ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Happy Valley

THE DISAPPEARED CANAL, Wanchai/ Causeway Bay (灣仔/銅鑼灣), Hong Kong

Cutting through Happy Valley (跑馬地), Yellow Mud Stream or Wong Nai Chung (黃泥涌) once flowed past Morrison Hill (摩利臣山) and entered Victoria Harbour through an estuary in eastern Wan Chai, opposite to the tiny Kellett Island (奇力島/ 燈籠洲). In 1850’s, reformist Governor John Bowring (寶寧) allowed Chinese citizens to become lawyers, established the first commercial water supply system, ensured safer design for construction projects, and developed the river mouth of Yellow Mud Stream into an area known as Bowring City, or Bowrington (寶靈頓). At the heart of Bowrington lies Bowrington Canal (寶靈頓運河), where the water of Yellow Mud Stream was directed towards the harbour. Some locals found the narrow canal resembling a goose neck, and hence named it Goose Neck Creek or Ngo Keng Kan (鵝頸澗). First built in 1861, Bowrington Bridge or Ngo Keng Kiu (鵝頸橋) has become a landmark of Victoria City ever since. In 1970’s, the canal was covered and turned into an underground waterway during the construction of Canal Road Flyover (堅拿道天橋), connecting Cross Harbour Tunnel at Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter with Wong Nai Chung Flyover and Aberdeen Tunnel in Happy Valley.

Just as Kellett Island is no longer an island and Morrison Hill is no longer a hill, Bowrington Canal is no longer a canal, but only a historical reference to today’s Canal Road. Following today’s Canal Road Flyover and Wong Nai Chung Flyover would give us an idea where the original Bowrington Canal and Yellow Mud Stream once flowed. “Bowrington Bridge” (鵝頸橋) remains as a nickname referring to the intersection of Hennessy Road and Canal Road, despite the bridge was long gone. Many people, including me, who are too young to see the real Bowrington Canal and Bridge, would often mistake the concrete Canal Road Flyover as Bowrington Bridge. To many, the Bowrington Bridge intersection is the unofficial boundary between Wan Chai and Causeway Bay, and also the famous spot of traditional villain hitting or da siu yan (打小人). Performed by old ladies, villain hitting is an old folk sorcery once popular in Guangdong and Hong Kong. It is a small ceremony in which the old lady would help her client to curse the enemy, usually someone that the client hates. East of Canal Road Flyover stands Times Square (時代廣場), a luxury shopping centre and office complex occupying the original Sharp Street tram depot; while west of the flyover sits Bowrington Road Market (鵝頸街市), a large market that include street stores and a multi level complex. At the boundary between Wan Chai and Happy Valley where Morrison Hill once stood, Canal Road Flyover makes a bend and becomes Wong Nai Chung Flyover extending into Happy Valley. The hill was removed in 1920’s as part of Praya East Reclamation Scheme, when rocks cleared from the hill were used to reclaim the nearby waterfront.

Taken from Morrison Hill in 1860’s, Bowrington Canal lies in the foreground. Kellett Island (today’s Royal Yacht Club and entrance of Cross Harbour Tunnel) appears as a distant island left of the canal mouth. Right to Kellett Island is the community and sugar factory of East Point (near today’s SOGO Department Store and Fashion Walk), the lush green Jardines’ Hill (today’s Lee Garden), and Leighton Hill on the right. [Photo: late 1860’s, The National Archives UK, public domain]
Taken at Jardine Hill (today’s Lee Garden) of East Point, Bowrington Canal was surrounded by newly reclaimed land. Morrison Hill (now flattened) stands behind the canal on the left, while the early city and port of Central stands as the background. [Photo taken by John Thomson in 1868, Wikimedia Commons, public domain]
The Canal Road Flyover terminates at a roundabout that directs traffic into the Cross Harbour Tunnel. In front of the roundabout lie Wan Chai Temporary Promenade (灣仔臨時海濱花園) and Water Sports and Recreation Precinct (水上運動及康樂主題區), two recently constructed public spaces along Victoria Harbour. [2022]
At Water Sports and Recreation Precinct, duck paddle boats can be rented right adjacent to the tunnel entrance. [2022]
East of Water Sports and Recreation Precinct stands Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (香港遊艇會) on the former Kellett Island (奇力島). [2022]
Before land reclamation of 1950’s and construction of Cross Harbour Tunnel, Kellett Island (Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club) was still far away from shore. [Photo: aerial shot of Kellett Island in 1948. Photo courtesy: kingofhiking of Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/kingofhiking/24326760, CC 2.0]
Built in 1939, the headquarters of Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club was an International Style Modernist building designed by architectural firm Leigh & Orange. [2020]
Further ashore, Bowrington Bridge (鵝頸橋) allowed trams on Hennessy Road to pass over Bowrington Canal. [1920’s, Wikimedia Commons, public domain]
Today, the Bowrington Bridge intersection has been covered by Canal Road Flyover (堅拿道天橋) since 1970’s. [2022]
Under the flyover, the Bowrington Bridge intersection is the most famous villain hitting spot in Hong Kong. [2014]
Located in such a highly public location, the ceremonies have become a common spectacle for passing pedestrians and tourists. [2014]
The villain hitting ceremony has become a popular tourist attraction, and was featured in many foreign travel shows. [2014]
The eastern boundary of the former Bowring City is marked by Times Square, one of Hong Kong’s high end shopping centre. Since mid 1990’s, the forecourt of Times Square has become a designated venue for New Year’s celebration. [2005]
The forecourt of Times Square also features large scale temporary display to engage pedestrians. [2015]
Sometimes, the large scale installation would extend into the main atrium of the mall. [2015]
Opened in 1994, Times Square was considered the first vertical shopping centre in Hong Kong due to the city’s high land price. [2021]
Outside Times Square, the busy crossings of Russell Street and Percival Street connects the mall with the shopping areas of Lee Garden and East Point. [2022]
West of Canal Road Flyover stands Bowrington Road Market, another name reference to Governor John Bowring of 1850’s. The 1979 market block was built to house the original vendors affected by the flyover construction. [2018]
While the former Morrison Hill has been converted into a quiet residential neighbourhood centered at a range of social facilities including schools, aquatic centre and Queen Elizabeth Stadium, cafe, bars and private galleries began to emerge in recent years, such as f22 foto space. [2019]
Established in 2017, f22 foto space is a contemporary gallery focused in photographic arts. [2019]
Interesting interior design has made f22 an artsy destination in the city. [2019]
The two storey gallery is connected by a cool spiral staircase. [2019]
The LED wall behind the stair displays the current exhibitions on show. [2019]
A small gallery cafe offers a quiet spot in Wan Chai for anyone who needs a break from the busy urban life. [2019]
From Morrison Hill, Wong Nai Chung Flyover bends south across Happy Valley into Aberdeen Tunnel. [Photo taken from Bowen Road Fitness Trail, 2020]

