Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Stonehouses Family Garden, Kowloon City

Anyone who makes the effort to head over to Kowloon City for some exploration should also try and schedule some lunch (or at least a coffee break) at the Stonehouses Family Garden. I became aware of this place last year when Chris DeWolf penned an article for the SCMP detailing some of the interesting history of the local area, Lok Fu.

It then slipped my mind until later in the year when a friend invited me out for some lunch and chose this place because of its previous association with the Hong Kong film industry.



Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Sam Tung Uk, Tsuen Wan

Tsuen Wan has never been the easiest place to explore thanks to its need to make everyone walk around on a less-than-user-friendly system of walkways. But stuck in-between the often incongruous mixture of industrial buildings, office blocks, shopping malls and residential buildings you can find some real gems. Here is one of the more well-known ones and lucky for us it's just a few minutes short walk (along the ground and in a fairly straight line) from the Tsuen Wan terminus of the MTR's Central line (that's the red one for those who don't know).

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Family Hiking: From Tai She Wan to Pak Tam Chung

My kids are still fairly young (the youngest will be 8 next month) but for several years now we have been taking them on some fairly decent hikes which they seem to love and loathe in equal measures. Said youngest did a very challenging 14km hike at the tender age of 5 a few years back, so this particular hike - being around 12km - was not really much of a challenge for his seasoned legs.

I wanted to write about this hike because it was one of the original "family hikes" that appeared in the fourth edition (and earlier?) of Pete Spurrier's The Serious Hikers Guide to Hong Kong. The book has since been revamped and separated into four separate booklets covering each of the major trails in Hong Kong (Maclehose, Wilson, Hong Kong and Lantau Trails), which is actually great, but the downside is that these enjoyable family hikes seem to have been discarded in the process.


Thursday, 5 January 2017

An Article (or two) for Portwatch Magazine

For those interested, I penned a couple of short articles for a club magazine over the previous summer. Portwatch is the publication produced by the Aberdeen Marina Club in Sham Wan. I figured that with all the information I had on films made in and around the area it might make interesting reading. Sadly the word limit was a bit restrictive - the bilingual nature of the publication meant I only had half of what I would normally get. As a result the editor decided to split the article into two parts. I would have loved to go into more detail but there you have it.

There's no direct link available but you can go to the club's website (http://www.aberdeenmarinaclub.com/portwatch.php) and find the offending material on and either download it or view online:

Aberdeen on Screen Part 1: Jul/Aug 2016 issue pages 30-31
Aberdeen on Screen Part 2: Sep/Oct 2016 issue pages 28-29

Friday, 30 December 2016

The view from the Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal, Tsim Sha Tsui

As the year draws to a close and I look out of my window and see the rather grim state of the air at this time I felt the need to rehash an old post done in a time of much nicer weather and infinitely more breathable air. Also quite timely for those wishing to find a decent vantage point to watch the New Year fireworks. Well, actually I've never bothered to go and see what the fireworks are like from here (or anywhere else for that matter) - just can't stand the crowds - but this place may be worth checking out because it is one of the lesser-known (or at least lesser-considered) views across the harbour. It's the roof terrace of the HK-China Ferry Terminal on Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. I say "lesser-considered" because the ferry terminal building's location is a little further away from the harbour compared to the more favoured spots, but it still provides some great views with the added bonus that it isn't very busy. When I was there in the height of the summer a few years ago I was the only person there.

HK China Ferry Terminal Building

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

On top of Tai Mo Shan

Tai Mo Shan is Hong Kong's tallest peak and in the 10 years I have lived here, I had never been to the top. I've been nearby for some interesting dim sum breakfast at Chuen Lung village, and also a few months ago I walked (with my kids) down the Kap Lung Ancient Trail and back up the Kap Lung Forest Trail, but had yet to make it to the top. So when David Bellis from Gwulo suggested a trip there to find some traces of the Japanese occupation I thought it might be a good opportunity. So, last Tuesday in the glorious heat and sunshine of Hong Kong's (unexpectedly) mild winter, we headed up there with Thomas Ngan (the same Thomas who is rather helpful identifying various film locations over on the other blog).

Radio transmitter at the top of Tai Mo Shan

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Around the Mai Po Marsh Nature Reserve

The Mai Po Marsh Nature Reserve sits in the far northern reaches of Hong Kong's New Territories. It's not the easiest place to visit for two reasons 1. you need to pre-book onto a tour, no turning up on spec and 2. It is far away from the rail network which means you have to get there via taxi or green minibus. Luckily, it's been run by the WWF HK since 1983 and so all the information you require about it can be found by going to this page.

I did this the lazy way and just joined an organised trip done through my wife's work, but it was well worth taking the time. If you've ever visited the wetland park in Tin Shui Wai then this is more of the same but in a more natural environment (less boardwalk and more picturesque pathways) and I feel more worth the effort.

Mai Po Marsh Nature Reserve

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Race Course Fire Memorial in So Kon Po

The Race Course Fire Memorial was one of those things that I knew was around but had never really had the chance to visit, and then once I had the time it had really been pushed from my mind. It's only since last year when it was finally gazetted s a Government monument that it wriggled back into my mind and noted as a thing to make an effort to see. It's only taken me 10 or so years but I took an opportunity the other day to pop up and see the place with my own eyes.

It's not so convenient to get to because it's up on the hillside behind the Hong Kong Stadium in So Kon Po and this means it is a fair distance from public transport and out of sight and mind for most people. And, as nicely demonstrated by me, even those who know about it need to make a special effort to visit.

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.