Occupying about one fifth of area of Hong Kong Island, Tai Tam Country Park is one of the more accessible hiking destinations in the city. The park is famous for its four reservoirs. Built in 1888, 1904, 1907 and 1917 respectively, the Tai Tam Upper Reservoir (大潭上水塘), Tai Tam Byewash Reservoir (大潭副水塘), Tai Tam Intermediate Reservoir (大潭中水塘) and Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir (大潭篤水塘) served as the major water sources for Hong Kong Island in the early 20th century. These reservoirs are surrounded by a series of green hills, including Mount Parker (柏架山), Mount Butler (畢拿山), Violet Hill (紫羅蘭山), and Jardine’s Lookout (渣甸山). A series of hiking trails wind through the hills and pass by the reservoirs, making the country park a popular hiking destination in Hong Kong.
One of the trailheads begins at Mount Parker Road, at a densely populated area of Quarry Bay and just a stone throw away from Taikoo Place, a busy business district in East Hong Kong Island.
The country park provides a decent view for the adjacent residential developments. Built in 1989, the five 34-level towers of Mount Parker Lodge (康景花園) present some of the most typical private residential developments for the city’s middle class.
Looking over to Taikoo Place, the 69-storey One Island East Tower rises above the densed residential neighbourhood of Quarry Bay.
Opposite to Quarry Bay and Taikoo Place, the second highest peak of Hong Kong Island, Mount Parker, is marked by the observatory station.
To the south we were treated with the scenery of Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir and Tai Tam Bay.
As we reached the lookout of Mount Butler, we were treated with the view of Quarry Bay, Taikoo Place and the distant Kai Tak runway and East Kowloon.
A series of four water bodies make up the group of Tai Tam Reservoirs.
Looking west we could see the silhouette of Wanchai and Central in the haze.
Completed in late 1980s, the 18-tower Hong Kong Parkview (陽明山莊) is a luxurious residential and service apartment complex right by the country park.
We walked from the lookout of Mount Butler down to Wong Nai Chung Gap.
Soon we came to a lookout over Tai Tam Reservoir.
Looking northwest through Wong Nai Chung Gap (黃泥涌峽), the valley in the middle of Hong Kong Island, we could see the International Commerce Centre (ICC) and East Tsim Sha Tsui across Victoria Harbour.
Constructed between 1883 to 1888, the Reservoir Dam and Valve House of Tai Tam Upper Reservoir (大潭上水塘) were among the first phase of reservoir construction in Tai Tam.
The original dam was 30.5m high and 122m long, connected to a network that brought water through tunnels and aqueducts all the way to Central.
On our way down to Wong Nai Chung Gap (黃泥涌峽), we passed by a former granite quarry.
The old quarry is now occupied by the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Depot where the police deals with explosives.
Hong Kong Parkview (陽明山莊) is famous of its surrounding scenic views, and also its occasional break-ins.
We exited the country park near Wong Nai Chung Gap. So we came to the historic Wong Nai Chung Reservoir (黃泥涌水塘). Built in 1889 as Hong Kong’s third reservoir, Wong Nai Chung Reservoir has been used as a boat park for 30 years from 1986 to 2017.
Wong Nai Chung Reservoir is one of the six pre-war reservoir groups in the city.
In 2012, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy had come to closure with The Dark Knight Rises. In this final chapter of the trilogy, there was a remarkable scene where Christian Bale (Batman) escaped from a terrifying underground prison. That underground prison was actually shot in Rajasthan, at Chand Baori of Abhaneri. Consisted of 3500 steps over 13 stories, and with a depth of about 30m, Chand Baori is one of the biggest stepped wells in India. The oldest parts of Chand Baori date back to the 8th century. For centuries, the well served as a community water cistern outside of the monsoon months.
We have long been fascinated by the beautiful stepped wells of India. Visiting Chand Baori of Abhaneri was one of the first attractions we selected for our travel itinerary. Despite visitors can no longer walk down the well, seeing the well from the top edge is still more than worthwhile to appreciate its ancient engineering marvel and sheer beauty of the stair arrangement.
We arrived at Chand Baori before 1pm.
It wasn’t the best time of the day to appreciate the shadow of the stairs.
But the sheer grandeur of the stepped well was really overwhelming.
