Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Bruce Lee Guide to (the rest of) Kowloon

I had originally planned to add this walking tour several years ago, but as usual life got in the way somewhat and it wasn't until recently that I found the time to actually head over and walk the route. I tend to forget how long it takes me to put these things together.

There is a caveat (or two) in that the walk is much longer than the other two because the places I talk about are much further apart. Also, several locations really have only tenuous links to Bruce and, as always, redevelopment of older buildings mean the only commonality between now and Bruce's time is often just a place or building name. Still, I'm sure there are Lee fans out there that will still get some value from the places and having them put into an easy-to-follow route around an otherwise unfamiliar city.

Warning! This walk is close to 8km (about 5 miles) and even though I did this walk in the cooler month of January, it still had me sweating. So you can be hardcore and do it all in one go (it will take around 3 hours) or you can split it into two smaller parts, for example #1 - #6 and then #7 - #13. It's not massively convenient to do it that way but at least either Mongkok East or Kowloon Tong stations are within about a 15 minute walk from the start/end points.

What I have done is to link it back to the Yau Ma Tei walk so the more crazy people out there can do all three walks in one long session for which I estimate you would need to budget for around 6 hours. Not for the faint-hearted. So the starting point is the King's Park Garden - also the last point of interest on the previous walk - and I'm including it again because since I posted the YMT walk (3 years ago now) I have actually been up there myself and taken some snaps.

As a quick reminder, here are the links to the earlier Kowloon based walking tours.

The Bruce Lee Guide to Tsim Sha Tsui
The Bruce Lee Guide to Yau Ma Tei

Anyway, this walk encompasses the following additional locations.

1. King's Park Garden
2. Soares Avenue
3. Foursea Bowling alley site - Kowloon Metropark Hotel
3. Sunlight Garden
4. Perth Street
5. Optional walk to the Ma Tau Chung Ambulance Station
6. St Theresa's Hospital
7. Lasalle College + Primary School and Beverly Villas
8. Former site of 41 Cumberland Road
9. Electricity sub station on Cornwall Street
10. Beverly Heights
11. Baptist Hospital
12. Former site of ATV studios on Broadcast Drive
13. Former site of TVB studios on Broadcast Drive

As with my first two walking tours, I've cobbled together a Googlemap walk that you can print off or have up and running on your phone as you walk. The link to view it is here. Unfortunately, since I did the last ones, Google have changed a location limit to 10 per layer, so the side bar shows more info than it should. If anyone experiences problems with it, please let me know.

1. King's Park Garden

Or, according to Googlemaps, "Yaumatei Service Reservoir Rest Garden". I'll stick with the shorter name. Yes, now I have been there I can post my own pictures. The hill where the garden is situated isn't too tall but still involves a bit of a walk up the various sloped pathways. Even on a hot day there's a bit of a breeze so I can see why it would appeal to a bunch of old men practising their kung fu. The reservoir was constructed back in the 1930's - earlier than I had realised - so it would definitely have been familiar to Bruce.

Conduit tunnel for the reservoir showing the construction years
Langham Place office tower in the distance
The old pump house - 1930's vintage
The Observatory also has a fenced-off meteorological station here
View over to Waterloo Road and Kwong Wah Hospital

The reservoir is covered by a nice grassy overlay and has a landscaped path around the edge. One of the nice things the HK Govt has been able to do with the lack of space here is turn otherwise unusable space into recreational areas, and the King's Park Garden is a good example. There are some views to be had as well as some of the old reservoir infrastructure in the form of an old but nicely maintained pump house. The place also has a rather tenuous link to Bruce in another way because Bruce Li (aka Ho Chung Tao) filmed a fight scene up here with John Ladalski for the 1981 film The Chinese Stuntman (aka Counter Attack)

Once you've had your fill of views, head back down the hill and turn right onto Waterloo Road and walk up the road towards Soares Avenue.

2. Soares Avenue

I've included Soares Avenue because of some comments left on about 10 years ago. You can see the thread for yourself here, it's well worth reading. Soares Avenue is simply a small street that connects Waterloo Road with Argyle Street and was once a favourite shopping spot for Linda when they were living nearby.  Its link is only anecdotal but might be interesting to some. The street is named after the Portuguese businessman, Francisco Paulo Vasconcelos Soares, who was responsible for original development of this part of Ho Man Tin and went on to become the Portuguese Consul for Hong Kong.

