Hong Kong Park, Hong Kong, China
8th of November 2014
My second international metrotrek has begun within the greenery of Hong Kong Park: Rain, Birds, Towering Skyscrapers and Teapots.
- Location: Hong Kong Park, Hong Kong, China
- Start or End: Many public transport options, most obvious being Admiralty Train Station.
- Length: 1.6km (1.0mi)
- Grade: Easy. Fully paved, but some hills and stairs (especially if you wish to scale Vantage Point Tower).
My second international metrotrek is in motion. Yesterday evening I arrived in Hong Kong after flying direct from Perth, Australia. I am staying at a small hotel on Shanghai Street near the Yau Ma Tei subway station and the Temple Street Night Market (that is, not Hong Kong Island but the Kowloon area on mainland China). After a long flight I didn't get up to much. I just wandered around the streets near my hotel to find my bearings and quenched my rumbling stomach with some food at the Temple Street Night Market. I had fried rice and frog legs, yep that's right, frog legs. I am an adventurous eater when on holidays but I never expected my first meal would be amphibian.
I wake up early with a spring in my step and hop onto the subway at Yau Ma Tei bound for Admiralty station on Hong Kong Island. Notice the frog puns I used in the last sentence? They are relevant not because of last night's meal, but todays drizzly rain is perfect amphibian weather. My destination ... Hong Kong Park, which is only a short walk from Admiralty station. It is easy to navigate from the station (despite the hordes of commuters) as signs point you to the exit required for different tourist attractions. Once above ground pink signs also point in the direction required to reach Hong Kong Park.
Hong Kong Park sits on a site which formally housed a garrison named Victoria Barracks. In 1979 the government decided to redevelop part of the garrison into a park and in May 1991 the 8 hectare Hong Kong Park was officially opened. Some of the original garrison buildings are still present, including Flagstaff House (now the Museum of Tea Ware) which was the residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces. Hong Kong Park is an urban oasis of green and is a great spot to view the towering skyscrapers of the famous Hong Kong skyline.
I enter Hong Kong Park at the east-west corner and head directly to the Forsgate Conservatory through Fountain Plaza. On my way to the Forsgate Conservatory I capture my first glimpse of the Bank of China Tower, one of the most recognizable skyscrapers of the famous Hong Kong skyline.
The Forsgate Conservatory is broken up into three sections, the Display Plant House, the Dry Plant House and the Humid Plant House. I take a quick look at the cultivated plants, such as orchids, within the Display Plant House but it is the Dry Plant House I am really interested in. Not because "dry" is opposite to the drizzly weather outside but because cacti would have to be my favourite member of the plant family. They are so unusual.
From the dry to the humid the scenery dramatically changes. Rainforest plants also have some exquisite forms.
The Forsgate Conservatory isn't huge, but there is plenty to look at if you are interested in plants. From the Forsgate Conservatory I walk through the Tai Chi Garden (there was someone actually practicing Tai Chi) to the aptly named Vantage Point, a 30 metre high tower with 105 steps.
At the top of the Vantage Point are dramatic views of skyscrapers and the surrounding gardens. It's a pity about the cloud though, really hinders the view to Victoria Peak. Looks like Victoria Peak is off today's agenda then. Won't see much up there.
There is also a birds-eye-view (another pun is coming) of my next destination, and the one I am most excited about, the Edward Youde Walk-through-Aviary (Hah! Get it? Birds-eye-view of an Aviary).
I race down the 105 steps of the Vantage Point with excitement. But before experiencing the Edward Youde Walk-through-Aviary I better take a look at the caged display area where the hornbills and other bird species from the Malaysian region are housed. My excitement was quickly extinguished. Sure the birds are amazing, but the enclosures are drab and looking though wire really ruins the experience. Ok, stuff this I'm going to the Edward Youde Walk-through-Aviary.
The Edward Youde Walk-through-Aviary is brilliant. There is plenty of bird life and the raised walkway amongst the tree canopy is a real thrill. The bird carers place fruit at positions close to the walkway so you can watch the different birds feed. With the free brochure in hand I feel like an avian expert. I can't believe this is free.
As the photos suggest you can get rather close to the birds, but you have to be quick if you want a photo as they dart around rapidly. Wait a minute ... wasn't there a bird flu outbreak in Hong Kong? Should I really be enclosed with birds in Hong Kong? Too late now. I guess that is why there are small signs on the balustrading stating "This is disinfected 4 times a day". Not sure if the disinfection is to stop the spread from dirty birds or dirty people. Probably both. Anyway, I definitely suggest visiting the Edward Youde Walk-through-Aviary as it is absolutely awesome ... just keep your hands to yourself.
After leaving the Edward Youde Walk-through-Aviary I walk around aimlessly, coming across other places of interest such as Rawlinson House, which was built in the early 20th century as the residence of the Deputy Commander of British Forces in the old Victoria Barracks. Currently the building houses the Park Management Office and the Cotton Tree Drive Marriage Registry. As I approached Rawlinson House a wedding party were just leaving. Pity about the weather for the bride and groom. I don't think the groom should mind though, his now wife is an absolute stunner. I think he will be having some fun after the wedding reception if you know what I mean.
Anyway, enough of that smut. Next to Rawlinson House is Olympic Square, an amphitheatre which was built to promote activities of the 2009 Hong Kong East Asian Games. A drab affair to say the least, but probably a spectacle if filled with people.
From Olympic Square I head past the artificial lakes towards Flagstaff House.
Flagstaff House was the residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces when Hong Kong Park was a garrison. Today it is the Museum of Tea Ware. Sure I like the odd cup of tea and Lady Grey or Green Tea would have to be my favourites, but I am not that into tea and tea related paraphernalia. However, it is starting to rain so my interest in Tea Ware has taken a dramatic turn. Yes! I want to see teapots and whatever else the Museum of Tea Ware has to offer in addition to an escape from the now pelting precipitation ... plus entry is free.
Despite my initial lack of interest in tea ware the Museum of Tea Ware wasn't that bad. The architecture of Flagstaff House (built in 1846 and the oldest surviving western building in Hong Kong) was itself interesting and all the old tea pots definitely kept me occupied. Some date back to the Tang dynasty (618–907)! That is one old teapot.
I wander about the exhibits as I wait for the rain outside to subside. I only brought my spray jacket today, which isn't appropriate for the deluge outside. If only I bought an umbrella. Wait a minute, I think I know just where to find one ... the Umbrella Revolution taking place on Connaught Road outside the Central Government Complex. Hope I am not walking myself into a riot?
Click thumbnail to enlarge.
Have you taken this walk? Any suggestions or errors? Please comment below.