One side of the well is occupied by a temple and resting spaces for the royal family.
The intricate carvings of jharokhas (windows), balconies and rooms reveal the significance of Chand Baori in the medieval time.
Like many attractions in India, pigeons are inevitable at Chand Baori.
Details of the architecture.
Dressed in blue, the staff of Chand Baori stood out from the earthy background.
Full view of Chand Baori.
Full view of Chand Baori.
Full view of Chand Baori.
The scale of Chand Baori is truly amazing.
The 3500 steps of the stepped well constitute a surreal picture as if an etched painting by Maurits Escher.
Similar to Bhangarh, Chand Baori was popular with local school groups as well.
Without protective railings, the stepped well can be dangerous when the place becomes too crowded.
The staff in blue really stood out at the stepped well.
The entire stepped well was like an open air museum.
There was a small Hindu shrine at the exit of the stepped well.
Panorama of Chand Baori.
Our second day in Jaisalmer began with flagging down a tuk tuk in front of First Gate Home Fusion Hotel to Gadsisar Sagar or Gadsisar Lake, an artificial lake that supplied water to Jaisalmer for centuries. Just like many places in the desert state of Rajasthan, maintaining water supply has been an essential aspect for the city’s survival. The peaceful artificial lake was constructed at around 1400 by the Maharaja of Jaisalmer Maharwal Gadsi Singh. As the years progressed, the lake had also become a place of pilgrimage, and venue for religious festivals and leisure boating. Temples and shrines mushroomed around the lake, and so as religious statues and the beautiful Tilon Ki Pol (Gate of Tilon) for ceremonial purposes. Today the lake has become a popular destination for anyone who wants to get away from the noisy streets inside the city walls of Jaisalmer. In winter, visitors may find themselves with surprise sighting of migratory birds (along with the lake’s more permanent residents: pigeons, dogs, and the large catfish).
A passageway connects Gadsisar Sagar with the main road. We arrived early in the morning when souvenir stall owners were busy setting up their stalls along the passageway.
Built by Tilon, a famous courtesan, the grand gate Tilon-Ki-Pol is the main gate of Gadsisar Sagar. The maharaja refused Tilon’s proposal of the construction, but Tilon built the gate while the maharaja was away. She put a Krishna temple atop the gate so that the maharaja could not tear it down.
The sky was a little grey despite it was out of the monsoon season. We were delighted with the overcast weather as there was hardly any shading trees along the waterfront.
A group of locals were taking professional photos by the waterfront.
Boating is possible at Gadsisar Sagar. During our visit, we saw one boat occupied by a group of local visitors in the lake.
The chattris (and their reflections) by the shore provided a photogenic setting to the lake.
We decided to walk along the shore for a bit.
We assed by some ghats and decks in front of temples.
No matter how far we went, the chattris near the entrance were often the focal point.
The scenery was peaceful and poetic if we could ignore the trash along the bank.
Apart from pigeons, we also saw a few other kinds of birds at the waterfront.
Just like anywhere else, the dominant type of birds that can live along with humans is always the pigeons.
As time went by, more visitors arrived at the Tilon-Ki-Pol, but hardly any would venture far beyond the entrance area.
Dogs are not uncommon in India, and some of them tend to follow people for a bit.
There are a number of Hindu temples along the shore. They are frequented by local pilgrims.
Where there is Hindu temples there would be “holy men” around.
Upon leaving Gadsisar Sagar and Tilon-Ki-Pol, a street musician caught our attention. He asked us our name and used one of our names in his singing performance.
DAY 2 (2/4): MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.25
While Jodhpur is famous for its magnificent architecture and folk music, the second largest city of the desert state is also well known for its historical water management network of reservoirs, stepwells and wells. Medieval Jodhpur inhabitants made well use of the catchment area of the Pachetia Hill where Mehrangarh Fort stood, and collected rainwater at various depressions and water bodies within the walled city. Every community in Jodhpur had its their own baori or stepwell. In fact, one of the main reasons for Rao Jodha selecting the summit of Pachetia Hill to build his capital city in the 15th century was Jodhpur’s potentials to collect rainwater.