Soares Avenue - though probably not in its best years

3. Kowloon Metropark Hotel - formerly Fourseas Bowling alley

Just a few quick steps along the road on the same side as Soares Avenue is the Kowloon Metropark Hotel. It's included here because it was once the location of the Fourseas Bowling Alley, the same place that Jackie Chan supposedly went bowling with Bruce one night.

The bowling alley was named after the earlier hotel that stood here, the Fourseas Hotel. I'm not sure when the bowling alley was redeveloped but the hotel that stands here now used to be called the Kowloon Metropole Hotel and was famous for a wholly different reason. It was at the epicentre of the 2003 SARS outbreak that killed almost 300 people in HK. The infected Mainland Chinese doctor who brought the virus with him from China stayed on the 9th floor of the hotel before infecting a bunch of other people. It's probably just bad luck that the Wanchai Metropark Hotel (same hotel group) was later to be associated with the 2009 outbreak of Swine Flu that saw that hotel (and all its guests) being quarantined for a week in the early summer. Oh dear!

Kowloon Metropark Hotel

3. Sunlight Garden/Ming Tak Yuen

Directly opposite the entrance to Soares Avenue is Pui Ching Road. This is where we head next but stay on the left and take the next left turn into Man Fuk Road. Follow the road around and take the first right onto Man Wan Road. The high rise development immediately on your right is Ming Tak Yuen or Sunlight Garden and is where Bruce and family lived during 1971 through to July 1972. It's possible that this is where Bruce first became friendly with Michael Chan Wai Man because he lived in the opposite building (Star Court) at the time. Sunlight Garden isn't just famous for Bruce living there though because in 1967 it was the location of one of the most horrific moments in HK's dark history.

During the 1967 Communist riots, Lam Bun (a local radio broadcaster) was vocal in his opposition to the Chinese Communist Party and their instigation and fueling of the unrest. He was targeted by a murder squad as he left his apartment with his cousin on 24th August, 1967. Posing as road workers, they stopped his car on Man Wan Road, right in front of Sunlight Garden, poured petrol over the car and set fire to them, burning them to death.

Despite it being 50 years ago, this incident is still very vivid in many peoples' memories. The fact that those involved not only got off scot-free but also became lauded in Govt circles in later life gives you a small example of why so many people in HK still distrust the CCP and its local Govt representatives. Wiki has a good summary here.

Bruce lived on the 13th floor
The spot where Lam Bun and cousin were murdered
Sunlight Garden seen from Man Fuk Road

On that note let's head off again. Rather than retrace your steps back to Pui Ching Road, you can actually walk to the other end of Man Wan Road and take the steps down onto Princess Margaret Road. We need to go this way to get to the next location on our list, Perth Street.

Man Wan Road steps down to Princess Margaret Road

4. Perth Street

Turn left at the bottom of the steps and walk up to the junction with Argyle Street. Sadly, this is the earliest opportunity to cross the road (a frequent annoyance of being a pedestrian in HK is being relegated to the lowest priority in terms of getting from A to B). After crossing the road, turn back to the right and walk towards Dunbar Rd and Perth St. Actually, this road is looped so it doesn't matter which way you go in. The reason it's included on the tour is because this was the location of the temporary huts where LaSalle College was based during Bruce's time there.

The following photo from the 1950s shows those huts. The houses/mansion blocks to the north are lining the south side of Argyle Street with Kowloon Hospital through the trees on the other side of Argyle Street. The huts occupied most of the area that was later to become Perth Street.

Why were these huts here? The original college building, over on Boundary Street, was commandeered by the British military following the war and used as a hospital. It was still being used as a hospital when Bruce was admitted for study and so all his lessons took place in the 'temporary' school huts erected here.

