ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Kellett Island

PAST & PRESENT OF TYPHOON SHELTER, Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣), Hong Kong

Despite staying in nearby Tai Hang (大坑) for five years and have regularly taken walks in the adjacent Victoria Park (維多利亞公園), we hardly cross the busy Gloucester Road to visit Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter (銅鑼灣避風塘). Only twice during evening walks did we cross the footbridge from the park to get a closer look at the yachts and fishing boats. Two years ago, in a late summer afternoon, I made a visit to the shelter when there was still light to project beautiful reflections on the placid water. Half an hour after sunset, feature lights of distant skyscrapers lit up one by one, both on the Island and Kowloon side. Near Tin Hau (天后), I walked out to one of the concrete bases of Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊) via a few wooden planks, to get a little closer of the boats. To my surprise, on one of the fishing boats there were two elderly making dinner on the boat deck. They seemed to have no interest in me, nor anything onshore. It seemed that the boat deck was their living room and kitchen, and the typhoon shelter, their safe haven in the city.

Typhoon shelter (避風塘), a cove separated from the sea with a breakwater and a narrow passageway, can be found in a number of places in Hong Kong. The shelters protect fishing boats and yachts from stormy weather, especially during the typhoon season. In the old days when fishery was still a vital industry for Hong Kong, many fishermen would actually live on their boats. Apart from the time out in the sea, the fishermen would call the typhoon shelters home. Most of these fishermen were known as Tanga (蜑家) or simply the “boat people”. Often referred as “sea gypsies” in the past, the boat people were a group of nomadic people who spent most of their living on boats. They were originated from a minority ethnic group in Southern China over a thousand years ago. Throughout centuries, the boat people spread along the coastal regions and river deltas in China. They had their own customs, rituals, beliefs, cuisine, and dialect. Due to the decline of fishery, poor living conditions, and high illiteracy rate, the boat people of Hong Kong have largely relocated onshore in 1990’s by the colonial government. As descendants of the boat people assimilated into mainstream Hongkongers, their unique culture has gradually faded, except some of their cuisine that still appear on restaurant menus as ”Typhoon Shelter style” dishes.

The city’s first and probably most famous typhoon shelter is Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter. Situated at the eastern limit of the historical Victoria City (維多利亞城), the name “Causeway Bay” is literally derived from the bay with a causeway going across at present day’s Causeway Road (高士威道). The Chinese name “Tung Lo Wan” (銅鑼灣) refers to a bay that shapes like a bronze gong, a percussion instrument dates back to about 200 BC in China. The former shoreline can still be traced from the alignment of Tung Lo Wan Road (銅鑼灣道), the street that separates Causeway Bay and Tai Hang. In 1880’s, the heavily silted bay was reclaimed up to Causeway Road. Beyond Causeway Road, the city’s first typhoon shelter was established in 1883 to serve the surrounding fishing communities. In 1953, another massive phase of land reclamation converted the 30 hectare typhoon shelter into probably Hong Kong’s most well known park, Victoria Park, and pushed the typhoon shelter further north to the present location. Construction of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel (紅磡海底隧道) in late 1960’s and the Central-Wan Chai Bypass in 2009 further defined the boundary of today’s typhoon shelter. Today, not only does the typhoon shelter offer protection to boats of the former fishermen and adjacent Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (香港遊艇會), it also becomes a popular retreat for anyone who seeks a moment of serenity from the sometimes suffocating shopping scenes of Causeway Bay.

