This was the route of yesterday’s morning run:
I set out to learn the final part of a race I’m doing in a few weeks called 9 Dragons. It’s a 50/50 race, meaning there is a 50 mile race on the Saturday then 50km on the Sunday. I’m only doing the latter, but a few people I know are doing the two back to back. Nine Dragons is the literal translation of the name Kowloon; the part of the city to the north of Hong Kong’s harbour. Legend has it that Emperor Bing of Song was travelling through and saw the eight mountains surrounding the area, so he decided to call it Eight Dragons. But one of his aides told him, no, it should be called nine dragons as the emperor is the ninth dragon. I sincerely hope this aide’s sycophancy was rewarded with a promotion to the rank of eunuch.
My route began at Golden Hill, AKA Monkey Mountain. The place is overrun with macaques, thousands of them. They have totally lost all fear of humans, or moving cars for that matter. They are fast with sharp teeth and claws and there are loads of them. Don’t let them see you with food.
Anyway, the reason I showed you the map of my route is that it coincides with the line of defences built to defend Hong Kong from Japanese attack during the second world war. The first time I was up in these hills I had no idea all this existed, so I was surprised to stumble upon a series of tunnel entrances, each of which had the name of a London street written above it.
Here is Shaftesbury Avenue:
Called Gin Drinker’s Line (after Gin Drinker’s Bay, which lies at it’s western end) the defences were modelled on the Maginot Line, constructed to defend France from German attack. The fortifications were expected to be able to hold out against a Japanese land invasion for at least three weeks. However, the British didn’t think that the Japanese were likely to launch any kind of surprise attack, so the Gin Drinker’s Line was left massively undermanned overnight.
On the night of December 9 1941, a single team of ten Japanese soldiers made a sneak attack. It seems that they were as surprised as anyone when the attack succeeded. Not having expected to break through the defences so easily, the Japanese had to call in more forces to chase the British back to Hong Kong Island.
The occupation that followed was an extremely dark period of Hong Kong’s history, encapsulated by another site I came across yesterday. On a section of the trail I haven’t explored before, I came across a cave that didn’t look like part of the defences, really just a roughly dug-out hole in the hillside. It turns out that this was an ambush tunnel dug by Japanese forces during the battle for Hong Kong in 1941. I’ve done a little research onto what this tunnel was and how it was used. The tunnel was barely big enough to hold five or six attackers, their job would have been to ambush and inflict as many casualties as possible on a much larger group of soldiers. With no escape route and massively outnumbered, the attackers would have known they had very little chance of survival themselves.