A Travellerspoint blog

From the City of Darkness to Hogwarts.

Around Kowloon City and Kowloon Tong.

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We have just located a new pharmacy, which sells Peter's glaucoma medicine quite a bit cheaper than his doctors do, so yesterday I was sent out to buy his next round of eye drops. The pharmacy is in Kowloon City, so I thought I might as well go and look at something in the area while I am there. The nearest MTR station to the pharmacy was Sung Wong Toi - again. This time I exited through exit B3, which brought me out into the heart of Kowloon City.

As I have mentioned before, this area is a bit different from many other parts of Hong Kong, as the buildings here are much lower due to being on the flight path of the old Kai Tak airport. Nowadays some areas are looking a bit shabby and rundown and the area is gradually being redeveloped. This is not without its problems. For example, this area is home to Hong Kong's Little Thailand District and it's feared that the Thai people who live there, mainly surviving by running shops and restaurants, will end up being dispersed throughout other parts of Hong Kong, thus destroying the spirit of their community. That's rather sad. On this occasion, I did not go to Little Thailand. I'll save this for next time.

Kowloon City.

Kowloon City.

The pharmacy I went to was very close to Kowloon Walled City Park and I decided to go there for another look, as it's such a lovely, peaceful and historically interesting spot.

When the British took over Hong Kong Island, the Chinese built a fortress on the Kowloon Peninsula to keep an eye on them. As the British gained more land, the walled fortress ended up as a Chinese enclave surrounded on all sides by the British colony. Over time, due to wars and strife, refugees from Mainland China poured into this area and it became one of the most densely populated areas in the world. The buildings here were so close together, no natural light could penetrate into the city's narrow alleyways. The walled city was a lawless place filled with drug dens, brothels, unlicensed doctors, unlicensed dentists and triad gangs. The locals called it The City of Darkness.

3-d model of the old walled city.

3-d model of the old walled city.

After years of objections from the inhabitants, the giant slum that the Kowloon Walled City had developed into, was finally demolished and a park was built in its place. To everyone's surprise, some areas of the original Chinese fortress that occupied the site were found during the city's demolition. These have been incorporated into the park. Kowloon Walled City Park is joined onto a second park called Carpenter Street Park.

Gateway between Carpenter Street Park and Kowloon City Park.

Gateway between Carpenter Street Park and Kowloon City Park.

Flowering Mussaenda Philippica bush by the gateway.

Flowering Mussaenda Philippica bush by the gateway.

As always in Hong Kong, there were beautiful flowers and plants all around the park. It's always worth revisiting parks and gardens in different seasons here to see what is in bloom and because it doesn't really get freezing cold something is always flowering.

Flowering Tree in Kowloon Walled City Park.

Flowering Tree in Kowloon Walled City Park.

Beautiful Blackberry Lily.

Beautiful Blackberry Lily.

At one point as I was wandering around, I noticed a group of women dressed in lovely colourful cheongsams and took some photos of them. Their clothes were so beautiful and so appropriate for the setting that I couldn't resist.

Posing in beautiful floral cheongsams.

Posing in beautiful floral cheongsams.

Wandering around in Cheongsams.

Wandering around in Cheongsams.

I came across some interestingly shaped rocks I had noticed on my earlier visit. These were dedicated to people who had worked hard to help the poor, needy and vulnerable within the walls of the City of Darkness. One of these rocks was devoted to the memory of The Reverend Kwong Yat Sau of the Holy Trinity Anglican Church. He set up schools within the walled city and created centres to help the aged. The other rock was dedicated to Jackie Pullinger, a British Protestant missionary. She worked as a primary school teacher inside the Kowloon Walled City, then later established a youth centre to help the drug addicts and street sleepers she encountered here.

This rock is dedicated to the Rev. Kwong Yat Sau.

This rock is dedicated to the Rev. Kwong Yat Sau.

This rock is dedicated to Jackie Pullinger.

This rock is dedicated to Jackie Pullinger.

Kowloon Walled City Park still has some remnants from its past such as old buildings and cannons. Plus some newer Chinese style features have been added such as bridges and pavilions. The old almshouse, which was part of the original fort, had exhibitions showing photos of life in the old walled city.

Wooden Pavilion.

Wooden Pavilion.

Smaller Pavilion.

Smaller Pavilion.

Traditional Chinese Buildings and Streams.

