Strolling around the lush gardens of Kowloon Walled City Park with a detour to the Hau Wong Temple.
After surviving the crowds of the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple I think I deserve a break. A walk in the park is in order. The Kowloon Walled City Park to be precise.
As the crow flies, Kowloon Walled City Park is only about 1km from Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple. But because I don't have wings I hop aboard the train at Wong Tai Sin and depart at the next station west, Lok Fu Station. About 500m downhill along Johnstone Road I am near the north-west corner of the park. Before visiting the Kowloon Walled City Park however, I take a small detour to the Hau Wong Temple located on the corner of Johnstone Road and Tung Tau Tsuen Road.
Finally, some peace and quiet. Could the Hau Wong Temple be any different to the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple? Apart from myself, the only other person here is an attendant.
Constructed in 1730, the temple is dedicated to Hau Wong (as the name suggests). Hau Wong can be translated to "Prince Marquis" and in this case refers to Yeung Leung-jit, a courageous Chinese general who helped protect the last emperor of the Song dynasty (960–1279) by providing refuge in Kowloon. The temple is now a declared monument and houses a number of cultural artefacts. Although small in size, there is still plenty to see. I took my time slowly visiting every nook and cranny and enjoying the quiet and the smell of burning incense.
Now relaxed, it is time for an amble around Kowloon Walled City Park, which is just across the road. As the name suggests, there is a wall. So here it is.
This wall isn't the actual reason for the parks name, it's much more historic than what you see above. But I'll explain that a bit later. The walled section is located in the north-east corner of a large block of other parks (playgrounds and sporting facilities) on the corner of Tung Tau Tsuen Road and Tung Tsing Road. Kowloon Walled City Park is a great place for a stroll. It was very quiet, historic, lush and there are plenty of path options to choose from.
The Kowloon Walled City Park was a great escape from the crowds of the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple and Kowloon in general. However, this definitely would not have been the case if I visited here over 30 years ago when the site was the location of possibly the most densely populated place on Earth. More on this in a second, but a quick history lesson first.
The ground on which the Kowloon Walled City Park stands has a very long history dating back to the 15th century when it was fortified as a signal station for the north-east corner of the Kowloon peninsula. Yep, that's right, this area was formally on the water. The amount of land reclamation is amazing. Anyway, the area become more important as a military post during the 1800's (after the British occupation of Hong Kong Island in 1841) and a massive stone walled garrison was constructed by the Chinese. The population of the Walled City peaked at around 500 people. After the British leased the New Territories the Chinese officials left the Walled City and a power vacuum resulted. A state of lawlessness erupted and numerous swatters moved into the area.
During the Second World War Japanese occupation much of the original walled garrison was demolished and the stone used to build the nearby Kai Tak airfield. After the war the area rebuilt, and when I say rebuilt I mean it. Swatters moved into the area in their masses and constructed high rise "living" quarters without any authority or architectural input. At the cities height it is believed that between 30,000 and 50,000 residents called the 2.6ha site home. The dank, lightless slum became a notorious crime area but in most cases the residents lived in harmony with each other. The cities demise started in 1987 when the Chinese authorities decided to demolish the area and build the park in which I walk today. The site was finally demolished in 1994, but before that, a Canadian photographer named Greg Girard spent five years documenting the area. Some of these photographs can been seen in a Daily Mail feature which I highly recommend you take a look at. The photographs are amazing. I cannot believe such a structure ever existed. Organised chaos it looks like. For more information on the history of Kowloon Walled City Park I recommend a visit to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department website as well.
That's enough talking about history. What history is left? Luckily and surprisingly, after all these years some relics did survive. But unfortunately the only building left was that of the Yamen, or the headquarters, of the Walled City.
The cannons at the front of the Yamen are also originals from 1802.
Apart from the history the gardens are very nice and well worth a walk.
At the Lung Nam Pavilion, I came across this.
See the photographers (they appear to be professionals) taking pictures of two attractive women in what I would called cosplay wear. Not sure what this is all about. Why the pictures? Are these their girlfriends? Is this for a catalogue? A hobby? Some sort of fetish? Either way, I was jealous. Not only were they taking pictures of hotties, they were hogging the Pavilion! Damn those photographers and their sexy models. I didn't get a clear shot of what I thought was probably the most photogenic spot in the entire garden.
After a good walk around the garden I rested under the big tree at the front of the Yamen and considered my options. Thought about calling it an afternoon and returning to my hotel, but there was a grumbling in my stomach. Luckily the Kowloon City Food District is close by. The district is a group of 10 streets bounded by Prince Edward Road West, Carpenter Road and Junction Road, which is just south of the Kowloon Walled City Park. There are supposedly around 200 restaurants in the area. Time to check out one.
I ended up on South Wall Street at a Thai restaurant. Why did I choose Thai? Basically because it was the first place I saw that had pictures of all the meals on the wall. As a tourist who doesn't speak a word of Cantonese and has no idea what they are buying, those restaurants with pictures of the meals are a God send. I wish they all did this.
After a great Thai meal and a few Tsingtao beers I head back to my hotel. What's in store for tonight? Think I might head up to The Peak on Hong Kong Island and check out the night time views of the bustling city below.