there are still a lot of the old grungy buildings in this part of Kowloon.
This is looking straight out our balcony door.  The narrow building to the left of the big high rise, with the design that looks like black bars with an  umbrella on top, is the same one right below the tail of the plane in the above picture.
 There were of course some accidents. This plane  apparently landed 2/3 down the runway during a typhoon and just kept going! I can see why, as some days the clouds are so low, and the crosswinds must have been something when landing.

Doesn't look long enough to land does it!  The runway was 3,390 m long when it closed, and had been lengthened a few times by reclaiming land.

I think this road is the same  today and where the white bus is, it's still a bus stop.
This is what the checkerboard looked like back then.
This is what it looks like today.  The pink building is still there although it looks somewhat less pink!  I think it is a hospital.  Not very conducive to having a good sleep with planes screaming overhead!

The checkerboard is just to the left of the picture, and the terminal used to be about where the cricket field is now.  I think the new MTR is going in just in front of the red and white fence in the middle of the picture.  It will be a great to have, because there is no MTR in this part of the city and it will link up with the rest of the city.
In the paper last week there was an article and picture of a walkway and bridge that had been built in the Quing dynasty.  It was used by the officials and was part of a walkway from the pier to the offices they used in Kowloon City.  We've been trying to figure out where in this area they took the picture from but haven't been able to find it.  It probably has been covered up.  They are going to incorporate it into the plans somehow so it will be on display when this area is all rebuilt.  They have plans for two stadiums, parks, and some housing.  The runway will be a dock for cruise ships.  Some of it will open in 2016.
Too bad that window blocks the corner of the runway, but you can get an idea of how the area looks today. 

These are artist conceptions of what the new cruise terminal might look like.  I don't know if a total plan has actually been chosen yet .  What ever it ends up being it will probably be as fantastic as other building projects they have here!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Bun Festival

Cheung Chau in Cantonese means "Long Island" and  is known for a few things.  Back in the 18th century an infamous pirate was said to have had  his base there and you can visit the cave where he supposedly stored his ill gotten gains!.  Then there is a 3000 year old rock carving which suggests that it was inhabited at least as early as the Neolithic period.  It was a thriving fishing village inhabited by Hakka and Cantonese settlers, who supplemented their income with smuggling and piracy! Today fishing is still a big industry and some of the people still live on junks and sampans anchored in the harbor. The island is sort of a dumbbell shape and the narrow section in the middle is where the village is and the public beaches.  The harbor itself is large and has long rock barriers that protect the land from the waves of a typhoon.
The harbor is to the right and the beaches on the left.  As you can see it is very narrow in the middle of the island, with two hills on either end.
There are two ferries you can take from Central.   The fast ferry takes about 35 min. and the ordinary one takes about an hour.  We took the fast one over and the slower one back.  The slower one is bigger and isn't air conditioned.
The streets are very narrow and because of all the extra people, were very crowded.
Because of the narrow streets, fire, police, and ambulance are the only vehicles on the island.  These little cars were so cute because they looked like Tonka Toys!

The boat in the middle has fish drying on a screen.  There is so much dried fish sold everywhere here.  I don't know how they can possibly eat it all!
We watched as this couple came from their boat to shore by using this pulley system.  As you can see the boats sit all over the harbor with no piers to tie up to or any other way to get to shore.

On Tuesday May 10th it was a national holiday here because it was Buddha's Birthday.  The Bun Festival was also being celebrated, so Jocelyn, Rachel and I went to see what it was all about.  It is a 4 day long Taoist religious festival.  The legend is, that in the Quing dynasty a plague came upon the islands, and the people of Cheung Chau carried the Taoist Deity through the island and they weren't touched by the plague, so to honor him they built the Pak Tai Temple.  The Priest declares that there be 4 days of eating only vegetarian, and there are many ceremonies throughout these days. The buns are significant because there is no meat eaten or killed during this time.  On the last day there is a huge parade.  The festival is around 100 years old.  It used to be that the tower was made from real buns, and any who wanted to, could climb the tower at the specified time to grab buns, but in 1978 the tower collapsed and a lot of people were injured and killed so the climbing competition was banned till 2005.  Now the tower is made from steel and bamboo and has plastic buns.  Only a few climbers are allowed at one time, and they use mountaineering gear.  The buns at the top are apparently the luckiest ones, so they are the most sought after!
The couple next to me both spoke English, so they explained which buns had what filling.  I bought one with red bean paste and one with lotus seed paste.  Both were really good. The filling didn't have that much flavor, but was sweet.  We saw this couple later and they were eating tofu ice cream which they said was wonderful!

The buns are steamed in these steamers!  Everyone was loading up on buns!  Apparently they are only allowed to make so many and there are only two stores who specialize in them, so they were a hot item!!  A red stamp is put on the top that has different lucky sayings on them.
I think this is some kind of religious ceremony at the Temple.  Even though it seems quite commercial, there is a religious meaning behind most of it.
Jocelyn and Rachel in front of the smaller towers.

 We stopped for lunch at McDonald's, and guess what, they don't sell anything but a vegetarian burger there during the festival! (which we didn't realize, as we ordered chicken nuggets)  It wasn't horrible, but l don't know if I'd want it again!  The man in the striped shirt was very helpful and cleared a table for us to sit down.  His son, in the blue shirt, spoke good English and explained some of the Festival for us.

We didn't stay for the whole parade, but watched as they were getting ready for it.  The temp. was 32.5 and humid, so we decided we'd all had enough of the crowds and heat. The little ambulance had a busy time of it with people fainting!
A big part of the parade are the children dressed up in all kinds of costumes, and they are on stilts so they "float" above the crowd.  They represents the many Gods of the Taoist religion. We watched some of them getting ready and they have metal leg braces they stand in to keep them steady, but its still quite a balancing act!  I wanted to put all theses pictures in because the kids are so cute and the costumes are really amazing and beautiful.

Priests l think!
The dragons are amazing.  It must be so hot bouncing around under all the cloth.

There is always so many symbols and pageantry.  Too bad we don't understand most of it! 
 See the guys feet sticking out under the dragon?  I don't know how they balance on the pole and still make the dragon look like he's moving around!

The big finale comes at midnight on the last day, when the climbers rush up the 60 foot tower and try and collect as many buns as possible!!  There are different teams competing against each other to be crowned the King and Queen of the Bun Festival!
Heading home on the slow ferry past the typhoon barriers.

 What a fascinating and fun day we had at Cheung Chau.  I would like to go back and just wander around when there aren't so many people, and you could really check out the town and surrounding area, and maybe find some pirate treasure!!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mothers Day in Hong Kong

You don't see a lot of advertising for Mothers Day here, but l've seen cards, and l noticed quite a few ladies carrying flowers around.  Mothers Day turned into a two day event for me this year.  On Saturday afternoon we went out to the Gold Coast with Ryan to see the boat show that was held at the marina there.

The tents had different events taking place each day, and had an Aston Martin Rapide which is worth around $400,000 U.S. sitting there.  I don't know if they were selling tickets on it or what.
There were boats of every description and size.  From ocean going yachts to small fishing boats, and everything in between.  We were somewhat out of our element, but it's fun to dream!
This Yacht was really beautiful inside.  The picture below was the fellow who took us around.  This boat was by invitation only but as l was standing there looking at it the guy asked if we wanted to see it so of course l wasn't about to pass that up, since we'll probably never see one like it again! Some you weren't allowed to take pictures in but he didn't seem to mind!

This was kind of a funny looking one and l overheard the owner telling someone he uses it to go between the islands and Aberdeen.  Kind of a weird looking thing!

The black one was unique as it was a hydrofoil.
This was a privately owned sail boat and you couldn't get near it, but it sure was beautiful.   I'd love to see it with the sails up.
This is a model of another one you couldn't get on.  Some of the big ones were for sale privately.

The next 6 pictures are of the inside of the ship on the TV.
Some don't look that big from the outside, but there is lot of room on the inside, and every bit of space is used efficiently.
One of the bedrooms.   Most slept  6-8 plus crew quarters.
Looking out toward the back deck.
Control panel.
On top was the hot tub in case you get tired of the ocean, and of course there was the sea-do parked next to it!!
This houseboat is much taller and square shaped than the ocean going ones.  The square footage in some is bigger than our house at home!

Kids needed a snack and drink in the heat. (I think grampa did too!)

The kids would rather be climbing trees that having their pictures taken!!

 After the boat show Ryan and Blaine took Jill and l out for supper.  When we got back home that night Jocelyn had brought over a beautiful flower arrangement and a card she and Rachel had made for me, so l was very spoiled!  The next morning Kylie Jocelyn and Rachel made an early visit and Kylie brought me another card from him, which made it even more special.  After church we went over to the Happy Valley Race Course to watch the boys & Jill play some touch football games!
Inside the race course are 12 playing fields for floor hockey, soccer, rugby and football.  It's absolutely massive. 
Kylie quarterbacked.  He has the white hat and Ryan has the blue.
Jill and and Rebecca, a teacher from our school also played.  Unfortunately the team didn't do too well.  I think there were only 2 or 3 of the guys who had actually played football before so it was mostly a learning time!!  I think they are trying to get a men's touch football league going so maybe there will more games in the future.  Even though they were pretty sore the next day they all enjoyed it.  For me it was rather like going back in time watching my kids play sports, and sort of fitting for Mothers Day!!  Thanks to all of you for the great Mothers Day Weekend in Hong Kong!