(Sort of) Long Range DXing in Hong Kong
Prior to our April trip multiple warnings had been received from Japan, Australia and New Zealand that Hong Kong was a very tough DXing environment, and that long range expectations should be modest at best. Upon arrival in the ultra-crowded environment I was getting a crash course in RFI noise, restricted private beaches and the almost total lack of privacy and security at public beaches around sunrise or sunset. Medium wave DXing as a hobby didn't seem to exist in Hong Kong, and despite the numerous eBay sellers offering Ultralight radios, a very thorough search couldn't turn up any such radios for sale in local stores.
A huge collection of Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong pests plastered the entire band from top to bottom, to the extent that I hadn't even been able to track down a single station from either Japan or Korea for the first five days. After five days (out of seven) my results were limited to Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Kampuchea and Bangladesh. Setting up the 5" FSL around sunrise or sunset would have been a great idea, except that there was no accessible public beach offering decent security or privacy for the idea-- and the other Hong Kong venues seemed saturated with tall buildings and RFI. It was a Catch 22 situation that seemed to rule out any gain antenna setup, which in turn would probably rule out any long range results. No wonder why the vast majority of visiting hobbyists write the place off for serious DXing!
There was still one wacky idea that could be tried, however. I had brought along a 7.5 inch loopstick C.Crane Skywave SSB model as my main receiver, and by desperate experimentation I had discovered that if I stuck the entire radio outside of the jail-like security window of our 12th story apartment in a downtown high rise building I could somehow escape all of the RFI emanating from the entire building. I had absolutely no idea which DXing direction was optimized by this wild maneuver, and even after sticking the Ultralight out of the window the radio was still surrounded by apartment buildings on all four sides (see photo). But since two DXing friends in Japan (Hiroyuki Okamura and Satoshi Miyauchi) had courteously supplied me with a list of big gun Middle East, African and European MW stations that they typically can receive in Japan around sunrise with decent gain antennas on favorable ocean beaches, what did I have to lose by going after them with a 7.5 inch loopstick in the downtown Hong Kong concrete jungle?
Hiroyuki-san and Satoshi-san's list included such exotic fare as 702-BBC (Oman), 720-BBC (Cyprus), 917-Nigeria, 936-Iran, 990-Radio Sawa (Cyprus), 999-TWR (Moldova), 1134-Kuwait, 1233-Monte Carlo, 1413-Vesti FM (Moldova), 1413-BBC (Oman), 1431-Radio Sawa (Djibouti), 1449-Iran and 1548-TWR (Moldova). It's probably safe to say that no other 7.5 inch loopstick in radio history has ever been drafted into such a wildly optimistic long range DXing adventure.
As I stuck the souped-up Ultralight outside the window at 6 AM local time (2200 UTC) on April 6th I gave a try for anything on 702, 1413 or 1530 kHz (which was one of my own wildly optimistic additions, VOA in Sao Tome). 702 was plastered by China and a Filipino, and 1530 was ruined by another Filipino with horrible audio. But 1413 had something relatively weak in a Slavic language, which didn't sound Asian at all. After recording the station and posting it on Real DX the language was identified by Mauno and Dmitry as Russian, which matched the language format of Vesti FM in Grigoriopol. Moldova (at 4,869 miles/ 7,835 km). There was some confusion because I still didn't know that a morning session in Hong Kong at 0600 local time on April 7th was actually 2200 UTC on April 6th UTC time, but wow, what a shocker!
After this confirmation that a souped-up Ultralight could indeed be competitive in the Hong Kong concrete jungle for receiving Eastern European DX around sunrise, I went for broke the next early morning, tracking down decent signals from 1413-BBC in Pashto from Oman at 1828 UTC, 1431-Radio Sawa in Arabic from Djibouti (East Africa) at 2143 UTC, and a somewhat weaker signal from 1548-TWR in Bulgarian from Moldova just after sign on at 1900 UTC. Time was running out for the Hong Kong trip, however, and despite great eagerness to go after more wacky and wild DX like this all the gear needed to be packed away for the return trip shortly thereafter. I guess the moral of the story is that no matter how hopeless your DXing situation seems, never hesitate to push your luck for all it is worth-- your radio just might pull off some shocking receptions against the odds.
73 and Good DX,
Gary DeBock (DXing in Hong Kong from April 2-8)
All receptions made by a stand-alone 7.5" loopstick C.Crane Skywave SSB Ultralight