Traditional Chinese Buildings and Streams.

Almshouse.

Almshouse.

Carved panel in the almshouse.

Carved panel in the almshouse.

Circular Gateway.

Circular Gateway.

Art Gallery along the walkway.

Art Gallery along the walkway.

Very old photo of the walled city.

Very old photo of the walled city.

Very old photo of the walled city.

Very old photo of the walled city.

Old photo of inside the walled city.

Old photo of inside the walled city.

Old photo of inside the walled city.

Old photo of inside the walled city.

Children playing on the roof of the Kowloon Walled City. This was the only place they could find light and fresh air.

Children playing on the roof of the Kowloon Walled City. This was the only place they could find light and fresh air.

The remains of the Southern Gate of the old walled city have been unearthed and preserved. One part had a large puddle when I visited and lots of birds kept coming to bathe here.

The remains of the southern gate of the city.

The remains of the southern gate of the city.

The Southern Gate of the city. The two stone plaques say Kowloon Walled City and South Gate.

The Southern Gate of the city. The two stone plaques say Kowloon Walled City and South Gate.

Birds taking a bath next to the remains of the south gate.

Birds taking a bath next to the remains of the south gate.

The park has many water features such as ponds, a stream and a waterfall, all surrounded by lush green vegetation.

Arched bridges.

Arched bridges.

Pond.

Pond.

Looking down at the pond.

Looking down at the pond.

Stream.

Stream.

I really enjoyed just wandering around here looking at the people, the birds and at one point a lizard that was off before I could photograph him.

Wandering through the park.

Wandering through the park.

Pigeon resting on the tiled roof.

Pigeon resting on the tiled roof.

I remembered from my first visit that there was a temple and some old stone houses nearby, but I did not revisit them. Instead I headed off to another park - Kowloon Tsai Park. The streets all around me should have made me feel homesick. They had names such as: Dumbarton Road, Inverness Road, Grampian Road. This was an area with a connection to Scotland if ever there was one.

Kowloon Tsai Park has a bauhinia garden. I'm sure it's lovely but it's not bauhinia time of year, though there were lots of other lovely flowers. It also has lots and lots of sports facilities. I wasn't here for those though, I wanted to get a good view of Checkerboard Hill from the bottom. In a previous blog, I wrote about climbing Checkerboard Hill. My original plan on that occasion was to exit the hill via Kowloon Tsai Park. There's supposed to be a hole in the fence to go through, but I did not see it and I told myself I'll go back later and photograph Checkerboard Hill from the bottom. Well, I finally made it.

Checkerboard Hill was built as a signalling mechanism to let pilots know when to turn as they tried to land at Kai Tak Airport. For years after the airport closed it was left to crumble, but recently it has been repainted and restored. It is currently looking good.

View over Kowloon from Kowloon Tsai Park.

View over Kowloon from Kowloon Tsai Park.

Checkerboard Hill.

Checkerboard Hill.

Checkerboard Hill.

Checkerboard Hill.

Blue Wings Butterfly Plant.

Blue Wings Butterfly Plant.

Flowers in Kowloon Tsai Park.

Flowers in Kowloon Tsai Park.

From Kowloon City Park I planned to walk to Boundary Street, which marked the border of Hong Kong before the British leased the New Territories. On route I passed La Salle School, quite a prestigious Hong Kong School and I noticed a sign on the wall marking a point of interest on the Bruce Lee Way. It seems that Bruce Lee was a pupil of La Salle College until he was forced to leave for poor academic performance.

When I got home, I looked up the Bruce Lee Way to see if it was a walk with any interesting Bruce Lee sights. Sadly I found so many things connected to him have gone.

I'm not knowledgeable about Bruce Lee, but I started to look up a bit about his life. I found he was married to a white American woman called Linda Emre and they had two children. I also found he died aged just thirty-two after being taken ill in the flat of a Taiwanese actress called Betty Ting. He was there supposedly to rehearse their parts in a movie, though Betty later admitted they had been lovers. That evening in Betty's flat, Bruce started to feel unwell and Betty gave him some pain killers and let him sleep for a while. Later it became apparent something was seriously wrong with him and Betty called an ambulance, but it was too late to save him. He died of a brain edema.

