Finding the Walled City


So today I decided I would go to somewhere I have never been to in HK. I think I have visited most tourist spots in the last decade and some on many occasions. I tried when I was here on sabbatical not to visit any ‘sights’ until visitors came and thus spent most of my time wandering the ordinary streets, markets and shops of the average hong konger. I liked the Market where fresh yellow mangoes and papyra became firm favourites. Trying to negotiate what I wanted through pointing and other signs was hard work but I usually came away with a good selection.
Today I have been to the Kowloon Walled City Park. It is made up of a well appointed Park in the precise area that the previous Kowloon Walled City was contained. This area, not too large, held many Chinese who did not welcome English rule over their territories. It acted as an ungoverned state within Hong Kong until U.K. and China agreed to its demolition in 1989. It had at its height over 40000 residents packed into this small area and was an unruly community with drugs, prostitution and triad activity dominating. I took a picture of a model of the city recreated in metal which you can see below.
It is 31000 square miles in total area and at its centre is the Yamen, a three hall structure, the only surviving building from the original Walled City. 1847 saw the completion of the Walled City by the Chinese with strong stonewalls, watchtowers and four gates, some of the walls and gates are preserved today, though many were demolished during Japanese occupation of HK. Once demolition of the city was agreed between China and the UK in 1989 the work was completed in 1994 and the Park remains as a only monument to this area.
Given the area contains so much history it is a shame that so little of the architecture remains. My one regret about my visits to Hong Kong is I did not visit before the handover in the 1980s. I would have seen not only this City but a very different landscape for Hong Kong as a whole. I have chatted to people who have come back and the contrast is marked. I have seen plenty of pictures of the past but to have had a living memory would have been good.
I liked the Park, it was quiet, lots of birds and I was able to take a few pictures of the local varieties including the Red-whiskered Bulbul, local sparrows, the black-collared starling and the oriental magpie Robin which are reproduced in a collage below. I wish I had had my big lens with me I could have got some pretty good close ups. Tomorrow I visit the wetlands when I hope to get closer to some of the more exotic birds of Hong Kong unless they have flown away for the season.
It was very hot today but the area had a lot of natural shaded areas so I was able to rest and recuperate. The ability to construct such parks and gardens is one of the beautiful aspects about Hong Kong and they always manage to be an oasis of calm even if very close to rushing crowds. The Nan Lian Gardens in Diamond Hill is a perfect example of calm around a hotspot of highways and high rise apartments, one of my favourite haunts.
This was the first day that I had ventured out and I did find the walking a little challenging. But had decided to go by taxi and managed to get a taxi back to the Hotel. Tomorrow promises to be more challenging with a visit to the wetlands.
Tonight I am out for dinner with locals I got to know through the Hong Kong Probation Service. Some years ago I arranged a study visit for three HK probation officers to the UK around Sheffield. It is interesting how the local probation service here still features trained social workers and operates more with young offenders than older offenders and reflects the more traditional role of the probation officer in the UK. Not surprising given it was based on the UK model orginally. I have had lunch with those officers a few times since. In fact one of them was helpful when I arrived on sabbatical as I brought with me the very painful complaint of planter fasciitis. These are muscles in the sole of your feet and they are very painful. I was struggling to walk at all and shortly after arriving here I went out to dinner with them. One of them said had I tried MBTs. To be honest I had not heard of them but she was very positive so I went and tried a pair on, they are known as the anti-shoe and are designed as if the foot is walking next to the ground. They have a circular shape so walking in them takes some getting used to. When I left 7 months later the pains in my feet had gone and I have always worn MBTs since. Worth having a look at them if you have the same problem though they are expensive.
These probation officers would be surprised if not a little disturbed by what has happened to Probation in the UK over the past two years. As this is a holiday blog I will go no further on that topic as it still depresses me.
Enjoy the photos I have included quite a few to give you a sense of the Gardens.

2 thoughts on “Finding the Walled City

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