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Firewood Bay in the Rain.

A Look Around Chai Wan

rain

Law Uk Museum.

Law Uk Museum.

Yesterday, I had arranged to go to North Point and meet my friend Jason for a drink after he finished work. Since I was going all that way, I decided I might as well combine my trip with a bit of sightseeing, so I took the train all the way to Chai Wan at the far end of the Island Line. I've recently discovered a lot of things I want to do in this area. Unfortunately, the weather yesterday was terrible. If I hadn't arranged to meet Jason, I'd have left the sightseeing till another day.

Chai Wan nowadays is filled with modern housing estates and, at first glance, may not appear interesting, but if you look further there are many things to see here. On this occasion, I only had time to do two of these, but I am planning to do them all. Chai Wan translates literally as Firewood Bay, presumably because it was a good place for collecting firewood in the past.

At Chai Wan Station I exited through exit B. I wanted to visit a Hakka folk museum called Law Uk and was pleased to see it was only two minutes away from the MTR. Law is a surname and Uk means house. Hakka families used to use the word Uk to mean a group of houses or a village, so Law Uk was the village of the Law Clan. Nowadays the only remaining village house has been converted into a museum run by the Hong Kong Museum of History. Like all museums in Hong Kong, entry to this museum is free. The museum is open from 10am to 6pm, daily, except Thursdays.

In the early eighteenth century around three hundred Hakka people migrated southwards from Guangdong. They settled in what is now known as Chai Wan, where they built several villages such as: Law Uk, Shing Uk, Lam Uk, Sai Tsuen and Tai Peng Tsuen. At that time this area had many trees, which the Hakka families chopped down, and probably used as firewood. They used the cleared plots of land as places to grow vegetables and raise animals, such as pigs and chickens. These villages were originally closer to the sea, as there has subsequently been quite a bit of land reclamation here. Villagers would mainly have got around using sampans. By the 1960's the population of Hong Kong had risen immensely. This area was becoming more and more urbanised and the Hakka families no longer had enough space for their small farms. The last generation of Law Uk villagers moved out at this time and most of their houses were demolished, but, fortunately for some reason, one remained. It was initially left to fall into ruins, but then in 1976 a decision was made to renovate and preserve this building turning it into a museum.

Law Uk is a typical Hakka building. It has few windows and the ones it does have are very small and high up. This was a defensive measure. Hong Kong was a dangerous place filled with many pirates and robbers. Behind the wooden doors of the building with their images of the door gods, there is a tiny open courtyard. This acted as a light well, otherwise the house would be too dark inside. The toilet is actually located just behind one of the main doors. An odd quirk in Hakka house design is that if you want privacy behind a door when you are using the toilet, you have to cover the toilet area with the front door of the house. In other words when the front door is closed, the toilet is exposed. When the front door is open, it covers the toilet. My friend, Jason, who is a couple of years younger than me, remembers his grandmother in Fanling having a toilet like this, though he said hers did not have an actual toilet in this space. It had a water tap and people went here to wash. When they needed the loo, they had to use a bucket. They used their wee to help fertilize their crops. This would have been in the late 60's, early 70's. In my view not that long ago.

I visited on a very rainy day and can verify that rainwater pours in to the house through the open light well. There are drains on the ground to try and stop the water going into the rooms of the house.

Directly opposite the front door is the main hall of the house. This was basically the living room and would have housed the ancestral shrine. Weddings and festivals would have been celebrated here. To the left there is a kitchen and to the right there is a storeroom. Wooden stairs on both sides of the house lead up to bedrooms. Unfortunately, you cannot go up there.

The house has been furnished with objects and furniture from Hong Kong History Museum. These objects include a wooden pram, a washstand, tools, baskets, cooking utensils, models of Hakka food.

The communal area in front of each house would have been used for drying food, drying laundry, socialising with other villagers, celebrating festivals and cooling off on hot summer evenings.

I was the only visitor to this museum on such a miserable day. The attendant was very friendly and helpful.

Law Uk Museum.

Law Uk Museum.

Front doors with door gods.

Front doors with door gods.

Behind the door inside that white boxlike area is the toilet. When the house door is open, the toilet has some privacy. Can you see the rain pouring in?

Behind the door inside that white boxlike area is the toilet. When the house door is open, the toilet has some privacy. Can you see the rain pouring in?

The main hall with tables, chairs and ancestral shrine.

The main hall with tables, chairs and ancestral shrine.

Main hall.

Main hall.

Kitchen with stove, cooking utensils and food models.

Kitchen with stove, cooking utensils and food models.

Stove.

Stove.

Baby's cradle and rather uncomfortable looking baby's pram.

Baby's cradle and rather uncomfortable looking baby's pram.

Storeroom for tools.

Storeroom for tools.

