Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Garden Hill, Shek Kip Mei

Garden Hill is a small hill (about 90 meters high) in Shek Kip Mei that overlooks the area once occupied by the famous Shek Kip Mei resettlement estate. The hill is unnamed on all of my local maps - simply identified by the fact that its summit holds the local freshwater service reservoir - but I believe the Chinese name (嘉頓山 - gar dun saan) is the local nickname due to its proximity to the famous local Garden Bakery. Regardless of the name, it's one of the highest vantage points in this part of Kowloon and is therefore a very popular spot for local photographers. The summit was also once home to a light that either (unsure which one) lit the way to the airport or warned low flying aircraft of its whereabouts. Since the airport closed in 1998 the hill's summit, as well as one of the shaved tiers on its western slope, have been turned into rest gardens for those fit enough to climb the rather steep steps that lead to the top.


Friday, 12 August 2016

The Dragon Centre and its indoor roller coaster

I'm not sure why, perhaps just curiosity, but during my inaugural Nov 95 HK trip I decided to head into Sham Shui Po and check out the Dragon Centre on Yen Chow Street. The object of my curiosity was actually the indoor roller coaster. Being a child of the UK in the 70's and 80's my expectations concerning roller coasters was coloured by school trips to Alton Towers (before the accidents) and watching chubby cub scouts trying to drink milkshake on the Revolution at Blackpool Pleasure Beach courtesy of Jim'll Fix It (and boy did some kids get fixed, it turns out). It turns out the roller coaster at the Dragon Centre wasn't on quite that scale (pardon the pun) but there was still enough novelty for me to stay and watch it running for a while.

Dragon Centre

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Po Fook Shan Columbarium, Shatin

For anyone who has visited Shatin, 10000 Buddha Monastery is probably one of the main reasons for taking their trip - although I hasten to add there is a whole bunch of other stuff to see too. And so it was with me too during my first trip to Hong Kong back in November 1995. This was in the days before all those rather tacky but amusing Arhan figures appeared on the path up. And what a path up it was - several hundred steep steps that left you feeling a little bit weak by the time you go to the top.

So imagine my delight when I read on a subsequent trip (probably in 1996) that the monastery now had a nice set of escalators to whisk you to the top of the hill without all that huffing and puffing. Taking the rather well-regarded travel literature at face value, on a subsequent trip I opted for the escalators and only by virtue of my previous trip, realised that I was totally in the wrong place! I had actually stumbled into a neighbouring complex called Po Fook Shan.

Po Fook Shan entrance gate

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Ping Shan Heritage Trail, Yuen Long

The Ping Shan Heritage Trail is the better of two official 'heritage' trails in the New Territories. Compared to Lung Yeuk Tau in Fanling (the other trail) it is easier reach and navigate, better organised, better maintained and has some quite unique sites of interest at both ends. If you are pushed for time and are weighing up a trip to Ping Shan or Lung Yeuk Tau then I wholeheartedly recommend Ping Shan.

The trail is actually quite short, probably less than 1km, but the fact that there is lots to see means to can spend some meaningful time exploring what there is to see rather than tramping around between sites getting lost. At one end of the trail is the Tsui Shing Lau pagoda – one of HK’s oldest man-made structures (if not the oldest) – and at the other is the excellently restored and maintained Ping Shan Police Station, now operating as a museum for the local area’s history and culture. More on the police station later because we started our visit at the pagoda end.

Tsui Shing Lau

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Hong Kong Scuba Diving - Tung Ping Chau

I haven't been diving in HK that regularly over the past couple of years for various reasons (one of which involved a snapped toe and an inability to wear my fins for most of the diving season) although I did do some surprisingly excellent stuff last year with Emilie, as well as some N.A.S training, so I haven't been too idle. However, you may recall that a few years ago I did pen a small and humble article for Time Out on the best places to go diving in Hong Kong.

Whilst researching that particular piece I was put in contact with a local Marine Conservationist, Apple Chui, who is one of the foremost diving authorities of the area around Tung Ping Chau in the far north of HK's territorial waters. She also provided some nice pictures and some great information that formed a worthy post on its own. So here it is, rescued from the largely submerged wreck of my former blog. All photos were taken by Apple and reproduced with her permission.


Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Exploring Ho Hok Shan, Yuen Long

I'm going through all the posts on my old blog, seeing what is worth salvaging. Unfortunately, with hindsight, most of it was fairly uninteresting, however this one is worthy of keeping and may be of interest to any military buffs out there (HK has a lot - not surprising given its experience of the Japanese occupation). Actually, this trip was covered in much better detail by David Bellis over at Gwulo.com, but I figured I would add my two cents seeing as I tagged along for the ride as well.

I take no credit for finding this location – for that we have to thank Thomas who found what he thought were trenches circling the various contours of the hill. This suspicion was also echoed by Rob (a NZ-based ex-Hongkonger who spent much of his time in HK exploring and documenting a vast number of ex-military structures around HK and the NT) who had an old aerial photo the same hillside which showed lots of dark and rather squiggly lines all over the hillside. So off we all went.

Ho Hok Shan is the hill seen centre-right

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Some pictures of No.2 Devon Road in 1961.

A little over a year ago I republished a blog entry about the original houses that can still be found in Kowloon Tong. You can read about it here: Down in the Tong. I'm very lucky because a very nice person called Kathryn has sent me some photos of one of the houses that is (currently...) still standing.

No. 2 Devon Road is still in fairly decent condition and looks to have had very little done to it over the years, unlike many of the other original buildings that have been extensively remodeled or even worse, just demolished. Here's a picture I took of it a year or so ago - unfortunately, this was the best shot I could get without making people think I was a burglar.


Thursday, 29 October 2015

Traces of San Miguel, Tai Po

Perhaps not a very interesting post for most, but I find these little things quite fascinating - a throwback to a much simpler time. You may recall from my recent Tai Po Walking tour that I was able to spot faint traces of an old painted cigarette advertisement on the side of a building. Well, before the advent of modern printing technology (and even now I am guessing there must be an upper limit to what can be printed?) the only option for big advertisements was to get some guy up on some bamboo scaffolding to paint it by hand. It seems to be a lost art form these days so it's nice when old traces can be found.

This brings me onto a Govt photo that I stumbled across on social media a while back. It shows a view of an under construction Tai Po Centre on the left which places it in the early 1980s. On the right is the older part of Tai Po Market with a rather large squatter settlement and various buildings. The building with the painted advertisement is actually part of the Plover Cove resettlement estate, built in the mid-60's to rehouse displaced villagers from the Plover Cove reservoir project. I was curious to know if any of the advert could still be found, so I headed down there with my camera.

Source: Govt Archives

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Woodside, Mount Parker Road

Several years ago, I posted a small and fairly insignificant post on my old blog about Woodside - the large red brick Colonial mansion that sits a little way up Mount Parker Road in Quarry Bay.  At the time (2008) the house was intact but seemingly empty and had already been given a Grade 2 listing back in 1998. Though small, the post was enough to trigger some really interesting comments from past tenants and it would be a great shame if they were lost. The benefit of this repost is to note that the building was re-opened to the general public in 2012 as the AFCD Biodiversity Discovery Centre. I did make an unplanned trip a year or so ago but unfortunately didn't have my camera with me.

Friday, 16 October 2015

A Walking Tour of Tai Po

I was a at a bit of a loose end the other day so I figured I would head back to my old stomping ground in Tai Po and put together a small walking tour that takes in most of the interesting sites around town. It's not a definitive list because Tai Po District itself is massive and encompasses much of the surrounding area including Lam Tsuen, Plover Cove, the whole of the Tolo Channel including the northern coastline of Sai Kung and various outlying islands such as Tap Mun and even Tung Ping Chau (yes, ALL are part of Tai Po District). Anyway, this is a short tour that takes you around much of the town and takes you past a little bit of history, some stuff I personally find curious and, I guess, some nice views (at least weather and pollution permitting).


Friday, 9 October 2015

Some Colonial-era Postboxes

In a rather strange turn of events, it appears the head honcho at the Post Office has declared that all Colonial-era postboxes will soon be modified to hide the Royal cipher so as not to cause "confusion" to the people of Hong Kong. Of course, the real reason is quite obvious to anyone who has witnessed China slowly turning the screws on the place since the handover - speeded up by the Occupy protest last year, no doubt - so why be all dishonest about it?


Saturday, 3 October 2015

Google Earth now has Hong Kong in 3D!

Many thanks to Gweilo8888 for the heads up. It appears that Google has finally got around to adding Hong Kong to its growing list of cities that now have 3D views. I'm already a big fan of Googleearth and Streetview and the fact that it allows me to quickly check places has been a real plus for all my film locations posts, but now to see a large portion of the place also rendered in fairly detailed 3D is just fantastic.



Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Tak Seng On Casa De Penhores, Macau

A couple of months ago I posted about the imminent demolition of the Tung Tak Pawn Shop - one of only four remaining curved Canton-style (i.e. with supporting front pillars) buildings left in Hong Kong. Sadly it looks as though that sad matter is being seen through to the end by its owner. So, rather than dwell on the negative in HK, let's head over to Macau (or Macao, if you prefer) and have a look at a nicely preserved example of Macanese pawnshoppery.

For those who don’t speak Portuguese (me included), Casa De Penhores is the Portuguese name for a pawnshop (lit: house of pledges). The Tak Seng On is one of the most famous pawnshops in Macau and sits on the Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro next to Senado Square.


Monday, 28 September 2015

Bus Tours on the Cheap – #271 from Tsim Sha Tsui to Tai Po (and back again)

Despite the fact that Hong Kong's MTR system is usually lauded by anyone and everyone, my number one preferred way of navigating this place is by bus. Sure, it's not necessarily as convenient or speedy (or even as cheap for that matter) but it's certainly a great way to familiarise yourself with the general layout of things and take in some sights that you may not necessarily get to see stuck underground. So, following on from a post I did a while back for the 64K bus route from Tai Po to Yuen Long, here is one that may be more useful to anyone staying in Kowloon but wishing to head into the New Territories for a few hours. It's the #271 bus from Nathan Road to Fu Heng Estate in Tai Po.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Around Lobster Bay, Sai Kung

I had the misfortune (or fortune as it turned out) to be stuck out at Lobster Bay  (龍蝦灣 - Lung Ha Wan) for a couple of days over the summer whilst my youngest attended pony camp at the Clearwater Bay Equestrian Centre.

My initial intention was to drop him off and leave him but getting to and from Lobster Bay can be a bit of a pain if you don't have your own car so in the end I figured I should make the most of it and actually stick around and do stuff. I'm quite glad I made the effort because I ended up filling my time with some decent exploring and I found out the area has enough going on to keep you busy for a fair amount of time.