ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Kwun Tong High Level Service Reservoir Playground

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]