At that time the area was still largely undeveloped and rocky, as you can see. Somewhere to the right of this picture is the King George V (KGV) school where all the expat kids went. It was close enough for Bruce to head over there to meet the students for a bit of a scrap at lunchtime - and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of him doing so on a regular basis. Contrary to popular belief though, it wasn't Bruce's fighting that got him removed from the school but rather the fact that he just wasn't academic enough to keep up with the high standards that LaSalle expected (and still does today) from its students.

This is how the area looks now. The low rise mansion blocks along Argyle Street have been replaced by the taller brown apartment buildings in the distance. The LaSalle huts have long since gone (the pupils moved back to the original school sometime in the late 1950s, I believe) but it must be one of the most school-clustered locations in Hong Kong with six or seven different ones all squeezed into the area. KGV still occupies the same spot on a hill at the far end of the road.

The road loops at the top so we can walk up and around onto what becomes Tweed Road. Keep walking around until you come across a stone staircase that leads down. Walk down the steps and onto Argyle Street.

Steps to Argyle Street

5. Optional walk to Ma Tau Chung Ambulance Depot

There is lots of talk about why Bruce was taken to QE Hospital on the night of his death when other hospitals were closer. The reason is because of the way the ambulance system worked at the time. The Ma Tau Chung depot from where the ambulance was dispatched had protocols in place that meant the drivers had to take their patients to their affiliated public hospitals. For the Ma Tau Chung depot this was Queen Elizabeth Hospital which also happened to have the largest A&E dept.

Even though Bruce had previously been brought back from death at the Baptist Hospital, and it is the nearest hospital to Betty's flat (more on that later), it was and still is a private hospital that doesn't provide A&E services. So by calling the public ambulance service Betty and Raymond, knowingly or otherwise pretty much sealed Bruce's fate there and then.

Anyway, for those interested in seeing where the ambulance was dispatched from you can take a 5 minute detour by turning right along Argyle Street and walking to Fu Ning Street. Turn right into Fu Ning Street and follow the road down to Shing Tak Street. The ambulance depot is right on the corner next to the small park.

Ma Tau Chung Ambulance Depot

It was also the records from this ambulance depot's call sheet that clued journalists into the fact that Bruce was picked up at Betty Ting Pei's flat and not his home on Cumberland Road as initially told to the press by Raymond Chow and Linda Lee.

Actually, even if you don't visit the depot, you must still turn right along Argyle Street after leaving the previous Perth Street location because we need to cross Argyle Street and walk up Lomond Road. There are several crossings you can take and all of them will be as quick or slow as the other. But you do need to cross the road and continue along Argyle Street to get to Lomond Road. If you are returning from the ambulance depot, just retrace your steps back to Argyle Street, turn left and walk back down to the Baptist Church. The church is directly opposite Lomond Road and there is a crossing right here as well.

6. St Theresa's Hospital

Walk up Lomond Road, and turn left onto Prince Edward Road West. On the corner here is St Theresa's Hospital. This name should be familiar to Bruce fans as it is the hospital he was referred to later following his first collapse at Golden Harvest Studios in May 1973. After being revived at the Baptist Hospital he was moved to St Theresa's for recovery as there were more beds available and he needed to stay under observation. The main building fronting the road is actually still the original hospital building, built in 1961, but it has undergone major renovations and had some floors added making it taller. But it's still the same building that Bruce was in during May 1973. HT Wong has a picture of how it used to look on FLICKR. The hospital has also been expanded significantly with newer buildings at the back along Pentland Street (see second picture below).

Original but renovated hospital building

HK film fans may also realise this place can be seen in Donnie Yen's Flashpoint.

7. Beverly Villas and LaSalle College

Keep walking along Prince Edward Road West. We need to cross this road as well to get to Boundary Street and the next crossing is about 150 metres further past the hospital. On the opposite side of the road is the entrance to LaSalle Road. Cross over Prince edward Road West at the crossing and immediately turn up into LaSalle Road. This section is quite small and just acts as a thoroughfare to get to Boundary Street. Stay on the right hand side pavement and once at Boundary Street, use the crossing again to cross over to Beverly Villas. They look like this.

Beverly Villas

But the picture below shows you what used to be on this site. It is the original LaSalle College building. This is the building that was used as a military hospital during the 50s, forcing the students to attend the temporary huts off where Perth Street now stands.

