Kowloon Walled City (S1.10)

S01E10 Kowloon Walled City audio

For the Season Finale of the first season of 80 Days, we’re going to do something a little different and look at a place that no longer exists: Kowloon Walled CityOnce the most densely populated place in the planet, this unique, untamable settlement existed in Hong Kong, growing up from a military settlement which was originally built to demarcate the border between the British and Chinese controlled areas in the territory. It grew in size and scope to become a tightly-packed labyrinth of illegal activity and squalor, unregulated by either the Chinese or British governments. At its peak, over 30,000 people lived in the Walled City, resulting in a population density of approximately 1,255,000 inhabitants per square kilometre (3,250,000/sq mi). It was demolished in 1994, shortly before China retook control of Hong Kong, but has since become a cultural touchstone,  a fascinating example of what humanity can become when allowed to run unchecked. Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 and Joe Byrne@anbeirneach, in Hong Kong, the UK and Switzerland, respectively. (Theme music byThomas O’Boyle)

A large solid block of ramshackle buildings varying in height, with many taller buildings and some mountains in the background.

Some things you might like to know more about:

  • The name Kowloon, given to the peninsula north of Hong Kong Island, comes from the Cantonese pronunciation of 九龍, Chinese for “Nine Dragons” (gau lung, or in Madarin Jiǔ ng); the name was given to it by the last Song Emporer, the 8-year-old Bing (), who saw the 8 mountains surrounding the place as “dragons”. A clever courtier pointed out that the Emperor was also a “dragon”, and hence there were 9. The story is told here in HK Magazine
  • We drew a few quotes and a lot of insight from Elizabeth Sinn’s article Kowloon Walled City: Its Origins and Early History” (Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1987, vol 27, p 30); for a more detailed account of this era, this article is recommended reading
  • When the Fortified City was built in 1846,  giant stone name plaques decorated the main gate to the city (reading , translated as Kowloon Walled City); they were excavated and can still be seen on the site today
  • The Opium Wars led to dramatic changes in this region of Qing China, with Hong Kong and later Kowloon falling into British hands through the  Peking Convention. Read further information about the wars from Julia Lovell (Birbeck, University of London) or Encyclopaedia Britannica
  • Mark came across a cannon from the ship Nemesis (the British East India Company’s first iron-clad warship) in the gardens of Windsor Castle; it is pictured below. More on the Nemesis from Victorian Web.

A cannon from the ship

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  • Finally, here is some handheld camera footage by Rob Frost from the early 1990s inside the City:

We hope you enjoyed listening to Season 1. We’ll be taking a break for a couple of months to get production of Season 2 under way, but you may hear from us occasionally during the break. If you’ve been entertained by what you heard, then let us know – leave a review on iTunes (or wherever you listen), or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter. We also really welcome feedback about places we’ve explored and recommendations for where we should go next season.

Gibraltar (S1.08)

Audio: S1E08 Gibraltar

In this week’s episode of 80 Days, we are talking about Gibraltar the “key to the Mediterranean”. Famous for the imposing Rock of Gibraltar, this 6.7 square kilometre British Overseas Territory is an historic anomaly at the tip of the Iberian peninsula with a unique status and culture. It forms the northern side of the Pillars of Heracles which mark the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean. The tiny territory is also famous for its Barbary macaques, the only  wild monkey population in Europe. Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach, in Hong Kong, the UK and Ireland, respectively. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)

 

There are some things we talked about you might want to know more about:

  • Archaeological finds at Gorham’s Cave and other sites have given evidence that Neanderthals lived her until about 32,000 years ago – much more recently than had previously been expected. It is thought that this area was a lush Savannah climate at the time and very rich in food and resources. The BBC have a report from when the caves were granted UNESCO World Heritage status earlier this year.
  • The name Gibraltar comes from the Arabic Jabal Tariq (جبل طارق) named for Tariq ibn Ziyad who led the Moorish/Umayyad conquest of what is now Spain in the 710s; he had gathered his invading troops at the Rock of Gibraltar before pressing inland.
  • In 1706, when the English took the Rock during the War of Spanish Succession, nearly all of the inhabitants decamped to the City of Gibraltar in the Fields of San Roque, expecting a temporary stay. The Spanish city of San Roque is still there to this day and still features symbols of Gibraltar in its crest
  • Gibraltar’s status as an British territory was regularised, by Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713)

The Catholic King does hereby, for himself, his heirs and successors, yield to the Crown of Great Britain the full and entire propriety of the town and castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications, and forts thereunto belonging; and he gives up the said propriety to be held and enjoyed absolutely with all manner of right for ever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever.

Crew of the HMS Wasp who demolished O’Hara’s Tower (O’Hara’s Folly)

  • New Statesman has an article describing the history behind the legends that tie the presence of the famous Barbary macaques to British control of the Rock
View of Gibraltar with barbary ape

Photo of a “Barbary Ape” over Gibraltar by user kanu101 on Flickr

  • We spoke about the unusual airport that spans Gibraltar’s entire border with Spain and crosses the main street; there is a video on YouTube which shows the airport from above and a plane taking off from its short runway