From Wan Chai, Gloucester Road winds along the waterfront to Causeway Bay, where Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter lies outside the shopping district and Victoria Park. [2022]
Today, Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter begins from the bullet-like vent tower (left in photo) to the east, stretches in front of the overpass of Island Easter Corridor (centre in photo), and ends at the entry of Cross Harbour Tunnel (far right in photo) and Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (just out of photo to the right). Beyond the typhoon shelter lies Victoria Park (greenery in centre of photo), and the skyline of Tin Hau (left), Tai Hang (middle) and Causeway Bay (right). [2020]
Opened in 1972, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel remains as the busiest vehicular harbour crossing among the three available today. Beyond the tunnel entrance marks the western end of the typhoon shelter. [2022]
Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter begins immediately behind the Cross Harbour Tunnel and Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. [2020]
While fishing boats dominated the typhoon shelter back in the 19th century, the yacht club has become the main user of the shelter in recent years. [2022]
Fired everyday at noon, a Jardine Matheson staff would fire the Noonday Gun (怡和午炮) at Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter, creating a small tourist spectacle passed down as a tradition since 1860’s. East Point, the area that encompasses today’s features such as the Noonday Gun, World Trade Centre, SOGO, Fashion Walk, Windsor House, Lee Garden, Hysan Place, and much of what we would consider as central Causeway Bay, was the former headquarters of Jardine Matheson. Due to series of land reclamation, the gun has been relocated a few times. [2022]
The typhoon shelter extends east to Tin Hau, where the elevated highway Island Eastern Corridor starts. [2021]
The Tin Hau (Mazu) Temple Boat is one of the largest feature boat in the typhoon shelter. [2021]
Looking west to the yacht club and the skyline of Wan Chai and Central beyond, Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter is a pleasant spot for watching sunset. [2021]
Below Island Eastern Corridor, Sunset beyond the skyscrapers of Wan Chai and Central. [2022]
Further away from the yacht club, more boats of the original fishing people would be seen. The skyline of Kowloon can be seen beyond Victoria Harbour. [2020]
A small group of former fishermen still prefer to live on their boats. [2020]
Some face-lifting works are being done at the sidewalk along the typhoon shelter. [2020]
As evening approaches, a tranquil ambience would fallen upon the typhoon shelter, despite the busy traffic on the overpass. [2020]
The typhoon shelter offers a much needed tranquility for the city dwellers in Hong Kong. [2020]
The typhoon shelter has become a tourist attraction in recent years, as well as one of the last places other than Aberdeen to get a sense of how the former boat people once lived in Hong Kong. [2020]
Other than a tourist attraction, “typhoon shelter” has now been known as a cooking style, usually seafood dishes with lots of fried garlic, chilli and green onion. [2014]
Postcard of East Point (now Causeway Bay) from 1900, showing the former Kellet Island, Jardine Matheson’s buildings in East Point (now SOGO and Causeway Bay MTR Station) and East Point Hill (now Lee Gardens) at the centre, and beyond, Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter (now Victoria Park). [Photo: Wikimedia Commons, public domain]
Occupying the site of the former Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter, Victoria Park is the most popular public park in Hong Kong. Equipped with tennis, football, basketball, handball, volleyball, swimming, running, rollerskating and fitness facilities, the park receives more visitors than the numbers of Hong Kong Park and Kowloon Park combined. [2020]
The park is also the city’s main venue to host events, from New Year Fair to Mid Autumn Festival celebrations, and from political rallies to demonstrations. [2020]
The 19 hectare park serves as a communal backyard for the surrounding neighbourhoods, including Tin Hau, Tai Hang, and Causeway Bay. [2020]
In 2013, a modern aquatic centre was built to replace the former outdoor pool, where I took my first swimming lessons as a kid. [2014]
At the park entrance sits a statue of Queen Victoria. Cast in London in the 19th century, the statue was originally erected in Statue Square in Central. During WWII, the statue was transported to Japan to be melted. Luckily it was retrieved at the end of the war and was relocated to Victoria Park in 1955. [2020]
Apart from recreational activities and social events, Victoria Park is also a convenient pedestrian link between Causeway Bay and Tin Hau. [2020]
Beside the activity areas, there is also a peaceful side in Victoria Park, where people come to sit down for a chat or rest under the shade. In the midst of the city’s main shopping and commercial district and upscale residential neighbourhoods, Victoria Park is essentially the Central Park of Hong Kong. [2020]
During our years in Tai Hang, Victoria Park was our favorite place to take an evening stroll after supper. [2019]

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]