Why did this fantastic looking building get redeveloped? Li Ka-shing, HK's richest tycoon, wanted the land to build the Beverly Villas development so he offered to fund the building of a new school on the plot of land at the back of the current one (top of the B&W photo). In exchange he would get the old site and redevelop it. So the new school was built in the late 70's and the old school was demolished soon after. By 1980 the Beverly Villas development had been built.

You can wander up and take a look at the current school but it has virtually no connection to Bruce other than in the name. However, fans may remember that it was here, at the new school, that John Little found Bruce's old Marcy Circuit Trainer. It looks as though Linda probably donated it to the school after Bruce's death and it survived the move from the old to the new school before being rescued by John.

What happened to it after that? I spoke to John about this back in 2009 and he told me the equipment was used as collateral on a loan from his friend, Johnny-Mike Walker, so he could finish A Warrior's Journey. Fans may be interested to know that Mr Walker, a millionaire business man from Arkansas, is also the owner of Bruce's old 350SL Mercedes. Anyway, Walker got a producer credit on A Warrior's Journey for his troubles and it appears that Little had to forfeit the collateral anyway, so the Marcy Trainer remained with Walker.

LaSalle Primary School

On the opposite side of LaSalle Road is LaSalle Primary School. It's a new building but the older version (on the same site) was where Brandon attended school between 1971 and 1973. Nothing much more to see here so we're going to carry on walking along Boundary Street towards the Kowloon Tong Estate for the next location.

On the way though we pass a road with a Lee-related name. It's Ho Tung Road and those familiar with Bruce's mum's family background will know that the person the road is named after was her uncle.

Grace Lee's heritage is a controversial subject. No one seems to be able to agree (and she didn't help by making different statements throughout her life) where her Eurasian mother was from...Germany, Russia, French, British? But what is known is that she was the daughter of Ho Kom Tong, a rich HK merchant, and his Shanghai-based mistress called Miss Cheung.

In the 1920's, Miss Cheung moved to HK with her two surviving children, Grace and her sister Josephine, and they lived up on the Peak at their Uncle Robert's house called The Falls (demolished in 2013). Uncle Robert is Robert Ho Tung, the man who this road is named after. He also built the Tung Ying Building that once housed the Golden Harvest and Concord offices at 100 Nathan Road.

His name is on this road because Ho Tung, an extremely wealthy man, helped fund the completion of the Kowloon Tong Estate when it fell into money problems during the late 1920s. Quite fitting that Bruce should buy a house there 50 years later, and this is our next stop.

8. Former site of 41 Cumberland Road

From Boundary Street continue past Ho Tung Road until you reach the junction with Waterloo Road. It's a major junction with a flyover running north/south. There is a crossing here that we can use to cross to the other side before turning right and walking north up Waterloo Road.

Ignore the first left hand turn (Lincoln Road) and instead walk to the next left hand turn into Essex Crescent. Follow the road as it curves to the right and at the end you will be on Cumberland Road. Follow Cumberland Road up until you get to #41. The patterned wall makes it fairly easy to spot.

Sadly, since this post was first published in January of 2018, the former house was demolished. You can read the SCMP article about it here. My cynical guess is that the structural beams were deliberately compromised. The fact is there are still quite a few of these original Kowloon Tong houses standing with no issues, despite their 80+ year age. In fact, even if structural beams were found to be in poor condition, they are replaced without any issue. It seems that the Yu Panglin foundation really had no intention of keeping this old house and were just looking for a face saving way to get rid of it.

What can still be seen other than an empty plot? Well, the famous wall frieze on the internal side of the garden wall is being preserved. Plus, if you turn up now, you can still see some of the original mosaic patterning on the perimeter wall that was there when Bruce lived here. It was revealed when some of the wall stucco came loose during construction works, So Bruce's garden wall is still under there somewhere. Other than that, there is nothing to see. Fans visiting may want to go to the alleyway at the back of the houses. each property has a door that opens onto it and Bruce used to use that door to sneak out when he didn't want to attract the attention of photographers stationed outside the front.

For those wanting to know what the building was like prior to demolition then I recommend checking out the album of HK Urbex on Facebook.