When I had finished looking at the museum, I returned towards the MTR. I wanted to go to Chai Wan Park. I knew the easiest way to get there was through exit D of the MTR, but I saw a sign outside the MTR and followed that by this time the rain was pelting down and I was tempted to just abandon going to the park all together. The route I took to the park involved me crossing a huge road, the Eastern Corridor I think, on an overhead walkway.

Chai Wan Park is really beautiful even in the rain, though it wasn't easy to take pictures without soaking my phone. If I have time, I may return in better weather. The park has quite a lot of sports facilities. It also has many, many water features such as ponds, fountains and waterfalls. It's a park in which you can climb up to many different features. I started by climbing up to the terrace garden. I'm sure some of the structures here are old, but there was no information about what they were. I also climbed up to the hilltop area which is topped with a sort of weather vane. Another area to climb to is the top of the cascade. The cascade was not functioning when I visited. The top of the cascade has a pyramid shaped glass structure and old canons. I could not see any information about where the canons came from. Either there was no information, or I was just missing everything as I was getting absolutely soaked even with an umbrella.

I walked, or more accurately paddled as the floor was pretty wet by then, around the park's many water features. There is a lily pond filled with turtles and fish. The turtles appeared to be happily enjoying the weather. There is a lovely model boat pond here, though no-one was using it. There is an area known as the channel fountain.

Entrance to Chai Wan Park.

Entrance to Chai Wan Park.

Terrace Garden.

Terrace Garden.

Terrace Garden.

Terrace Garden.

Lily pond.

Lily pond.

Lily pond.

Lily pond.

Looking down from the top of the cascade.

Looking down from the top of the cascade.

View over the lily pond from the cascade.

View over the lily pond from the cascade.

Pyramid at the top of the cascade.

Pyramid at the top of the cascade.

Canons at the top of the cascade.

Canons at the top of the cascade.

Canons and pyramid at the top of the cascade.

Canons and pyramid at the top of the cascade.

Model boat pond.

Model boat pond.

Channel fountain.

Channel fountain.

Weather vane.

Weather vane.

Fountains.

Fountains.

I was pleased to see it was time to get back on the train and head to North Point, because the weather was not really improving and I was pretty wet. I was meeting my friend Jason, who used to be my T.A. We decided to meet at at the bottom of the hill I used to walk down from work every day, and go to Villa Villa where we used to sometimes go and have a drink after work. Of course, Jason wasn't the only person I used to work with who walks down the hill, so I actually bumped into several others and got a row for not telling them I was coming or they would have joined us. No problem, I'll just have to go back again. It was lovely to catch up with Jason and get up to date on all the latest gossip. I could also grill him for information about the museum, as he is Hakka. Now that COVID is going down again here, I really need to catch up with a lot of people.

This beautiful little girl used to be in my class. Her mother is my friend and works in my old school.

This beautiful little girl used to be in my class. Her mother is my friend and works in my old school.

Villa Villa.

Villa Villa.

Jason is happy when he has a beer in his hand. Here he is double happy.

Jason is happy when he has a beer in his hand. Here he is double happy.

Selfie time.

Selfie time.

Selfie time.

Selfie time.

I wanted a photo where I didn't have a double chin. Jason says I look like I'm strangling myself.

I wanted a photo where I didn't have a double chin. Jason says I look like I'm strangling myself.

Finally, I went to the supermarket I used to always shop in after school and stocked up on some of the things I miss. Then I headed home. When I reached Sunny Bay Station, the sun was starting to set. It had finally stopped raining.

Sunset at Sunny Bay.

Sunset at Sunny Bay.

Sunset at Sunny Bay.

Sunset at Sunny Bay.

Sunset at Sunny Bay.

Sunset at Sunny Bay.

Sunset at Sunny Bay.

Sunset at Sunny Bay.

Posted by irenevt 07:55 Archived in Hong Kong

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Comments

Looks like a fun day. We do a lot of sightseeing in the rain. Since it nearly never rains at home, we enjoy it (most of the time) when we're traveling. I loved all the fountains. It must have been nice to escape people for a while in the rain . . . I'm not fond of crowds.

by Beausoleil

Hi Sally, surprisingly there were still lots of people in that park. They just had the sense to be in the shelters. Many people live in very small flats here. They like to get out if they can.

by irenevt

Very peculiar toilet arrangement, sounds like an invitation to burglars to me. Door open, you know that the people inside are using the toilet, perfect time for tresspassing...:)

by hennaonthetrek

Yes, it is strange. My friend whose grandmother had a toilet like this said theirs had a lockable metal gate in front of the door, so it was still secure. I didn't see that on the museum house.

by irenevt

Maybe it has been taken off since there is no real use fpr it anymore the house being an museum :)

by hennaonthetrek

Yes, that's possible. My friend also mentioned lack of privacy as the door didn't completely cover the toilet opening so the design was rather odd.

by irenevt

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