Kowloon City

I'll be home alone at Chek Lap Kok

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 July, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 July, 1998, 12:00am

This has been a significant and historic week not only because it marked the first anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the mainland and that presidents Jiang Zemin and Bill Clinton were here on visits but also because my dog rode to Kai Tak for the last time.


But first, did you celebrate on Wednesday? Did your eyes mist over after a) seeing the Chinese flag being hoisted at a ceremony outside the Convention Centre; or b) realising your investments in the stock and property markets have more than halved since last July; or c) watching England lose its bid to win the World Cup and, therefore, your bet? Perhaps it had something to do with the general lack of festivity in the air; I would have overlooked the occasion myself if it had not been for the non-stop news coverage of the visits of the two heads of state and that they were here to coincide with the anniversary.


But was Mr Jiang visiting the SAR because Mr Clinton was here and was the US president here because he needed to get away from women who either claimed they had sex with him or knew women who had? No, I think the handover anniversary was such an unremarkable and lacklustre affair because most of us were too preoccupied with more pressing tasks such as coping with the recession, placing bets on World Cup matches and, in my case, packing.


Oh yes, by the time you read this, I will be doing what I usually do when I am on holiday in England: getting stuck in traffic jams caused by roadworks and becoming hopelessly lost driving on the motor ways from London to Manchester.


But at least this trip was kind of special: it marked the last time I flew out of Kai Tak.


When I arrived at the airport on Tuesday night the place was not only swamped with tourists but also locals who were snapping pictures as if the airport was about to vanish in a David Copperfield act.


Wait a minute, I thought people did not like the airport because of its vicinity to the surrounding residential area and they felt it was too dangerous and too close to home to have thousands of plane passengers peeping at their underwear on the washing lines everyday.


One expatriate told me she did not understand why people were falling over themselves trying to take pictures of Kai Tak, which she thought was a dump. Well, I would not go as far as that but having the sound of plane engines interrupting your conversation every two minutes was annoying.


One of my uncles used to live directly under the flight path in Kowloon City; every time a plane roared over our heads we could feel the flat vibrating. And because we were constantly being interrupted by the planes, we seldom finished our sentences inside his flat. For instance: My cousin: 'Did you see that fantastic television programme last night, it was about . . .' Cathay Pacific: 'WEEEeeeeeee!' My cousin: 'It was brilliant. The murder plot was perfect because . . .' Thai Air: 'WEEEeeeeeee!' Me: 'But I can't hear. . .' Qantas: 'WEEEeeeeeee!' I really marvel at the fact my cousins, who lived in such a noisy environment for so many years, are still coherent and not deaf.


Well, my parents have gone all nostalgic and sentimental over the closure of Kai Tak too.


Apparently both used to live very close to the site.


My mother remembered it being a vast green field where planes (with propellers) occasionally landed. Such landings used to interrupt the traffic because the runway was in the middle of the local traffic.


Well, I suppose I also have reasons to miss the old airport because I have been flying in and out of the place since my school days. But I do not think I will miss it as much as my dog Chin Chin, who we always took with us when dropping off, or picking up, friends and relatives from the airport. I wonder what it is like to fly into Chek Lap Kok. It is so far from the city my parents have already said they will not be picking me up from the airport.


That will leave me with only one option, which is to take the various train connections back to Kowloon.


Oh dear. I think I want Kai Tak back.