9. Electricity Sub Station on Cornwall Street

Walk north along Cumberland Road and keep heading straight as you pass Kowloon Tong MTR station. You'll soon be on Kent Road and walking towards Cornwall Street. When you reach Cornwall Street, turn right and continue along the road. Just after crossing Devon Road you may notice a rather innocuous looking building on the opposite side of the road. It's the Cornwall Street electricity sub station. Big deal right? Well, not really, but Enter the Dragon fans may want to know that it's one of the locations for the never-used motorcycle courier intro involving the yellow jump suited dispatch rider. The only reason I know this is because someone sent me a picture from Dave Friedman's photo book asking me where it was.  The confusion is caused by the fact that back in 1973 the sub station had the incorrect name of "Cornwall Road" above the door. There is no Cornwall Road in HK (though there used to be an "Avenue" in TST), only a "Street". This one.

Copyright Dave Friedman

9. Beverly Heights

Anyway, keep walking on to the nearby crossing and cross Cornwall Street. Ede Road starts at this spot and we need to walk up here to get to the next destination. At one point the road runs right next to Waterloo Road with only a thin pavement and bus stop separating the two roads. We need to continue along Ede Road as it bends to the left and passes the Beacon Hill School. Almost immediately on the right is a road called Alnwick Road. Ignore this and carry on to the next right hand turn: Beacon Hill Road.

At the top of the road is a small park and right next to it is Beverly heights. The infamous location of Bruce's demise on that fateful night of 20 July 1973.

I keep hearing different versions of which floor/unit Betty lived at so I shall just leave open until someone can give me a definitive answer. Betty was only renting it and moved out soon after. During the inquest (held at Tsuen Wan Magistrate Court) she was living in Mongkok at 211 Prince Edward Road (not far from where we were at location #6).

One of the things that will stick in your mind at this location is how close it is to the Baptist Hospital down the road. In fact it's around 700 metres between the two sites and takes around 5 minutes to walk. Can you imagine what might have happened if certain people had got their shit together on the night of the 20th July 1973 and driven Bruce down to the hospital which had managed to save his life just a few months previously.

If you missed the reason for Bruce being taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, go back and read #5. But walking this part of the tour really underlines just how close Bruce was to being within life saving treatment on the night he died. Tragic.

10. Baptist Hospital

Walk back down the hill and retrace your steps. You can cross over to Waterloo Road by the previously mentioned thin pavement/bus stop area in front of Moonbeam Terrace to make the journey to the hospital a bit quicker. Cross at the junction with Waterloo Rd/Cornwall Street and the Baptist Hospital is right across the road.

It's expanded a bit since Bruce's day with a new block facing Junction Road but the main building is where Bruce was rushed after his collapse during the dubbing session at the studios.

Emergency entrance to Baptist Hospital

Continue past the hospital and take the next left onto Junction Road - perhaps another familiar name to anyone who knows anything about Bruce's HK childhood. Bruce Thomas mistakenly calls it Junction "Street" in his (otherwise excellent) Fighting Spirit biography. The road is long though and soon curves south towards Kowloon City and I suspect it was the other, less salubrious, end of the road that the young Bruce was more familiar with.

Anyway, keep walking and next to the Baptist church take the pathway that leads to the left of a small playground. Or you can continue straight to the junction. Either way, at the end is Broadcast Drive. Turn left, then cross the road and take your immediate next right. We have two places to see here and they are fairly close together. The road gets its name from the many TV and radio companies that were once based here. If you walk around you'll notice that RTHK (Radio Television Hong Kong) and Commercial Radio are the only ones left. Our first point of interest relates to one of the former occupants. ATV.

10. Meridian Hill - former site of ATV Studios

Meridian Hill is a rather swanky, relatively new development that sits on the site of the former ATV studios. ATV itself has subsequently gone bust and stop broadcasting (I wonder where all its tape archives are?) but back in the 70's it was the studio that played host to Bruce on a couple of occasions including interviews in April 1970 and September 1971.

The Meridian now occupies the former ATV studio site

Follow the road round and you will pass the RTHK ETV studio and beyond that, our final stop for the day. Peninsula Heights.

