Hong Kong – fragrant harbour

 

41_Pt_I_Ch_6_The_Victoria_Harbour_viewed_from_Kowloon_1965How things have changed since my first trip to Hong Kong in 1963. Note the clock tower to the left of the picture, right on the waterfront, more about it later.

Pan am

I found this old advert, which also shows Hong Kong of the 60’s.

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We entered Hong Kong harbour via the Tathong Channel on the eastern side of the island.
It was early morning when Diamond Princess arrived, and the island began to wake.

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It was misty, early April, winter not long over.DSC00823r

I found the continuous tower blocks a little depressing, perhaps because my memory of the excitement of Hong Kong was of an earlier age. The population in 1963 was about 3.5 million and now it is 7.5 million so I suppose the growth in apartments was inevitable.

BOACThe cruise terminal used to be the int’l airport Kai Tak, which had a hair-raising runway to land on in the early 1960’s. As the aircraft came in to land, and if the passengers looked out of the window, they could see in to the local apartments.

China AirwaysNot everyone landed safely – China Airways missed the runway or couldn’t stop in time.

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Kai Tak in the 1960’s – when I flew out of Hong Kong I used to check the location of the various ships at anchor and to try to judge how much runway was left as we passed each vessel. Self torture I suppose.

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The old peninsular shaped runway is now a cruise terminal – at the end of the terminal they have a park called Kai Tak Runway Park . . . . . the above photograph shows the cruise terminal as we swung around to face out to sea for our night time departure.

Maureen and I had been to Hong Kong a number of times so all we wished to do was to visit the Peninsula Hotel for lunch. Well, I had the wild idea of having lunch there as a surprise, but once we entered I must admit I changed my mind.

DSC00875rI suppose I was a little ambitious thinking that we could have lunch at an acceptable price, particularly as I took this photograph a helicopter lifted from the roof – the only way to travel really in crowded Hong Kong.

DSC00876rcThe rest of us would have to put up with being met at the airport in a green Rolls Royce.

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DSC00846r.jpgI tried to capture the green of the Rolls, but the day was a dull and the gleaming ‘green’ duco didn’t show up in the photograph.

DSC00847rIt was late morning and many were finishing their breakfast, while others were having a pre-lunch drink. I ordered a beer and an iced-coffee for Maureen. To be fair they came with peanuts, chocolate thingies, and something else that I can’t remember. The bill came to over AUD $27, which wasn’t bad for such an establishment, and it gave us a chance to read the menu.
The cheapest thing that I could find for lunch was AUD $50 for a Caesar salad, and if you wanted chicken or prawns with the basic salad, that was extra . . . one can dream, perhaps one day. It was an interesting experience.

In 2007 I visited Hong Kong with my son – he’d won a draw for two economy tickets to Hong Kong, and during our trip we visited The Bar at The Peninsular, (it doesn’t open until 3.00 pm, so I couldn’t take Maureen).

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After we’d finished our drinks we left and I took a photograph of him walking down the stairs as we left the hotel.

History repeats itself as I took a photograph of Maureen coming down the same stairs.
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DSC00858rIt was a short walk to the Star Ferry at Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon.

DSC00861rIf everything else has changed the Star Ferry seems to be stuck in a time warp.

DSC00862rStill the same system to come alongside – the ferry terminal is the same one that I remembered from the earl 60’s.

The The World of Suzie Wong is a movie that was made in 1960, but the beginning of the film is also an historic record of Hong Kong at that time, try and look beyond the printed word on the screen.

This piece of film is of how cargo would be worked in 1963. It is silent, but you will be able to see cargo ships moored to buoys in the harbour, and large cargo junks alongside working cargo.
We would be in port for several days and as soon as we were secure to a buoy the sew sew girls would be after us to do our laundry, and make tailor made uniform shirts and shorts – hence the title sew sew girls (although their card had ‘sow sow’, not sew sew) – I didn’t mean so so girls, which would have been very un PC.
I had a number of uniform shorts made in Hong Kong, Singapore and Bombay, and still have a pair of shorts that was made in Singapore – and I can still get in to them . . .

I mentioned the clock tower at the beginning of this blog, which used to be closer to the water than it is now.

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DSC00872rReclaimed land perhaps, but the area has certainly been ‘beautified’, I think it used to be a bus terminus in this area.

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I was very impressed with the metro – clean, very efficient and cheap.

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We sailed in the early evening.

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The new Kai Tak cruise terminal is large enough to take more than one cruise ship.

DSC00904rWe used our side thrusters to push off the wharf and begin the short transit to the open sea.

We returned to the open sea the way we came in, rather than via Victoria Harbour, which was the way we would enter and leave in a cargo ship of 7,000 gt –

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British India vessel Landaura that I sailed in when we entered Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, in 1963. I was nineteen at the time.
The Diamond Princess is 115,875 gt just a small difference in size.

 

DSC00912rFarewelling Hong Kong was a cold business in April.

DSC00913rA final shot of the blocks of flats before we disappeared inside the accommodation for a spot of warmth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

China focused fiction

I recently started to clean out some books and realised that I gathered a small collection of China focused novels. I think I may have others , but in which box ??

The list is not in any particular order, just as they came to hand.