BOUNDARY STONES OF VICTORIA CITY (維多利亞城界石), Hong Kong

In 2014, local film Dot 2 Dot (點對點) was screened in the Hong Kong International Film Festival. The film was often described as low key, low budget and slow paced love story to the city. Amos Wong’s film explores the history and identity of Hong Kong through the encounter of a graffiti artist and a Mandarin teacher. It begins with the Mandarin teacher, newly arrived from Mainland China, discovering mysterious graffiti composed of dots at every metro station in Hong Kong. She is able to decode the graffiti by connecting the dots into meaningful imagery related to the local history of the particular neighborhood. She then comes up with her own graffiti and engages the unknown graffiti artist in a battle of graffiti riddles. It turns out that the graffiti artist is actually one of her students, who himself is a professional designer returned to Hong Kong from Canada. The movie follows both characters to explore different neighborhoods, including the quest to check out the boundary stones of the former Victoria City (維多利亞城). At the end of the film, the teacher finally realizes the true identity of the graffiti artist after visiting the westernmost boundary stone in Kennedy Town (堅尼地城). The story ends with them enjoying the peaceful sunset together at Kennedy Town ‘s praya.

Considered the capital of the former British Colony, Victoria City at the northern shore of Hong Kong island was the city’s first urban settlement. Victoria City was defined by the four “wans” (四環) or districts: Sai Wan (西環), Sheung Wan (上環), Chung Wan (中環), and Ha Wan (下環) or present’s day Wanchai. In 1903, the government erected seven stones to mark the boundary of Victoria City. The city soon expanded beyond the boundary limits and the stones became obsolete. Measured 98cm in height, tapered at the top and marked with the inscription “City Boundary 1903”, these historical boundary stones are mostly forgotten, except for history buffs who occasionally check on these urban artifacts and share their photos on the Internet. Six out of seven boundary stones survive to the present day, except the one at Magazine Gap Road in the Mid-Levels that was negligently removed by retaining wall contractors in 2007. For the remaining six boundary stones, it is possible to visit them all in a 5-6 hour hike. The hike offers hikers an interesting opportunity to walk around the old city centre, from the waterfront of Kennedy Town, halfway up the Victoria Peak and down to the Happy Valley Racecourses to the east.

