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The Kai Tak Heart Attack

Turn Right at that Big Mountain.

sunny

Photo taken from internet of good old days of Kai Tak.

Photo taken from internet of good old days of Kai Tak.

Today I decided to do another short trip out. I headed to Lok Fu in search of Checkerboard Hill. This hill with its bright red and white pattern was a visual indicator to pilots flying into Hong Kong that they needed to make a sharp right turn in order to land safely at Kai Tak Airport. Apparently, Kai Tak was one of the most difficult airports in the world. Kai Tak Airport closed down in 1998 and for years Checkerboard Hill was left to decay, but recently it has been repainted and will be preserved as a monument.

We came to Hong Kong in 1996 so Kai Tak was the airport we landed at. Also we made several trips out of Hong Kong between 1996 and the closure of Kai Tak. I would have to say neither of us are what anyone could call sensation seekers. We don't like roller coasters. We don't like excessive speed and yet somehow we both loved landing at Kai Tak. The airport was in the middle of a built up area and the plane descended right past people's houses. You could practically look in their front rooms as you passed, then when you hit the runway there was nothing but sea on both sides and you were going so fast you felt sure you would shoot off the runway and disappear into the waves. If you were out in the street in this area as a plane came in to land, it was pretty much right above your head. I taught in a school in Kowloon Tong when I came to Hong Kong at first and I got used to stopping teaching every few minutes as a plane roared in overhead. The kids got used to this, too. We all just worked around it. I was sad when Kai Tak closed down.

Kai Tak Airport was built in 1925 on reclaimed land in Kowloon Bay. It was surrounded by tall mountains and lots of water. At first it was used as a military airport, but after World War II, it became the base for Cathay Pacific Airways. The most notorious runway at Kai Tak was Runway 13/31 which jutted right out into the midst of Victoria Harbour. Pilots who had to land here nicknamed the landing 'The Kai Tak Heart Attack' as it was so nerve wracking. In fact when we arrived here at first, we stayed in the Regal Riverside Hotel in Sha Tin which was a popular hotel for pilots to stay in. I remember taking the free shuttle bus from the hotel to the airport and all the pilots were having great fun comparing near miss stories about landing at Kai Tak. Terrifying!!!

Pilots who received clearance to land at Runway 13/31 in Kai Tak veered right in a 47 degree turn as soon as they saw Checkerboard Hill. At this point they would be travelling at very low altitude, but at 200 miles per hour and they were just 2 nautical miles away from the runway. Landings had to be conducted manually, not on autopilot and accuracy was vital. Of course, there were several accidents at Kai Tak, some fatal. I for one still remember an aeroplane overshooting the runway and landing partly in the sea. Amazingly no-one was killed in this incident.

I felt a bit confused trying to find instructions to get to Checkerboard Hill as I kept finding so many different descriptions of how to get there. In the end I did this. I took the MTR to Lok Fu Station, then exited through exit B. I walked straight out across the car park and into Lok Fu Recreation Ground Park. At the far side I went right and walked to Junction Road. I crossed this road and went left. I continued walking until I could see Bishop Walsh Primary School on the opposite side of the road. At this point I turned right and walked up a flight of stairs. The stairs continued for a long way and there were various paths off them, but I kept going up and up. This area is known as Reservoir Hill and has several buildings connected to the Water Works Department. At the very top of the hill there's a flat area used for recreation. People were running, jogging, walking and practising their golf swings here. There are some views over Kowloon from here, but through a fence.

Wing Kwong Pentecostal Holiness Church in Lok Fu.

Wing Kwong Pentecostal Holiness Church in Lok Fu.

Lok Fu Palace Shopping Mall.

Lok Fu Palace Shopping Mall.

Pointy Apartment Block in Lok Fu.

Pointy Apartment Block in Lok Fu.

Lok Fu Recreation Ground Park.

Lok Fu Recreation Ground Park.

Stairs up Reservoir Hill.

Stairs up Reservoir Hill.

Buildings of the Waterworks Department.

Buildings of the Waterworks Department.

Buildings of the Waterworks Department.

Buildings of the Waterworks Department.

Hong Kong Waterworks Department.

Hong Kong Waterworks Department.

Flat area on top of reservoir with Lion Rock behind it.

Flat area on top of reservoir with Lion Rock behind it.

Lion Rock Mountain from covered reservoir.

Lion Rock Mountain from covered reservoir.

I came back out of this area then turned right and walked down a dirt path onto a narrow staircase. This is a bit tricky to walk on so be careful, but it leads you right out on to Checkerboard Hill. I took some photos of the hill from a very close distance. Later I discovered that most people don't go this way. They exit the flat covered reservoir area then go left. After walking a short way, they go up a short stairway on their left and walk around the outside of the hill to the checkerboard cliffs.

