ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “estate

BEYOND THE CROWDS, Kwun Tong (觀塘), Kowloon, Hong Kong

Apartment blocks mushroom in clusters north of Kwun Tong’s MTR viaduct all the way to the slopes of Sau Mau Ping and Lam Tin, where stone quarries once dominated the skyline of Kowloon East. With 59,000 persons per square kilometre (2016), Kwun Tong is the most densely populated district in Hong Kong. Since the first public housing was erected in late 1950’s, Kwun Tong has become home to many public housing estates: Ngau Tau Kok (牛頭角邨), Lam Tin (藍田邨), Sau Mau Ping (秀茂坪邨), just to name a few. At the neighborhood centre lies Yue Man Square (裕民坊), the former commercial heart, and Shui Wo Street Market (瑞和街街市), the bustling street market that fascinates me every time I walk by the area. While Shui Wo Street Market remains as busy as decades ago, the original Yue Man Square is all but gone, giving way to new shopping malls and glassy towers. Beyond the vibrancy, noises, and dust, I was surprised to find pockets of breathing spaces beyond the crowded streets of Kwun Tong while exploring the area. Be it a decades old temple that was left untouched and hidden from plain sight throughout all these years of urban transformations, or forgotten reservoir structures that were left for decay in a lush green ravine, these peaceful corners have been serving as peaceful “backyards” for local residents, and any curious outsider who chooses to explore Kwun Tong beyond its shopping malls.

Surrounded by apartment blocks of Tsui Ping Estate (翠屏邨) and several school compounds, traditional Tai Wong Yeh Temple (大王爺廟) sits on a slope that is invisible from the streets below. Meandering between groups of school kids and elderly at the covered plazas of Tsui Ping Estate just minutes ago, entering the tranquil temple complex felt like going into an hidden retreat. During my brief visit, I was the only visitor and was free to wander around the temple complex all by myself. Clustered over a slope on three terraces, the complex was erected in 1958 as a replacement of an earlier temple in Lok Fu. I took my time to check out the colouful wall reliefs around the temple. Reliefs of a tiger and dragon particularly captured my attention. They may not be the most exquisite artworks found in galleries, but nevertheless they are valuable relics of the old Kwun Tong, from a time when skillful mural artisans were much more common.

North of Lok Wah Estate (樂華邨), lush green Jordan Valley (佐敦谷) wraps along the northern boundary of Kwun Tung. It is at Jordan Valley that the 648,541 (2016) Kwun Tong residents can cool themselves off at a 1.7 hectare swimming compound, hike in forested trails, picnic on park lawns, exercise in public playgrounds and ball courts, under the shadow of the majestic Kowloon Peak (飛鵝山). What fascinates me is that much of these pleasant green spaces and recreational facilities were once occupied by 16 blocks of social housing apartments known as Jordan Valley Estate (佐敦谷邨). In 1990’s, the former colonial government decided to tear down the housing estate and replace it with the much needed public recreational facilities of Kwun Tong. This was the only time in Hong Kong where a public housing estate was torn down and not replaced by taller apartment blocks. Perched above Jordan Valley, a red running track awaits anyone who is willing to hike up to the secret getaway of Kwun Tong High Level Service Reservoir Playground (觀塘上配水庫遊樂場). Attracted by photos of the running track against the dramatic backdrop of a ruined reservoir wall and Kowloon Peak, I braved the summer heat to climb up the hill for the relatively little-known scenery. On the way up, I passed by the main dam of the former Jordan Valley Reservoir, a decommissioned facility that once supplied Kwun Tong with seawater for flushing. Completed in 1960, the reservoir ceased operations in early 1980’s and was subsequently filled up. Today, apart from elderly residents or the few who come to exercise at the dam or running track, hardly anyone knows about the reservoir remnants. Without much documentation about its history, memories of the former Jordan Valley Reservoir are actually fading fast.

From Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, the skyline of Kwun Tong and Lam Tin is dominated by layers of highrise buildings. [2015]
Visible from Kwun Tong MTR Station, the decades old Garden Estate (花園大廈) awaits for its turn of urban renewal. [2022]
First completed in late 1950’s, Garden Estate (花園大廈) was the first public housing in Kwun Tong. [2022]
Garden Estate (花園大廈) was built to house industrial workers of Kwun Tong, which was Hong Kong’s first planned satellite town in 1950’s and 1960’s. [2022]
The main street market, Shui Wo Street Market (瑞和街街市), remains as lively as ever. [2022]
Apart from the shopping malls, commercial and industrial areas, Shui Wo Street Market is the place in Kwun Tong to experience its crowds. [2022]
From traditional cooking ingredients to paper lanterns for Mid Autumn Festival, Shui Wo Street Market offers a wide range of traditional merchandises for the community. [2022]
Decades old stationery shop and toy stores at Shui Wo Street Market are children’s favorites. [2022]
From Shui Wo Street Market, the newly completed curtain wall apartments can be seen as prominent replacements of the former commercial centre of Yue Man Square (裕民坊). [2022]

