1987 – Hong Kong – “Kowloon Station”


Feeling sick in Kowloon

Saturday, 22nd August 1987 (1700)

I boarded the Cathay Pacific Lockeed L011 Tristar, another new type for me, and I sat in seat 37K. The flight path took us over Vietnam and Laos whilst we were served with pork loin, rice and vegetables. The Tristar had a reasonable resemblance to the DC10, although it seemed more spacious but a little noisier.   The stewardesses “from 10 Asian lands” provided excellent service. I realised that I was now exchanging the yellow “South East Asia lonely planet guide” for the green “North East Asia” one.

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Eventually at 22:00 local time we came in for our landing at Kai Tak airport. It lived up to its fearsome reputation for a scary airport to land at. We banked a little and then came down so low that we could see tower blocks on each side of the aircraft. At the last minute we turned right and plopped ourselves down on to the runway.

The plane before us on the runway had been Japan airlines flight from Tokyo. I knew that because I queued at immigration with 300 Japanese and then queued at customs with them as well.

It was half past midnight before I got out of the terminal. I phoned the IYAC Hostel on Lock street and they confirmed that they had one bed left. I jumped into a grey and red taxi and chugged off past tower blocks, more tower blocks and even more tower blocks until we reached Lock street in Kowloon centre.

I took a lift up to a dingy 6th floor apartment and found a room filled with a huge tank of fish and a lot of westerners watching a “Save The Children” concert live from County Hall in London on the TV. I checked in, bought a beer, and was shown to a bunk bed in a  room that contained five other such beds.

The hostel actually consisted of two rooms with 13 bunk beds split between them.  There were 12 people in one room and 14 in the other.  There was one small kitchen for 26 people and a couple of bathrooms.

It was all run by a Chinese girl called Sally.  One of the good things was that the beer and Coke in the fridge was very cheap.  Sally would come in every morning to empty the box that had the beer money in it and she would restock the fridge.

After a hard day’s travelling and suffering from the remnants of the flu, I just climbed into bed and, still clutching an unopened bottle of San Miguel beer, I fell asleep.


Sunday, 23rd August 1987

I woke up around 9am, showered and left Lock Street to explore. I had brunch in a McDonald’s and then I paid 70c for a ride across the harbour on the Star Ferry. It took eight minutes to cross from Kowloon to cross to Hong Kong Island.

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I walked amongst the ultra-modern tower blocks before joining the queue for the Peak Tram and ascending to the top of the Victoria peak. The wait was about an hour. The journey  took about 10 minutes.

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I found a bench at the top near the tram station on which to sit. I had a great view of the Hong Kong skyscrapers and the bay. I sat there and wrote my diary.   I noticed there were was a hell of a lot of boats in the harbour. I also had a distant view of the jumbo jets landing at Kai Tak airport.

I contemplated my next move.   I almost certainly intended to go to Tokyo but I also wondered whether to stay in Hong Kong for a while, or travel to Tokyo via Seoul.  I decided to think on it.

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Eventually I got the tram down and went back to Hong Kong on the MTR railway. I went back to the hostel exhausted and collapsed into bed.

It was a little claustrophobic in the small bunk bed and a bit noisy too especially as some of my roommates kept very strange hours.


Monday 24th August 1987

I woke up dehydrated, suffering diarrhea and vomiting. I tried to step outside to get some water from the Seven Eleven but I was sick on the pavement.

I went immediately to the chemists located next to the Seven Eleven and got some pills but it was no good, I was fit for nothing.

I went back to bed.

I spent all day Monday in bed.


Tuesday, 25th August 1987

I spent all day Tuesday in bed too, feeling weak and generally sorry for myself.

I read a magazine about strange occult’s and mysteries, I studied a map of Korea and I dipped into Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile.

I slept better on Tuesday night.


Wednesday, 26th August 1987

Finally on Wednesday I felt a bit better. I went out for the first time in 48 hours and bought some corned beef, pasta, bananas and water from the Seven Eleven. I cooked the pasta and corned beef and I had it with bananas and water and I finally felt well enough to leave the building.

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I crossed on the Star ferry to the Hong Kong side and had a walk around for 15 minutes and came straight back.

I still wasn’t 100%.

I went back to bed in the early evening.


Thursday 27th August 1987

By now most of the weak feeling had gone and I spent most of the day outside. I crossed again on the Star Ferry and I took the tram to its eastern terminus.

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I went back on the tram and on the way back I made a decision; I would go directly to Tokyo.

I went immediately to Phoenix travel and got a ticket. I would be departing on flight TG642 on Thai airways the following Wednesday.


Friday,  28th August 1987

I woke up, had diarrhea but generally felt okay.

I took it easy for a few hours and then went back to Pheonix travel to pay for my flight to Tokyo.

I decided to go second class on the Star ferry for the first time and so, instead of the usual 70 cents, I paid 50 and sat downstairs.  Apart from the lower position, I found no recognisable difference.

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I went to a bookshop and a Burger King.  I went for another tram ride, this time to the Kennedy town, passing lots of interesting wharves, convoluted streets and very fragrant markets.

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I caught another tram back to Central and then got a bus through the central tunnel to the fishing village of Aberdeen on the other side of the island. There were a lot of fishing boats in the bay there.

Next I took a bus across the cliff tops for a very picturesque ride via Repulse Bay to Stanley; a place famed for its beach, markets and large British population.

I found that the Hong Kong bus service was excellent. They used British-built double deckers, operated on a cheap flat fare system and ran to a high frequency timetable.

I stopped off to sit on the beach at Stanley for a while and then afterwards I wandered around a supermarket and, true to what I had read, found a lot of British people shopping.

I caught a number 6 bus back to Central and then the Star Ferry back to the Kowloon side.

I felt well enough to get a beef and tomato rice from the local take away and a bottle of water from the Seven Eleven.


Saturday, 29th August 1987

I woke early and made my way to the Jordan Ferry bus terminal and boarded a bus bound for the New Territories. I bought a picnic of ham, bananas, bread and crisps and ate them as the bus made its way along the cliff road. The scenery was on a par with south of France.

Eventually we made it to Yuen Long and changed buses to get another bus to Kam Tim.   There was supposed to be a walled city at Kam Tim. I asked for it but I couldn’t find it. I did find the lookout at Lok Ma Chau and from there I looked across the river into China.

It looked like nothing special at all and I thought it was all a bit of a tourist trap, especially as there were lots of Haaka women there pushing photographs and cheap Chinese jewellery.

I got a bus back to Sheung Shui from where I caught the ultra modern Kowloon KCR railway back to Kowloon station.  I found Kowloon station quite difficult to negotiate at first.  It was another example of Hong Kong’s quite amazing modern infrastructure.

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The station, 3 hotels, a complete shopping centre and numerous streets had been built on reclaimed land. I walked around  the whole area for a while.

I walked along the harbour front and had a look at the Space Centre. Then I went back to the hostel via the money changers and boutique shops of Tsm Tsa Tsui.

At the Seven Eleven I bought, for the the first time in my life, a can of the Japanese Pocari Sweat drink. It came in an interesting blue can and it tasted rather nice.


Sunday, 30th August 1987

I went to the Hong Kong Museum of History.

I felt finally well enough for a beer.  I went with some of the hostel people to the Red Lion pub until one in the morning.


Monday, 31st August 1987

I spent most of the day shopping.

I would pop out every five minutes and then come back with bags, credit card counterfoils and an assortment of jeans, shoes and T shirts and books.

I went back on the Star Ferry to Central to visit the post office again.


Tuesday, 1st September 1987

I spent most of the day relaxing around the immediate vicinity of the hostel.

It was still sweltering outside and I drank several of Sally’s cheap Cokes to keep myself hydrated.

There was nothing much on the local Diamond and Pearl TV, so I listened to the British Forces Network programme instead.

I had been eating from next door takeaway and I had developed a liking for their beef and tomato with rice dish. I ordered it again for my last meal in Hong Kong.

I fell asleep contemplating the next day’s trip to Tokyo.

1987 – Japan – “Tokyo at last”