Victoria City in 1900, about the time when the boundary stones were erected. [Credit: G. William Des Voeux (1903), My Colonial Service, Vol 2., London: John Murray, public domain]
Six boundary stones of the former Victoria City (highlighted in orange above) remain more or less at their original locations. From west (left) to east (right), the six remaining stones are located at 1) Kennedy Town, 2) Pokfulam, 3) Hatton Road near the Peak, 4) Old Peak Road near the Peak, 5) Bowen Road near Happy Valley, and 6) Happy Valley. The stone at Magazine Gap Road (highlighted in blue above) was removed in 2007 likely by road and retaining wall contractors under the negligence of the authorities. South of Victoria Harbour, connecting all seven stones would more or less offer us the rough extent of the former Victoria City.
1) Boundary Stone at Kennedy Town (堅尼地城)
The westernmost stone is located in Kennedy Town, inside a ball court right by the sea. [Kennedy Town Football Pitch, Sai Ning Road, Kennedy Town, 2020]
1) Boundary Stone at Kennedy Town (堅尼地城)
Kennedy Town Football Pitch is a popular spot for local residents. Hardly anyone notices the 1903 boundary stone right adjacent to a rubbish bin. [Kennedy Town Football Pitch, Sai Ning Road, Kennedy Town, 2020]
1) Boundary Stone at Kennedy Town (堅尼地城)
It is sad to see one of the six boundary stones stands unnoticeably adjacent to a rubbish bin. [Kennedy Town Football Pitch, Sai Ning Road, Kennedy Town, 2020]
2) Boundary Stone at Pokfulam (薄扶林)
In the midst of student dormitories and college buildings of Hong Kong University on the slopes of Pokfulam (薄扶林) stands another boundary stone. [Near Junction of Pokfulam Road and Smithfield Road, Pokfulam, Southern District, 2020]
2) Boundary Stone at Pokfulam (薄扶林)
Half an hour walk from the boundary stone of Kennedy Town led us to the boundary stone in Pokfulam. [Near Junction of Pokfulam Road and Smithfield Road, Pokfulam, Southern District, 2020]
2) Boundary Stone at Pokfulam (薄扶林)
The Pokfulam boundary stone is located close to the entrance of a pedestrian underpass. [Near Junction of Pokfulam Road and Smithfield Road, Pokfulam, Southern District, 2020]
3) Boundary Stone at Hatton Road (克頓道) near Victoria Peak
As the entrance of Lung Fu Shan Morning Trail ascending up to the Victoria Peak, Hatton Road is popular for morning walkers. It is also home to one of the historical boundary stones. [Hatton Road near Kotewall Road, The Peak, 2020]
3) Boundary Stone at Hatton Road (克頓道) near Victoria Peak
The boundary stone at Hatton Road is the only boundary stone remained at its original location. The rest were somehow re-positioned throughout the years due to different constructions. [Hatton Road near Kotewall Road, The Peak, 2020]
3) Boundary Stone at Hatton Road (克頓道) near Victoria Peak
Hatton Road is one of the pedestrian paths that leads to Lugard Road and the Victoria Peak. [India Rubber Tree at Lugard Road, The Peak, 2020]
4) Boundary Stone at Old Peak Road (舊山頂道) near Victoria Peak
From the main square on the Peak, walking down Old Peak Road would bring us to the next boundary stone. Old Peak Road was once the only road connecting the Mid Levels to the Peak and the grand colonial mansions overlooking the city. Today, much of Old Peak Road has been pedestrianized. [Old Peak Road, The Peak, 2020]
4) Boundary Stone at Old Peak Road (舊山頂道) near Victoria Peak
From Old Peak Road, we could occasionally have glimpses of the city below. [Old Peak Road, The Peak, 2020]
4) Boundary Stone at Old Peak Road (舊山頂道) near Victoria Peak
Standing by the side of the steep road, the century old boundary stone silently greets every sweaty hiker. [Old Peak Road, The Peak, 2020]
4) Boundary Stone at Old Peak Road (舊山頂道) near Victoria Peak
The markings from 1903 are still clearly visible on the stone. [Old Peak Road, The Peak, 2020]
5) Boundary Stone at Bowen Road (寶雲道)
Not counting the lost boundary stone at Magazine Gap Road, the next one further east is at Bowan Road (寶雲道), another popular spot for runners and hikers. The relatively flat fitness trail on the eastern slope of the Peak offers visitors splendid views of Wanchai below. The 64-storey cylindrical Hopewell Centre near the lush green slope was the tallest building in Hong Kong from 1980 to 1989. Further out towards the waterfront, the 78-storey Central Plaza was the tallest building in Asia from 1992 to 1996. [Bowen Road Fitness Trail, Mid-Levels, 2020]
5) Boundary Stone at Bowen Road (寶雲道)
The boundary stone is located close to the east end of Bowan Road, where the horse racecourses in Happy Valley and the buildings of Causeway Bay appear within walking distance. [Bowen Road Fitness Trail, Mid-Levels, 2020]
5) Boundary Stone at Bowen Road (寶雲道)
The Bowen Road boundary stone stands comfortably by the side of the fitness trail. [Bowen Road Fitness Trail, Mid-Levels, 2020]
5) Boundary Stone at Bowen Road (寶雲道)
[Bowen Road Fitness Trail, Mid-Levels, 2020]
6) Boundary Stone at Happy Valley (跑馬地)
From the eastern end of Bowen Road Fitness Trail, Stubbs Road and Blue Pool Road leads the way down to Happy Valley Racecourses. Happy Valley Racecourse was established by the British in 1846. Since then, Happy Valley has become a synonym of horse racing in Hong Kong. [Bowen Road Fitness Trail, Mid-Levels, 2020]
6) Boundary Stone at Happy Valley (跑馬地)
Along Wong Nai Chung Road, all apartments contain large windows facing the racecourses of Happy Valley. The last boundary stone is located just outside the wall of the racecourses. [Wong Nai Chung Road (黃泥涌道), Happy Valley, 2020]
6) Boundary Stone at Happy Valley (跑馬地)
The Happy Valley boundary stone stands in a small parkette outside the racecourses. [Wong Nai Chung Road (黃泥涌道), Happy Valley, 2020]