I was fascinated to learn all this, because when we lived in Fo Tan for our first eight years here, Betty Ting owned the flat next door to us. Our landlord explained to us when we moved in, that our neighbour was a famous actress and that she had once been Bruce Lee's girlfriend. He also described her as a bit of a recluse. Betty actually lived in a building across the street from us, but occasionally she came and stayed in her second home, the flat next door to us. For a supposed recluse, she was always actually quite friendly. In retrospect, I wonder if she quite liked us, as we had no idea who she was and knew next to nothing nothing about her relationship with Bruce Lee.

Information board about Bruce Lee opposite La Salle College.

Information board about Bruce Lee opposite La Salle College.

La Salle College.

La Salle College.

Actually, I was pleased to see La Salle College, but I had come to this area to look at another prestigious educational institution - the Maryknoll Convent School. This wonderful old building with its towers, cloisters, courtyards, spiral staircases and immaculate grounds has been nicknamed the Hogwarts of Hong Kong.

The school was founded by the Maryknoll Sisters of Saint Dominic, who first came to Hong Kong from the United States in 1921. In 1925 they opened a kindergarten on Austin Road. Then later in 1937 they opened this much larger school on Waterloo Road. The school buildings are constructed of brown bricks and are designed in the style of a mediaeval monastery. The furniture and fittings inside the school have remained unchanged for many years. During the Second World War, Maryknoll was taken over by the Japanese and converted into a Japanese military hospital. Maryknoll Convent School was declared a monument in 2008.

Maryknoll is not an easy building to photograph, as it is right on the edge of a major road. I would love to go inside again. I say again as years ago I had an interview for a job here. All I remember from the interview is being very overwhelmed by the setting.

Maryknoll Convent School Side view..

Maryknoll Convent School Side view..

Maryknoll School Side view.

Maryknoll School Side view.

Maryknoll Convent School Front View.

Maryknoll Convent School Front View.

Maryknoll Convent School Front View..

Maryknoll Convent School Front View..

Maryknoll School and it's tower.

Maryknoll School and it's tower.

Walking to Kowloon Tong MTR from Maryknoll Convent School, I passed many more schools and a couple of attractive looking churches. I noticed a painting of Noah's Ark on a school wall, the way it's been raining here recently we will all be needing that soon.

One of the churches I passed was Christ Church designed by architect John Potter of Leigh and Orange. It was opened in 1938. The architect, John Potter, was killed on Christmas Day 1941, defending Hong Kong from the Japanese. The other church was Kowloon Church of the Chinese Christian and Missionary Alliance.

Christ Church on Waterloo Road.

Christ Church on Waterloo Road.

Christ Church on Waterloo Road.

Christ Church on Waterloo Road.

Kowloon Church of the Chinese Christian and Missionary Alliance..

Kowloon Church of the Chinese Christian and Missionary Alliance..

Noah's Ark.

Noah's Ark.

Back home in Discovery Bay, I got off by bus a stop early to photograph some beautiful crepe myrtle trees.

Lovely crepe myrtle tree.

Lovely crepe myrtle tree.

Posted by irenevt 03:09 Archived in Hong Kong

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Comments

Hello, Irene...Live and learn. Thanks for sharing your stories about the endless exploration...

by Vic_IV

Hi Victor, thank you for visiting.

by irenevt

I love the twists and turns and suspense in this blog and you got to your ultimate destination the checkerboard hill. Lovely flowers are always x

by Catherine

Glad you enjoyed it and glad I wasn't climbing Checkerboard Hill this time. It's getting too hot for that sort of thing even if it is always raining.

by irenevt

Hi Irene. I hope you didn't forget to get the medicine. I loved Kowloon Walled City Park. What a treasure. Thank you for sharing it with us . . . and I hope you don't need Noah's Ark. We sure could use some of your rain. Can you mail it to California?

by Beausoleil

Hi Sally, yes Kowloon Walled City Park is wonderful. Actually, believe it or not, we get short of water too. In winter we can go for months with no rain but generally in summer there's a lot. This summer is proving to be a particularly wet one so far.

by irenevt

Kowloon Walled City Park looks beautiful. The flowers are lovely (I especially liked the Blackberry Lily, which I've never heard of) and the old photos are fascinating.

by ToonSarah

Hi Sarah, it's one of my favourite parks and amazingly beautiful when you think of the slum that was once there.

by irenevt

What a intriguing title and a great read! :)

by hennaonthetrek

Glad you enjoyed it.

by irenevt

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