Saving two months’ monsoon rainwater for the rest of the year, the stepwells represented the wisdom and engineering marvel of the Medieval Rajasthani inhabitants. Many stepwells survive to present day, despite being superseded by modern water systems. Although representing a unique cultural heritage of Rajasthan, many stepwells have become nothing more than a garbage dump or outlet of sewage effluent. Caron Rawnsley, an Irish environmentalist and traveler, has been staying in Jodhpur for several years. Passionate in conserving India’s historical water management network, Rawnsley has been cleaning a number of water bodies in and around Jodhpur, including stepwell Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra and reservoir Gulab Sagar.
The first water body we visited in Jodhpur was Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra. Some said the stepwell was named for Mayla, a wealthy concubine who commissioned the construction.
A few years ago, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra was filled with trash and dirt. In 2015 Irish traveler Caron Rawnsley took up the challenge of cleaning the well almost single-handedly. His effort inspired other locals to join him in maintaining the stepwells and other water bodies around Jodhpur.
Constructed with local pink sandstones, the Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra is a beautiful community stepwell just a stone throw away from the Ghanta Ghar Market.
At Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, we met a local cleaning staff who opened the gate and let us into the stepwell.
Across the street from Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar is a manmade reservoir measured 150m x 90m. It took 8 years to construct the reservoir, in which water from Balsamand Lake was transported to the reservoir via canals. For tourists, Gulab Sagar is one of the best places to photograph the reflection of the Mehrangarh Fort.
In modern times, domestic and industrial effluents have been dumped into Gulab Sagar, raising the risk of water pollution.
From the north side of Gulab Sagar, we found our way through lanes of blue houses towards our next stepwell Toorji Ka Jhalra.
Blue paint on red sandstone houses gives Jodhpur its unique visual identity.
We also passed by beautiful haveli mansions erected in the bygone era.
Out of the 100+ stepwells in Jodhpur, Toorji Ka Jhalra is probably the most well known and frequently visited for tourists.
Built by Rani Toor Ji in the 1740s by a queen of Maharaja Abhay Singh, Toorji Ka Jhalra is another prominent historical stepwell near Gulab Sagar.
A few years ago, local hotels organized efforts to restore and clean up Toorji Ka Jhalra.
Today, Toorji Ka Jhalra is widely seen as a success story of restoring a historical stepwell and maintaining acceptable water quality.
Water level at Toorji Ka Jhalra varies from season to season. The stepwell is over 200 feet deep.
After restoration and cleaning, Toorji Ka Jhalra has become a magnet for locals and tourists. Many locals would take a dip into the water during the hottest hours of the day.
The immediate area around Toorji Ka Jhalra is gradually revitalized with shops, cafes, restaurants, and hotels taking over restored heritage buildings.
“JDH is an urban regeneration project that aims to restore the walled city of Jodhpur to its former glory, breathing new life into its invaluable landmarks and livelihoods.”
After checking out the water bodies, we returned to Pal Haveli to have a quick bite at the rooftop restaurant.
From the hotel rooftop, Gulab Sagar appeared to be calm and beautiful. Our hired car arrived at 13:00 for our ongoing journey over to Jaisalmer.
Across the street from the Potala lies the 600m x 400m Potala Square (布達拉宮廣場). Every night, at the centre of the square the large musical fountain attracts a small group of spectators to watch the dancing water jets in front of the architectural icon of Lhasa. The once mystical scene of the Potala with flickering candle lights at each window is now replaced with consistent flood lights illuminated from below. Today, after the palace museum closes for the evening, there are hardly any light appear from inside the palace windows. In the evening, stream of pilgrims pass in front of the palace, and so as the busy traffic on Beijing Road, and groups of tourists by the musical fountain at the Potala Square.
We didn’t come for the fountain show, but for the water puddles on the floor. According to Pazu of Spinn Cafe, the water puddles of the musical fountain provide a great opportunity to photograph the splendid reflection of the Potala Palace. All we needed to do was to wait for the moments of gaps between the water jets changed their programmed movements. The uplights changed colours simultaneously as the water rose and fell. Beyond Beijing Road, the well-lit backdrop of the Potala seemed a little distant and lonely.
After a nice chat with Pazu of Spinn Cafe, we took a taxi to the Potala for its evening view.
Near Potala west entrance, we crossed Beijing Road via a pedestrian tunnel and arrived at the enormous Potala Square.
We walked to the musical fountain near the centre of Potala Square.
