From Victoria Peak, a stream flowed down to Kennedy Road and then found its way down a stone nullah into Victoria Harbour next to the imposing Naval Hospital (today’s Ruttonjee Hospital). Despite the water’s occasional foul smell, the community regularly came to the nullah for laundry. In 1959, the nullah was covered and turned into Stone Nullah Lane (石水渠街). Today, apart from some car mechanics and restaurants, Stone Nullah Lane is best known as one of the oldest neighborhoods in Wan Chai, and its tourist attractions: Pak Tai Temple (灣仔北帝廟) and Blue House (藍屋). Among all the historical buildings in Wan Chai, Blue House is probably one of the most well known, partly due to its importance as one of the city’s last remaining prewar tenement buildings (tong lau) with balconies, and partly due to its vivid blue colour. Passing by the intersection of Queen’s Road East and Stone Nullah Lane, it is almost impossible to miss the Blue House complex and its colourful neighbours. To many’s surprise, the Blue house complex was not always blue. In 1990’s, two decades after the building was acquired by the government, blue paint was used to dress up the structure simply because there was blue paint available from the Water Department.
Long before the complex was painted blue, the Blue House was already a well known destination in the neighborhood for its healthcare and educational roles in the community. Long before the complex was even erected, the site was home to Wah Tuo Hospital (華佗醫院), a clinic serving the local community. After the clinic was merged into a larger facility in Sheung Wan, the clinic was converted into a small temple dedicated to Wah Tuo (華陀), the legendary Chinese physician in the 2nd century AD. In 1920, a tenement block with exquisite balconies were erected at 72, 72A, 74 and 74A Stone Nullah Lane, which later became the Blue House that we know today. In 1950’s, descendant of a student of the famous Chinese martial artist and physician Wong Fei-hung (黃飛鴻) opened a martial arts school and dit da (跌打) or Chinese bone-setting clinic at the Blue House. Apart from healthcare, the Blue House also housed a charity school (鏡涵義學) and Wan Chai’s only prewar English school (一中書院), a grocery shop, wine shop, union of the seafood trade, and residential units. Over half a century from its completion, in 1978 the complex was acquired by the government. After the complex was listed as heritage building in 2000, the project “Viva Blue House” was put forward by St Jame’s Settlement (聖雅各福群會), the NGO serving the Stone Nullah Lane community since 1949. Began in 2006, “Viva Blue House” aims to revitalize the complex and the adjacent Yellow House and Orange House into a tourist attraction/ apartment compound. As part of the project, a visitor centre called Hong Kong House of Stories (香港故事館) was established at the Blue House, telling neighborhood stories to outsiders through workshops, exhibitions, tours, and talks, as well as organizing community events such as communal dinners and film screening.
Like many Spanish colonial cities, the historical core of Arequipa is laid out in a grid pattern. Occupying two city grids located three blocks north of Plaza de Armas, the enormous complex of Monasterio de Santa Catalina is the biggest tourist attraction in the city. Founded in 1579, the monastery is a nun convent of the Dominican Second Order. Dona Maria de Guzman, a rich widow, was the foundress of the monastery. At its peak, the 20,000 sq.m monastery housed about 450 people (nuns and their servants). Many upper class families were willing to pay a large sum of dowry in order to send their second daughters to the monastery as nuns. Nowadays, about 20 nuns still live in a private quarter in the complex. The majority of the monastery has been turned into an open air museum.
Monasterio de Santa Catalina is a great example of Spanish colonial architecture with unique local influences. With vivid colours, tranquil cloisters, and centuries of modifications and additions since the earthquake of 1582, the monastery has become a collection of colonial architecture and religious antiques. We spent a good couple of hours wandering in the monastery. The vivid blue, orange, and white walls gave the splendid and solemn architecture some delightful touches that echoed the vibrant colours of native cultures in Peru.
A floor plan of the monastery in display showing the extensiveness of Monasterio de Santa Catalina.
Cloister of the Orange Trees, one of the main cloisters in the monastery, is decorated with vivid blue walls and religious wall paintings.
Frescoes depicting religious stories at the cloister.
Fresco and the vivid blue wall by the cloister.
Roof drainage and the white washed walls of Monasterio de Santa Catalina.
A small court adjacent to the outdoor laundry area in Monasterio de Santa Catalina.
Steep exterior steps leading up to the rooftop.
Cluster of laundry basins where nuns washed their clothes.
Calle Sevilla in the living quarter is flanked by dwelling units for nuns, with the chapel in the background.
The vivid orange walls in the nun’s living quarter coupled with stone bench, large roof tiles, and unique roof gutter.
An atmospheric pastel coloured street corner and plant decorations looked surreal.
Stone inscription above a window opening in Monasterio de Santa Catalina.
Antique tools in a kitchen where nuns made their own food, including bread.
In almost every kitchen in the complex, there is a ceiling oculus for smoke ventilation and natural light.
There are many well preserved antiques in Monasterio de Santa Catalina, including the stone filter on the left and a wooden furniture on the right.
Portraits of nuns in a bedroom at the living quarter.
View of the living quarter, internal streets and outdoor fountain from the rooftop in Monasterio de Santa Catalina.
View from the roof top in Monasterio de Santa Catalina towards the scenery of volcanoes and mountains outside the city.
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Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010
1. Peru Trip 2010
2. Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3. Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4. Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5. Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6. Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru