Monday, February 9, 2009

The Road Ends in Hong Kong

This story ends as the Ox Year New Year's Celebration comes to an end. (See the whole story here.)

Flying into Hong Kong, into the old Kai Tak airport, was one of Travel’s great thrills. (I don’t think flying into the new airport is the stuff of legends,)

From the Wiki descript: The landing approach using runway 13 Kai Tak was spectacular and world-famous. To land on runway 13, an aircraft first took a descent heading northeast, passing over the crowded harbour, and then the very densely populated areas on Western Kowloon.

Upon reaching a small hill marked with a checkerboard in red and white, used as a visual reference point on the final approach, 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 from touchdown, at a height of less than 1,000 feet when the turn was made. Typically the plane would enter the final right turn at the height of about 650 feet and exit it at the height of 140 feet to line up with the runway. This maneuver has become widely known in the piloting community as the "Hong Kong Turn."

And it was a thrill. Looking out the window you saw those mountains coming up pretty fast, and then, like an amusement park ride, the plane suddenly turns, right over Kowloon, and you are flying between skyscrapers, where you can literally look into specific windows because the plane is slowing to land.

What an entrance. What a city. We are staying at the Marco Polo, around the corner from the Victoria Harbour of the Peninsula Hotel and the Red Star Ferries. It is deeply exotic to me to ride back and forth between the two halves of the city. I’m actually in the Technicolor “World of Suzie Wong”

In two days we see as much of the British colony as we can: a harbour-side dinner, with the British sterling silver place setting that includes Imperial Lion chopstick rests; a bus tour takes us up to Victoria Peak, where our Chinese guide speaks about the grim reality of the extreme overcrowding of the city; we see fireworks for the end of the New Year; I talk my way into a tour of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (well, I was working on Wall Street myself at the time) and stop into one of the English pubs nearby; we take a ride on a junk in Aberdeen Harbour and go shopping for a tailored suit.

It was a veritable whirlwind. I did not find my destiny—-with a capital D--but I was very glad to have experienced a bit of the end of colonial Hong Kong.

Then it was time to start the long journey home, flying in one stretch Hong Kong, Taipei, San Francisco, New York. In a mere twenty-six hours, I am back in my own bed, where the images from the past three weeks dance together as though they were only a dream.

Some weeks later, my three 3 boxes of marble pieces arrived, and for a moment I am quite stunned by their sheer presence and beauty, and all that they represent for me and my dear friend.


Me, A said...

What a wonderful tale. Thanks for writing about our journey.

Christopher Campbell-Howes said...

Really enjoyed this saga. Thank you.

M.A.Peel said...

Christopher, Thank you. I was thinking of it more as an edda than a saga :) I am glad to have written it down. You know what I mean.