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It is such a contrasting experience to step into the complex of Tai Wong Yeh Temple (大王爺廟) from the busy streets of Kwun Tong. [2021]
The complex was built upon three main terraces. [2021]
Tai Wong Yeh Temple (大王爺廟) is quite well maintained. [2021]
I was particularly interested on the wall reliefs at Tai Wong Yeh Temple (大王爺廟). [2021]
With the fine details and beautiful shadows, the dragon is perhaps the most eye-catching relief of them all. [2021]
Built on the site of the former Jordan Valley Estate (佐敦谷邨), the 1.7 hectare swimming compound at Jordan Valley has become an essential public facility in Kwun Tong. [2022]
From the main dam of the former Jordan Valley Reservoir, the lush Jordan Valley appears like a green lung for Kwun Tong. [2022]
A part of the former reservoir is still used for water filtration and distribution. [2022]
The main dam of the former Jordan Valley Reservoir has become an exercise spot for the community. [2022]
Traces of the former reservoir is still visible at the former main dam. [2022]
Further uphill from the main dam brought me to Kwun Tong High Level Service Reservoir Playground, where remnants of the former water facilities can still be found. [2022]
Remnant of the former reservoir includes a dramatic ruined stone wall behind the running track. [2022]
Perched high above the surrounding residential developments, the running track is a secret getaway for Kwun Tong residents. [2022]
It is not an easy climb in summer to reach the running track from the adjacent neighborhoods. [2022]
But views of the majestic Kowloon Peak (飛鵝山) is more than rewarding for the sweaty climb. [2022]

NORTH POINT PIER (北角碼頭), North Point (北角), Hong Kong

For several occasions a year, usually in summer, fiery red skies would blanket Victoria Harbour. People at both sides of the harbour would flock to the waterfront after work to take photos of the beautiful skies. For me, the closest harbourfront lookout is North Point Pier, a public ferry pier situated below the expressway Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊) at the northernmost point of Hong Kong Island. Built in 1963, North Point Pier connects Hong Kong Island with Kowloon City, Hung Hom, and Kwun Tong in Kowloon. Together with the adjacent bus terminal and MTR station, the pier has established North Point as a transportation hub in eastern Hong Kong Island. But for many, North Point Pier is much more than just a transport interchange. It is also a community node where neighbours mingle, a dog park, a fishing spot for retirees, a dining destination, a seafood market, a venue for the controversial fish release ceremonies for Buddhist believers, and most recently, a hotspot for real estate investors. For us, North Point Pier is where we would hop on and off bus 23 to and from work, and have Japanese omurice or Vietnamese pho for lunch at the new Harbour North Shopping Centre (北角匯) below the luxury apartments of “Victoria Harbour” (海璇). Awkwardly, “Victoria Harbour” here is used as the name of the real estate development, the project that pushed up the record square foot rate of North Point to HK$65,846 (US$ 8,400) in 2018.

But North Point Pier was not always about money and luxurious living. Back in my childhood, North Point Pier was also home to North Point Estate (北角邨), a public housing estate comprised of seven 11-storey blocks with a total of 1,956 flats. Completed in 1957, the famous social housing complex was designed by architect Eric Cumine. With its convenient location at city centre, North Point Estate was a highly popular social housing estate back at its heyday. In late 1980’s, I often come to take lessons with Mr. Ip, a dedicated art teacher and traditional Chinese painter. I still remember walking in the open corridors and stairs of the housing complex where sea breeze would come all the way to the unit doors. Many residents would keep their doors open behind the metal gates so that sea breeze could reach their living spaces. Through the gate, I would count on seeing Mr. Ip’s paintings, images of Virgin Mary and photos of Mrs. Ip’s visit to the Vatican on the wall to ensure that I had arrived at the right flat for my art lessons. North Point Estate was cleared in 2002 and demolished in 2003. The land was subsequently sold to a local real estate developer and became what we now know as “Victoria Harbour”.

Several days ago, the vivid skies over Victoria Harbour had attracted many arrive at North Point Pier. [2022]
From North Point Pier, the skyline of East Kowloon was blanketed under the burning skies. [2022]
North Point Estate in 1989 [Photo by Benjwong at Wikipedia, public domain]
The skyline of North Point Ferry Pier after North Point Estate was demolished. [2014]
The skyline of North Point Ferry Pier after the luxury apartments of “Victoria Harbour” was erected. [2021]
North Point Pier includes a number of ferry docks extending out to the sea below the expressway Island Eastern Corridor. [2022]
Some of the old vehicular ferries have been converted into cruise ferry for tourists. [2021]
Since 1960’s, North Point Pier offer ferry services to Kwun Tong. [2022]
Another wing of the pier offer ferry services to Hung Hom and Kowloon City. [2022]
The pier is flanked by two rows of fishmongers and seafood shops. [2021]
Not much has been changed inside the pier in the past few decades. [2018]
It is a pleasant way to end the day by taking the ferry in Victoria Harbour. [2022]
North Point Pier is a great place to enjoy the scenery of Victoria Harbour and East Kowloon. [2021]
Kowloon Peak and the skyline of Kowloon Bay is the perfect backdrop for a ferry journey across Victoria Harbour. [2021]
Looking back to North Point Pier from a ferry journey. [2021]
Luxury apartments of “Victoria Harbour” replace the social housing estate North Point Estate in 2018. [2022]
The new North Point Promenade (北角海濱花園), residential and hotel development replace the former North Point Estate. [2021]
North Point Promenade (北角海濱花園) is a pleasant venue for an evening stroll. [2020]
Across Victoria Harbour from North Point, Lion Rock (獅子山) is the most iconic feature at Kowloon side. [2022]
View of Lion Rock from an art installation at North Point Promenade. [2021]
Lion Rock beyond North Point Pier. [2022]
Lion Rock beyond North Point Pier. [2021]
Adjacent to the pier, Java Road Market offers a popular dining destination for the North Point community. [2020]
Tung Po Kitchen (東寶小館), the most popular eatery at Java Road Market, offers beer by traditional Chinese bowls. [2020]