Narrow Stairs Down.

Narrow Stairs Down.

Checkerboard Hill.

Checkerboard Hill.

Checkerboard Hill.

Checkerboard Hill.

Checkerboard Hill.

Checkerboard Hill.

A Little Bit of Kowloon and Checkerboard Hill.

A Little Bit of Kowloon and Checkerboard Hill.

Edge of Checkerboard Hill and a bit of view.

Edge of Checkerboard Hill and a bit of view.

Me in front of Checkerboard Hill.

Me in front of Checkerboard Hill.

In addition to looking at the hill, I also enjoyed great views over Kowloon. At the foot of Checkerboard Hill is Kowloon Tsai Park Tennis Courts. Supposedly you can descend the hill and go through a hole in the fence into this park. I could not see the opening from where I was so decided to go back the way I came. That was fine but it meant I missed the view of the hill from a distance - yet another thing left to do.

View over Kowloon.

View over Kowloon.

View over Kowloon.

View over Kowloon.

Tennis Courts and Kowloon.

Tennis Courts and Kowloon.

Autumn Leaves and Kowloon.

Autumn Leaves and Kowloon.

Autumn Leaves and Kowloon.

Autumn Leaves and Kowloon.

Autumn Leaves and Kowloon.

Autumn Leaves and Kowloon.

View over Kowloon.

View over Kowloon.

View over Kowloon.

View over Kowloon.

View over Kowloon.

View over Kowloon.

When I retraced my steps back up to the flat, covered reservoir area instead of returning the way I had come I went straight to get good views towards Lion Rock. There were some public toilets here. At the toilets I took the path down, passing many beautiful Bauhinias on the way, and came out at Junction Road.

Lion Rock.

Lion Rock.

Lion Rock.

Lion Rock.

Lion Rock.

Lion Rock.

Lion Rock and Bauhinias.

Lion Rock and Bauhinias.

View on the way down.

View on the way down.

View on the way down.

View on the way down.

Beautiful Bauhinias.

Beautiful Bauhinias.

Beautiful Bauhinias.

Beautiful Bauhinias.

As I arrived at Junction Road right next to Junction Road Park, I decided to have a quick wander through here. It was a pleasant park with a running track, seating and lots of colourful plants.

Junction Road Park.

Junction Road Park.

Junction Road Park.

Junction Road Park.

Bauhinias in Junction Road Park.

Bauhinias in Junction Road Park.

From here I was heading back to the MTR but I noticed a sort of gateway and lots of flags, so I went to investigate and discovered Lok Fu Tin Hau Temple. Of course this is dedicated to the goddess of the sea. Apparently it was built in the early nineteenth century. It has been restored many times and is beautifully looked after.

This alerted me to the temple's existence.

This alerted me to the temple's existence.

The Way up to the Temple.

The Way up to the Temple.

The Tin Hau Temple in Lok Fu, Hong Kong

The Tin Hau Temple in Lok Fu, Hong Kong

Lone Worshipper at Tin Hau Temple, Lok Fu.

Lone Worshipper at Tin Hau Temple, Lok Fu.

Incense Burner with Dragon Heads.

Incense Burner with Dragon Heads.

Temple Doorway.

Temple Doorway.

Dragon.

Dragon.

Phoenix.

Phoenix.

Lion Guard.

Lion Guard.

Tin Hau.

Tin Hau.

Shrine.

Shrine.

Shrine.

Shrine.

Shrine.

Shrine.

Shrine and offerings.

Shrine and offerings.

Looking out from inside the temple.

Looking out from inside the temple.

Lion.

Lion.

Contrasts.

Contrasts.

Bouganvillia.

Bouganvillia.

After looking at the temple, I went home and resumed nursing duties.

Posted by irenevt 09:34 Archived in Hong Kong

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Comments

Hi Irene, I don't like flying at the best of times,it would be me with the heart attack,anyway interesting piece.-- To the left of Lion Rock,can you see either a crocodile or elephant trunk ?

by alectrevor

Hi Alec, I think with these rock formations if we are left to our own imagination, we will all see different things. Lion Rock does look like a lion to me but then I think I probably knew it by that name before I even saw it. I remember taking Peter for a weekend away to Guilin in China for his birthday and going on a tour to a network of caves. The guide drove him crazy by telling him what every single rock looked like and he kept saying he'd like to be left just to look and decide for himself.

by irenevt

You got my attention with your title. I haven't been there by plane buy the landing at St. Barts is a little hairy

by greatgrandmaR

Haha, maybe St Barts might even be worse. I read Kai Tak was the 6th most dangerous airport in the world.

by irenevt

Quite accurate nickname, I am not an nervous flyer but that airport sounds scary!

by hennaonthetrek

Haha it was scary, but for some reason we liked it.

by irenevt

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