Then we waited for the photogenic moments when the water jets stopped and the tranquil reflection of the palace appeared on the ground.
Watching the tourist silhouettes posing in the reflection was quite a pleasant scene.
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More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet
After Suzhou Museum, we moved on to next door to visit the Humble Administrator’s Garden (拙政園). Humble Administrator’s Garden is the largest garden in Suzhou, and one of the most popular gardens in Southern China. This UNESCO heritage site was first built in 1509 and was once the private garden of different poets, scholars and the wealthy and famous individuals in the region. This 5.2-hectare garden is dominated by pavilions, lily ponds, small lakes, small villas, and a extensive network of bridges and covered walkways.
The garden was full of local visitors. For the first half of the garden, it felt like as if we entered a community park with leisure walkways winding along a small lake. Spring flowers were in full bloom, while locals were busy taking selfies. The garden was really crowded and sometimes noisy. We imagined that it would be pleasant to wander around Humble Administrator’s Garden if we could come at a less crowded time. Nevertheless, we did find charming moments deeper in the garden at a few tranquil spots.
Once inside, the garden is dominated by a series of lakes and ponds of various sizes.
The garden is full of small sky-wells and courtyards, blurring the boundary between exterior and interior spaces.
Flying eaves of a pavilion by the water. An interconnected water system was considered to be a crucial element in a traditional Suzhou garden.
A covered bridge linking pavilions and covered walkways in the garden.
Interior decorations inside a pavilion.
Window openings in Chinese architecture often serve as picture frames for beautiful scenery.
A tranquil corner of water pond, peach blossom and white washed walls viewed from a small pavilion.
Humble Administrator’s Garden is a perfect place for a leisure stroll when it is not overwhelmed by visitors.
A painter at work attracting the attention of a tourist group.
The undulating tiled roof resembles the back of the dragon.
A zigzag walkway along a water pond and mirror-like reflections.
Vine trellis of different designs could be found in the garden. They provided perfect sun shading to visitors.
The pink peach tree blossom standing out among the garden greenery was often the centre of attention to visitors.
The vine trellis provided pleasant natural shading for visitors.
Pink flowers in full bloom near the exit of the garden.
Street vendor selling a wide range of fresh fruits. Bright red, green, yellow and purple, these colourful fruits caught our attention from afar.
Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
2.0 HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
4.0 SOUP DUMPLINGS AND MORNING STROLL, Shanghai, China
5.0 ROCKBUND, Shanghai, China
6.0 M50, Shanghai, China
7.0 1933 SHANGHAI (老場坊) , Shanghai, China
8.0 POLY GRAND THEATRE (上海保利大劇院), Shanghai, China
9.0 FORMER FRENCH CONCESSION, Shanghai, China
10.0 POWER STATION OF ART, Shanghai, China
11.0 LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China
12.0 THE BUND (外灘) AT NIGHT, Shanghai, China
13.0 TIANZIFANG (田子坊), Shanghai, China
14.0 CHINESE HAND PRINTED BLUE NANKEEN GALLERY (藍印花布博物館), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China
Read more on Chiloe and Puerto Varas in 2013 South America
Day 55.1 – Water Finally, Chiloe
Day 55.2 – Chacao Channel, Chiloe
Day 55.3 – Tide, Castro, Chiloe
Day 55.4 – Iglesia San Francisco, Castro, Chiloe
Day 56.1 – Palfitos, Castro, Chiloe
Day 56.2 – Wooden Tequilas Houses, Chiloe
Day 56.3 – Achao, Isla Quinchao
Day 57.1 – Parque Nacional Chiloe
Day 57.2 – Chanquin and Playa Cucao, Chiloe
Day 58.1 – Isla Aucar, Colo, Tenaun San Juan, Chiloe
Day 58.2 – Boat Building, San Juan, Chiloe
Day 58.3 – Seafood, Chiloe
Day 59.1 – Palafito 1326, Castro, Chiloe
Day 59.2 – Chacao Channel Again, Chiloe
Day 59.3 – City, Lago Llanquihue & Volcan Osorno, Puerto Varas
Day 60 – Parque Nacional Vicente Perez Rosales, Petrohue
Day 61.1 – Latitude 51-41’28”, Puerto Natales
Day 61.2 – Afrigonia, Puerto Natales
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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought