Hong Kong – a temporary city?

While wandering artound the streets of Yau Ma Tei, I came across a serious looking concrete building with a curious looking sign – ‘Shanghai Street Temporary Refuse Collection Point’. So why is a ‘temporary’ building so permanent looking?

'Shanghai Street Temporary Refuse Collection Point' - it looks quite permanent to me

Turns out this isn’t the only ‘temporary’ government facility in Hong Kong. There is the Woosung Street Temporary Cooked Food Hawker Bazaar around the corner.

Woosung Street Temporary Cooked Food Hawker Bazaar (photo by Mcwimgpos, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Mcwimgpos, via Wikimedia Commons

The ‘Wai Lok Street Temporary Soccer Pitch’ in Sai Tso Wan.

Wai Lok Street Temporary Soccer Pitch (photo by Exploringlife, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Exploringlife, via Wikimedia Commons

The ‘Kennedy Town Temporary Recreation Ground‘ on Hong KOng Island.

Kennedy Town Temporary Recreation Ground (photo by Exploringlife, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Exploringlife, via Wikimedia Commons

‘Moreton Terrace Temporary Playground’ in Causeway Bay.

Moreton Terrace Temporary Playground (photo by Ceeseven, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Ceeseven, via Wikimedia Commons

The ‘Wan Chai Temporary Promenade‘ on Victoria Harbour.

Wan Chai Temporary Promenade (photo by WiNG, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by WiNG, via Wikimedia Commons

And ‘David Lane Temporary Public Toilet‘ in Sai Ying Pun.

David Lane Temporary Public Toilet (photo by Martin Tai Hing, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Martin Tai Hing, via Wikimedia Commons

I also found references to the North District Temporary Wholesale Market for Agricultural Products in Fanling, the Cheung Sha Wan Temporary Wholesale Poultry Market in Kowloon, the Yen Chow Street Temporary Hawker Bazaar in Sham Shui Po, and the Bowen Road Temporary Playground in Mid-levels.

So why do ‘temporary’ structures last so long?

There is the ‘Haiphong Road Temporary Market’ in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Haiphong Road Temporary Market (photo by Hpalsgm, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Hpalsgm, via Wikimedia Commons

South China Morning Post subsidiary ‘HK Magazine’ explained why Hasn’t the Haiphong Road Temporary Market Been There Forever?:

Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
What’s going on with the Haiphong Road Temporary Market? I walk past it all the time in Tsim Sha Tsui and it looks like it’s been there forever. – Market Mark

In Hong Kong terms, it pretty much has been there forever.

Haiphong Road is one of the few places in Hong Kong not named for a Chinese or British place or person. It actually takes its name from the northern Vietnamese port of Hai Phong, which once had close commercial ties to the area. Originally called Elgin Road, the avenue was renamed in 1909 to prevent confusion with the street in SoHo. (Other name changes in TST at the same time included Chater Street becoming Peking Road, Des Voeux Road turning into Chatham Road, and Robinson Road switching to Nathan Road).

As for the Haiphong Road Temporary Market—it’s even less temporary than you might have thought. It was created in 1978 to house hawkers displaced by the redevelopment of Canton Road, making it the oldest temporary market in the city.

The hawkers were squeezed into the awkward triangular space created by the construction of the Kowloon Park Drive flyover, and asked to wait it out until more suitable accommodation could be found. But a purpose-built building never appeared and the site is difficult to develop, thanks to the flyover overhead. And so the market continued and continues to this day, still temporary 37 years after it was set up.

Despite its ad-hoc nature, the Haiphong Road market is as permanent a part of Tsim Sha Tsui life as Chungking Mansions itself.

The ‘Tung Chau Street Temporary Market‘ in Sham Shui Po has a similar story.

“Apple Daily” picture

Which Apply Daily explains in a piece titled Market Story – On Borrowed Space:

According to the government’s market policy, the existence of temporary markets was originally built to rehouse hawker stalls on the street. The land allocation is temporary. These temporary markets will be dismantled or become permanent facilities according to the population structure and needs of the community.

The ‘Cadagan Street Temporary Garden’ in Sai Wan has another interesting story.

Cadagan Street Temporary Garden (photo by Callyriam Wong, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Callyriam Wong, via Wikimedia Commons

Built on the site of a rubbish incinerator and abattoir before turned into a park, local residents fighting to save the space from redevelopment.

Residents have been fighting against the demolition of the park, saying they will lose a vital green space.

The government announced the park’s demolition as part of redevelopment plans for Kennedy Town west in a bid to tackle the housing shortage. The site is expected to host more than 600 private flats.

Before the garden was constructed, the area was the site of an incinerator – which ceased operation in March 1993 – and an abattoir which closed in 1999. The government claims the waste produced by those facilities has contaminated the soil and requires it to be excavated and replaced, which would take seven years.

Residents worry excavation work will release contaminants into the air. They believe it would be better to leave the park in-situ to avoid such a risk, and leave residents with access to rare recreational space.

While the story of the ‘Wuhu Street Temporary Playground’ in Ho Man Tin shows that even temporary spaces can be temporarily closed.

Wuhu Street Temporary Playground (photo by Wendy Lam Kit Yee, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Wendy Lam Kit Yee, via Wikimedia Commons

From the Leisure and Cultural Services Department:

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department announced today (March 22) that the Wuhu Street Temporary Playground will be closed from March 26, 2012, to May 22, 2015, for the construction of the Kwun Tong Line Extension project by MTR Corporation Limited.

But the last word comes from the Hong Kong Government and the way they manage land.

Generally speaking, sites are disposed through land grant for permanent development by the private sector (e.g. private housing, private office, industrial, utilities, etc.), and through Government Land Allocations for permanent development by government departments (e.g. infrastructure, schools, hospitals, welfare facilities, parks and leisure facilities, libraries, sports facilities, etc.)

There are instances where sites in development zones are ready for development, but the permanent developments according to planning are not yet ready for immediate implementation (e.g. due to service plan, demand, funding, or other reasons), or sites are kept as reserve for future uses (mainly for G/IC uses).

The Government would normally endeavour to put such available sites “in transition” into temporary or short-term gainful uses as far as possible, so as to avoid leaving the sites idle and make the best use of available land resource.

A common temporary usage of government land is open space – in 2017 a total of 748 allocations existed, covering a total area of about 76 hectares.

When providing these leisure facilities, the Government would consider a range of factors such as the area and duration of the land available for development, the surrounding environment, the needs of the residents in the district concerned as well as the facilities in nearby venues, etc., and consult the District Councils on the proposed design and facilities to be provided. As regards the temporary leisure facilities under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, they are mainly small gardens, sitting-out areas and playgrounds. In respect of the management arrangements, they are managed in a similar way as other open spaces managed by the department.

Further reading

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Gate numbering at Hong Kong International Airport

Gate numbers at airports is something taken as a given by passengers – you get told which one your flight is leaving from, and you make sure you get there on time! However the other day I was taking a look at a map of Hong Kong International Airport, and came to an interesting discovery – gate numbering doesn’t have to be sequential or logical.

Looking north past the gates at the Midfield Concourse

What gates do exist?

The Wikipedia page for Hong Kong International Airport has this to say about the gates:

The airport has a total of 90 boarding gates – 78 jet bridge gates (1–4, 15–36, 40–50, 60–71, 201–219, 501–510) and 12 virtual gates (228–230, 511–513, 520–525) which are used as assembly points for passengers, who are then ferried to the aircraft by apron buses.

So why are the gate numbers non sequential, and jump all the way from 1 to 500? The airport map has part of the answer.

Gates 1 through 80 are located in the main terminal building.

Overview of Hong Kong International Airport

Gates in the 2xx range are in the Midfield Concourse, accessed by the automated people mover system.

Midfield Concourse at Hong Kong International Airport now open for use

And gates in the 5xx range are located in the North Satellite Concourse, accessed by shuttle bus from the main terminal.

Looking past the North Satellite Concourse to the main concourse and air traffic control tower

But what about the gaps in the 1-80 range for the main terminal building?

Someone posed this question on Wikipedia back in 2006.

Since the Airport’s opening in 1998, the signs in the departure area have read “Gates 1-80”.

However, I found that there are a lot of gates that “didn’t exist”.

Those gates were Gates 9, 14, 20, 37-39, 51-59 and 72-80.

The last time I landed in Hong Kong, I noticed that Gate 20 has been added.

What has happened to all the others? I would really be interested to know.

Kylohk 14:51, 15 July 2006 (UTC)

As did someone else in 2017.

Should there be something to explain where gates 71-80 are? Because it seems that those gates do not exist, despite signs saying gates “33-80”

TheCoffeeAddict 04:08, 9 March 2017 (UTC)

So where did the gates go?

Gate 20 is an oddity – as late as July 2005 the gate didn’t appear on airport maps.

But gates 5 through 8 can be seen, along with gates 10 through 13 – none of which exist today.


Transfer bus station at the North Satellite Concourse at Hong Kong Airport

Thankfully there is a source of truth to consult – the airport aircraft parking / docking chart produced for the use of pilots.