11. Peninsula Heights - the former site of TVB Studios

I think Bruce is better remembered for appearing on the TVB shows such as Enjoy Yourself Tonight and, of course, the 1972 Typhoon fundraiser. These were all shot at the TV studios at 63 Broadcast Drive and the building was still in use up to 1984. It was this year that Sir Run Run Shaw decided to consolidate his TV and Movie production together in one place at the old Clearwater Bay studios. The Broadcast Drive studios were eventually replaced in 2000 by a residential development called Peninsula Heights. The top photo is a view of Lion Rock as seen from the left of Peninsula Heights. If you follow to my film locations blog, you may recognise the circular flyover from the final scene in the godawful Betty Ting Pei film Bruce Lee & I.

Here's how it used to look.

Well, that's it. Well done, you have just completed the final leg of my Bruce Lee tour of most of Kowloon. From here you can head back out onto Junction Road and walk straight down towards Lok Fu MTR station because it's a fair bit closer than Kowloon Tong by a good ten minutes.

If you still have some energy then there are a few places I left off this walk simply because they were just too far to be part of a walk.

1. St Francis Xavier's School (SFX).

2. Kowloon Funeral Parlour.

SFX was Bruce's final school in Hong Kong before he left for the US and the location of his triumphant return to present prizes on a sports day in 1973. To get there you can catch the green Kwun Tong MTR line from Lok Fu to Prince Edward in Mongkok and then walk the ten minutes or so to the school. It's near to the Kowloon Funeral Parlour so both can be visited fairly easily in one trip.

3. Lee Hoi Chuen's grave at St Raphael's cemetery

I did a fairly detailed post on Lee's father's grave a while ago, so for more details see here. In terms of pubic transport you can again catch the Kwun Tong line from Lok Fu to Prince Edward. At prince Edward change to the opposite platform and catch the red Tsuen Wan line to Lai Chi Kok.

4. Former site of Golden Studios

Heading the other way you can ride the MTR on the Kwun Tong line to Diamond Hill and head past Nan Lian Garden to Hammer Hill Road. You can walk up hammer Hill Road and turn right into King Tung Street to see what used to be the entrance to Golden harvest Studios but is now the entrance to a housing estate called Kingsford Terrace. The estate occupies the whole former site of the studios so there really is nothing left to see.

That's all folks. Thanks for reading. I think my time with Bruce Lee is finally over. I hope these walks have proved useful and feel free to leave feedback or corrections to the stuff I've included. I don't consider myself a Lee historian, just a fan with the opportunity to explore the areas he was connected to, so mistakes are inevitable.

5. Cheung Ling Building, Sai Yeung Choi Street

This building still houses the Ving Tsun Athletic Association and was the building Bruce visited to pay respects to Yip Man after the latter's death. There is a photo of Bruce donning running shoes in this building as he prepared to leave and run home.

6. Bijou Court, Prince Edward Road West

Just around the corner from the Ving Tsun Athletic Association is a Bijou Court. This marks the site of an old shop, long since gone, called Blue & White. This was the shop where Bruce bought his famous tiger skin.

7. Mongkok Stadium

It's been improved since Bruce's day and is now really modern with large stands, but it occupies the same site it always has done. Bruce mentioned in a phone call to Dan Lee that he went to see a Taichi competition at the sports ground.

8. Tai Hang Tung Recreation Ground

Just opposite Mongkok Stadium is a large open space called tai hang Tung Recreation ground. Bruce used to jog around here. It hasn't really changed much in the intervening years.

9. 157/159 Tai Nan Street

This building marks the location of one of Yip man's early schools in Sham Shui Po. However, the current building was built in 1965 and is not the same one that was here when Yip man ran the school.

10. Sam Tai Tsz Temple, Un Chau Street

Not many people know this but Yip man was once arrested by the Hong Kong Police. Unfortunately, the arrest was made by a western officer, if it had been a Chinese policeman they would have known Yip man from the fact that many of his students were fellow police. Anyway, the case went to court and Yip man was ordered to perform community service. He carried this out at this temple where he cleaned and kept the place tidy. He also slept here for a while.

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