About a century ago, Kai Tak International Airport was built on a large reclamation site on the eastern side of the Kowloon Peninsula. After its opening in 1925, Kai Tak Airport gradually became one of the busiest airports in the world, and its cargo volume was the highest in the world. Since the opening of the new Hong Kong International Airport in Chek Lap Kok in 1998, the site of the old Kai Tak Airport became a significant development area with one of the essential infrastructures being its large cruise terminal. The district is expected to become an up-and-coming residential area in East Kowloon in the future.
A World-Class Cruise Terminal
The Kai Tak Airport runway was officially converted into the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in 2013. Designed and built by Foster + Partners, the terminal occupies more than 140,000 square metres, with its construction cost totalling HK$7.2 billion. It is the first port in Hong Kong dedicated to sizable international cruise ships. It can accommodate two 220,000-tonne super cruise ships and handle 3,000 passengers per hour; helping promote Hong Kong as a cruise hub and the cruise industry in Hong Kong, an important cornerstone of the city’s economy. While it offers expansive views of Victoria Harbour, the terminal was built with the most advanced technology and building concepts as seen in its streamline design which allows the influx of natural light and further enhances ventilation. Aiming to improve Kai Tak’s connectivity to the rest of Hong Kong, a plan to introduce a train system to connect to various districts is in the pipeline for the district.
The Kai Tak Runway Park, which is connected to the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, opened in 2014 and has since become a popular tourist attraction in the area. The park has kept many of its historical elements including the former runway numbers “13” and “31” as well as the yellow and black checkerboard landing markings. The park has a “Kai Tak Historical Axis” on display which points to historical landmarks of the airport to let visitors learn the history of the old airport. However, the biggest draw of the park is its expansive lawn; apart from being a famous picnic spot, the lawn gives visitors magnificent views of Victoria Harbour, Lei Yue Mun and Kwun Tong.
The History of Walled Villages
Located mainly in the New Territories, the term “Walled Village” refers to the villages inhabited by the indigenous residents of Hong Kong. With a history spanning more than 600 years, Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen, situated near the Kai Tak area, is the only remaining urban inhabitant village in Hong Kong. The relics of Lung Tsun Stone Bridge and the sacred hill of Sung Wong Toi, which were unearthed during the construction of the Shatin to Central Link, showcase the historical development of Hong Kong. With the rapid growth of Kowloon City and Wong Tai Sin, developers have gradually acquired Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen in the 1980s with the last two families moving out in 2016.
The “Hing Yau Yu Tsuen” stone tablet and the Tin Hau Temple have been retained, while a few buildings with historical value have also been preserved. Last year, the URA announced that the remains of the watchtower and the wall that was built during the Ming or mid-Qing Dynasties were found. It aroused the concern of conservation groups and the construction work of the development project was stopped.
The Sacred Boulder
Sung Wong Toi Garden tells a little-known history of Hong Kong. In the last few years of the Southern Song Dynasty, the seven-year-old Song Wang Duanzong and his younger brother, Wei, fled to the vicinity of Kowloon City, to hide themselves away from the Mongolian army. However, Duanzong died due to illness and Wei committed suicide. The nearby residents later engraved the characters “Song Wong Toi” on a boulder and called the area ‘Sacred Hill’. Unfortunately, the rock was blasted by the Japanese army during the Second World War. The wreckage of the giant rock was refurbished and moved to the present Song Wong Tai Garden.
A Treasure Trove of Shopping
After the relocation of the Kai Tak Airport, new developments have opened, including large-scale residential projects and large shopping malls such as the Mikiki in The Latitude which targets youngsters. The mall consists of nearly 100 shops occupying 210,000 square feet, most of which are fashion stores and chain restaurants. The mall soon become a hot spot for shopping and leisure for nearby residents. Within walking distance of Mikiki, San Po Kong Plaza has been in operation for decades. Unlike large shopping malls, the plaza consists of traditional Hong Kong-style shops, including the only book rental shop in Hong Kong, Shung Ling Bookstore, and small shops selling a variety of items. It is a treasure trove for those who want a respite from chain stores in big shopping malls.