Bay numbers directly correspond to gate numbers, with the following terminal adjacent parking spaces marked:

  • Bays E1 – E4: north concourse
  • Bays E15 – E19: south concourse
  • Bay N20: central concourse
  • Bays N22 – N34 (even): north side, central concourse
  • Bays S23 – S35 (odd): south side, central concourse
  • Bays W40 – W50 (even): north side, south west concourse
  • Bays S41 – S49 (odd): south side, south west concourse
  • Bays N36 – N70 (even): north side, north west pier
  • Bays W61 – W71 (odd): south side, north west pier
  • Bays D201 – D219: Midfield Concourse
  • Bays N501 – N510: North Satellite Concourse

So how to explain the gates that don’t appear?

Gates: 5 – 8 and 10 – 13 were once virtual gates used by shuttle bus passengers – since renumbered as 511 – 513 and 520 – 525 with one gate being shuffled from the ‘north’ to the ‘south’ concourse.

Gate 9 and 14 didn’t fit into the ’10 gates on the north and south concourse’ pattern.

Gate 20: added to the airport after completion, by squeezing in an extra parking bay between gates 15 and 22.

Gates 37 – 39 were omitted so that the south west concourse numbering could start at 40.

Gates 51 – 59 were omitted so that the north west concourse numbering could start at 60.

Gates 72 – 80 were omitted so that signage in the main terminal would read a nice round ‘gates 1 – 80’.

Gates 2xx were numbered in their own group due to their remote location via the automated people mover.

Gates 5xx received even higher numbers due to the long shuttle bus ride required to access them.

Directional signage to the gates, airline transfer desks and ferries

Clear as mud?

One final oddity

Before the opening of the Midfield Concourse, passengers to gates 33 – 80 were directed to use the automated people mover instead of walking.

'Next train in 1 minute' - trains run about every 2 to 3 minutes

But today it has been changed to gates 40 – 80 and 201 – 230.

Departing passengers board a westbound train at Terminal 1

Presumably directing four gates of passengers to walk instead taking the automated people mover was to free up capacity for passengers headed to the Midfield Concourse, who don’t have the same option.

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Bridging a taxiway at Hong Kong Airport

In 2017 the Hong Kong Airport Authority announced an interesting project – a bridge so tall that double decker A380 ‘super jumbo’ jets could pass under.

The South China Morning Post had this to say on the proposal.

Boarding a bus to catch a plane at Hong Kong International Airport could soon be a thing of the past with plans afoot to build a bridge across the airfield.

Currently, any passengers travelling on flights from an isolated terminal called the North Satellite Concourse, must be ferried to or from the main airport building by a shuttle bus.

The Airport Authority has invited bids to build a structure linking the two buildings. The tender contract was expected to be issued in the third quarter of 2017 and construction would take at least two years.

Airlines have welcomed the proposal, saying it would further improve the passenger experience at one of the world’s most highly rated airports.

Few details have been made public, though the bridge could cost at least HK$2 billion, based on previous creations and factoring inflation and higher construction costs locally.

With the Airport Technology website providing a few extra details.

Known as Sky Bridge, the new 28m-high and 200m-long footbridge will help reduce travelling time for the passengers and the need for using shuttle buses, while providing space for the accommodation of the largest A380 flights.

The current state

The North Satellite Concourse was completed in 2009 and marked the first major expansion of gate capacity at Hong Kong International Airport.

To ensure the same level of service for the growing number of passengers flying on smaller aircraft, the Airport Authority has invested over HK$1 billion in the construction of a new North Satellite Concourse (NSC). The new concourse, which will be soft-opened on 17 December, will ensure that Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) continues to meet its performance pledge of embarking and disembarking more than 90% of its passengers by air bridges.The NSC is designed to serve more than five million passengers a year at the initial stage.

Situated to the north of the Terminal 1 (T1), the NSC is a two-storey facility equipped with 10 frontal stands (gate numbers: 501 to 510) for narrow-bodied aircraft. Passengers using the new concourse depart as normal, completing their check-in, immigration and security procedures in either T1 or T2 before proceeding to a designated area at T1 to board a shuttle bus for the concourse. Waiting area of the concourse houses 10 retail and two catering outlets. Departing passengers may also take the shuttle to T1 at any time. Shuttle buses to and from the NSC will run every four minutes.

Passengers deplaning from an arriving flight at the facility will take a shuttle bus to T1 to clear customs and immigration, while transfer passengers will board a shuttle for their connecting flight at T1 or go to the NSC’s transfer area if their next flight departs from the same concourse.

The North Satellite Concourse is the standalone building visible in this overhead view of the airport.

Looking down on the southern remote stands at Hong Kong International Airport

It is mainly used by smaller single aisle jets that carry 100-200 passengers each.

Looking past the North Satellite Concourse to the main concourse and air traffic control tower

Surrounded on all sides by taxiways.

Looking across to the North Satellite Concourse

Shuttle buses are used to move passengers to and from the main terminal building.

Transfer bus linking the North Satellite Concourse to the main terminal

The buses departing from stations on the ground floor of each terminal.

Transfer bus station at the North Satellite Concourse at Hong Kong Airport

And a recent project

In 2016 the Midfield Concourse opened – adding 20 additional gates to Hong Kong International Airport.

It is another terminal building isolated from the rest of the airport, this time located between the aircraft maintenance hangers and the air traffic control tower.

Midfield Concourse at Hong Kong International Airport now open for use

But access for air travellers is much easier – the existing airport people mover system was extended west to serve the new terminal.

Underground guideway between Terminal 1 and the Midfield Concourse

So why isn’t the North Satellite Concourse part of the same system?

I’m guessing two reasons – building a tunnel beneath an operating taxiway is complex, and a location of the terminal means a northward stub would need to be operated as a branch line from the rest of the system.

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Hong Kong transport by the brush of Kong Kai Ming

Back in 2016 something at Hong Kong International Airport caught my eye – a wall covered with incredibly detailed sketches of Hong Kong streets, with transport front and centre.

Artwork by Kong Kai Ming on display

Buses at Aberdeen.

A road tunnel at To Kwa Wan.

A KCR train crosses over Argyle Street in Mong Kok.

The Canton Road overpass in Yau Ma Tei.

The MTR station at Kwun Tong.

And the former tram depot at Wan Chai.

The sketches were the work of Hong Kong artist Kong Kai Ming.

Artwork by Kong Kai Ming on display

And were the subject of a 2016 Hong Kong stamp issue titled “Hong Kong Museums Collection – Pencil Drawings by Mr. Kong Kai-ming“.

The Hongkong Post website features a short biography of Kong Kai-ming.

Mr. Kong Kai-ming, born in 1932, is a famous first-generation artist born and raised in Hong Kong. Devoted to drawing, painting and teaching of art techniques, Mr. Kong has made a profound contribution to local art and art education. Having published more than 60 volumes of art books over the past 60-odd years, he has gained widespread recognition for his accomplishments in the development of art.

Mr. Kong has had a passion for art since his childhood. Unfortunately, amid the economic downturn at the time, he had to become the breadwinner of the family after completing his junior secondary studies. Despite that, he spared time to teach himself painting, practise art techniques painstakingly, and study art theory. Particularly skilful at portrait and landscape sketching, Mr. Kong is conversant with a wide range of mediums, such as fountain pen and pencil sketching, watercolour, oil paint and printmaking. Mr. Kong has captured numerous streetscapes, pieces of architecture and means of transport in Hong Kong in the finest detail. His compositions are not only works of art, but also records showing what Hong Kong looked like in the past.

This is the fourth set of special stamps in the “Hong Kong Museums Collection” series issued by Hongkong Post. With “Pencil Drawings by Mr. Kong Kai-ming” as the theme, the set showcases seven pencil drawings by Mr. Kong during the 1980s and 1990s, all from the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Intaglio printing is used to highlight the meticulous detail of the original work.

If only I could get a larger version of these prints for my wall at home.

Further reading

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Scale models of Kai Tak Airport

Unfortunately for aviation enthusiasts Kai Tak Airport no longer exists, but it does live on in model form.

Photo via ‘The Diecast Flyer’

Donald Gardner from ‘The Diecast Flyer’ has the full story on the model.

Hu Chow has created one of the most impressive renditions of an airport diorama with his design and construction of a model Kai Tak Airport. The 1/400 airport layout takes us back to 1988, a busy time for the once bustling Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport. In this Airport Spotlight Series we chat with Hu about his inspiration and motivation for creating his model airport diorama.

More than just place to park model planes on, the diorama also includes the terminal building, car park, and adjoining landside buildings.

Photo via ‘The Diecast Flyer’

Another model of Kai Tak Airport was once on display at ‘WingsWorld Museum‘ in San Po Kong.

Photo via airchive.com

Approximately 9 metres by 3 metres in size, the model was completed in the late 1990s and was apparently owned by Wilson Yeung of Airliners Group Ltd, then Hong Kong distributor of the Herpa range of model planes.

A number of members on the ‘wings900’ model aircraft collectors forum have also created their own scale models of Kai Tak – this model in 1:500 scale is the work of user ‘Cathay Pacific’.

Photo by wings900 user ‘Cathay Pacific’

Another 1:500 scale Kai Tak is this model by ‘miuccini’.

Photo by wings900 user ‘miuccini’

And here are two more scale models of Kai Tak – by “Charter” and “victordragon747”.


Here is a Lego model of the replacement for Kai Tak – today’s Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok.

Lego model of Hong Kong International Airport

You can find more Lego models of Hong Kong here – but I’m yet to find a Lego version of Kai Tak.

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