Tai Pan

Tai Pan – James Clavell

 

Noble HouseNoble House

 

 

Iron TreeThe Iron Tree – Martin Booth

China dawnChina Dawn – Robert Lipscombe Duncan

Mandarin                      Robert ElegantDynasty

 

Fragrant HarbourFragrant Harbour – John Lanchester

Trade Imperial – Alan LloydTrade Imperial

 

 

 

Eight BannersThe Eight Banners – Alan Savage

 

 

 

The Dream TradersThe Dream Traders – E.V. Thompson

Ty shan

 

 

 

 

Ty-Shan Bay – R. T. Aundrews

A Private

A Private Revenge – Richard Woodman

 

 

 

Shanghai  Shanghai – Christopher New

 

 

 

 

The Peking Payoff – Ian Stewart Peking pay off

The Lust of Comrade Lu – Ian Stewart

Lust of

Tea in China

For all the tea in China – Stephen Shepherd

At the moment I doubt that I will give them away . . . . . . they have all been returned to their storage place, because one doesn’t disregard old friends.

 

 

Hong Kong 1963

To carry on from Singapore 1963 and all that . . .Our next port was Hong Kong. We anchored in the harbour, just a week after entering Singapore harbour.

Once again the smell of Asia fired my imagination of day’s gone bye. They do say that you can smell money in Hong Kong – everyone is after their share.

Bum boats (sampans) surrounded the ship offering everything from sew sew girls, who actually did repair clothes, washer women who promise fast turn around of your laundry, food boats offering hot (heat hot and spice hot) food with a cold drink for a very cheap price, haircut and a free shave, there seemed to be a boat for everything. The smaller boats rowed by a single oar at the stern, operated by a female, the richer boats had small engines. Taxi boats came alongside to offer a ferry service to Hong Kong Island or Kowloon. Rates were discussed and bartered until we all had an understanding of the ‘correct’ fee for the trip ashore.

Sampan

Similar to Singapore we were at anchor and worked cargo in to junks and barges. Everything that we required from fresh water to frozen food and fresh vegetables had to come out by boat. Very few ships had the ability to turn seawater in to fresh water. Working cargo, while at anchor, occurred in so many ports from the Persian Gulf to the harbours of Penang, Singapore, and Hong Kong that we never found it strange.

The Star Ferry operated between the island and the mainland (Kowloon) and seemed to take quite a while to complete the run. I returned to Hong Kong in 2006 and due to land reclamation the trip today is much shorter, and some how not as romantic.

 

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Hong Kong Island in the 60’s

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40 years later in 2006

Of course we’d seen the film ‘The World of Suzie Wong’ and we’d read the book, so we had to find Suzie Wong during our short stay. The novel was made in to a film and stared William Holden.

Suzie Wong      SuzieWongPoster

We covered as many bars as we could find. We worked all day on the ship, and partied most nights. At nineteen one had stamina! Every bar we entered offered us a box or book of matches, after all most of us smoked in those pre PC days. Smoking was virtually compulsory considering the very low price of cigarettes, which were duty & tax-free on the ship. Samples of the matches from some of the bars are shown in this picture.

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We did find Suzie’s bar . . . not a bit like I imagined.
We were not on holiday and could only get ashore in the evening, so we didn’t spend every spare minute checking out the bars, but did manage to get to the Peak via the Peak tram. Even these sites have changed – the green trains are now red (or where in 2006) and the view has changed somewhat.

HONG KONG Funiculaire Victoria Peak

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After two days working cargo, the clanking of the anchor chain, as we weighed anchor, heralded our departure. We were off again, and this time to Japan. The short voyage, via the Straits of Formosa, took us six days and we anchored off Yokohama.

 

Judy Judy Judy

From Shanghai we sailed for Hong Kong.

Chanda

On entering Hong Kong harbour we encountered thick fog or very heavy sea mist. It was so thick that we put our engines on ‘dead slow’, so as to enter harbour very carefully. We had lookouts at the masthead, as well as down aft in case another ship came at us from astern. Being one of the two cadets, I was posted forward to the forecastle, with a crew member, to listen for sounds. The crew member listened on the port side (left hand side), and I listened on the starboard side (right hand side). Regular blasts, from our foghorn rent the air to inform any other vessel of our position.

A ship’s bell was permanently located on the forecastle, for the lookout when at sea. If at night he saw a light on the starboard side he would strike the bell once, for a light on the port side it was two strikes, and dead ahead was three strikes. The number of rings told the officer on the bridge the direction of the light. The bell was used in the same way during fog. Instead of distant lights, striking the bell indicated sound or even a sighting.

Suddenly I heard a sound and rang the ship’s bell with a single stroke. The sound that I could hear was very close. There was also a phone link between the bow and the bridge, and now it rang.

The Captain asked me what I’d heard.

‘Judy, Judy, Judy, Sir!’

‘What the blazes are you talking about?’

‘It’s the name of a pop song, Sir. I think we are close to a junk, and they have their radio on very high.’

Junk

As I finished my report a small junk came out of the mist, and when the junk’s crew realised how close they were to a 7,000-ton ship, they altered course to pass down our starboard side, shouting and cursing in Cantonese, and waving their arms in anger as Johnny Tillotson kept them company with ‘Judy, Judy, Judy’. The junk rocked back and forth due to our wake, even though we were hardly moving through the water.

Slowly the fog began to lift and we were able to enter harbour safely and anchor at the appropriate place.