Nan Lian Garden
On Sunday evening after I returned from Lantau Island, I ventured back out to visit Nan Lian Garden in the Diamond Hill section of Kowloon (point A on map below). Built by the neighboring Chi Lin Nunnery between 2001 and 2006, the 8.5 acre public park was designed in the Tang-dynasty style. This means that all the building were constructed with interlocking joints cut into the wood rather than with nails. With lakes, waterfalls, hills, plants and trees, the garden is a peaceful oasis in bustling Kowloon even after dark.
The highlight of the garden is the Pavilion of Absolute Perfection, an octagonal pavilion in the middle of a lotus-shaped pond. The pavilion symbolizes fulfillment in all aspects of life and blessings to all who visit. There are two red bridges, named Zi (North) and Wu (South), that lead over the pond to the pavilion.
Near the end of path that winds its way through the garden is a footbridge that connects the garden with the Chi Lin Buddhist Nunnery and a fountain called the “Light of Enlightenment”. This fountain has a hexagonal base and on each base panel is engraved what appears to be scientific knowledge. Three of the base panels contain various sundials; another panel shows a map of Hong Kong and China; the next shows the phases of the moon; and the final one has what looks to be monthly measurements of some sort. I had first thought that this might be average temperatures, but both the bimodal curve itself and the scale baffle me. The scale ranges from negative values (-16) to positive ones (+16) so the negative values eliminate many possibilities such as rainfall. I thought that these numbers might be of temperatures but the high is too low to be an air temperature in Celsius (16°C = 61°F) while the low is too low to be a water temperature (-16°C = 3°F). Perhaps the values are simply some deviation from normal in which case they could measure many things.
After leaving Nan Lian Garden, I rode the Kwun Tong subway line to its southern terminus at Yau Ma Tei and then walked to the Temple Street Night Market (B). The night market ran for about ten city blocks, but in most respects, it paled in comparison with those that I have visited in Thailand in terms of product offerings — food; clothing, t-shirts, and caps; purses, bags, knapsacks, and briefcases; jewelry, sunglasses, and watches — prices, and people. In one way, however, it was very similar, and that is all the brand name knock-offs that were for sale. Another highlight of the market was the large number of fortune tellers who read palms and tarot cards. Several were busy with customers, and both the readers and their customers appeared to take this very seriously.
After the weekend haze and rain, Monday morning was sunny and clear, the best weather that I had during my short holiday in Hong Kong. After arranging for a late check-out from my hotel, I was off to visit the ICC skyscraper, the fourth tallest commercial building in the world at 1,606 feet tall, trailing Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (2,716 feet or over 1/2 mile tall!), Taipei 101 (1,666 feet), and the Shanghai World Financial Center (1,614 feet).
The ICC tower opened in stages beginning in 2007 and it was completed in 2010. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel occupies the top 16 floors of the 118 story building and its swimming pool is located on the top level. A shopping mall called Elements with five zone corresponding to Metal, Fire, Earth, Water, and Wood is located on the lower floors. Not surprisingly, the mall has many of the high-end retailers that seem de rigueur in Hong Kong including Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Fendi, Bulgari, Piaget, Harry Winston, Hermes, Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, etc., etc.
The mall has a full-size hockey rink that was not very crowded but some youngster were working with a skating coach on skating backwards and on stopping and starting quickly. When I walked by the refreshment stand, I almost thought that I was in Montreal since it sells Poutine! With this kind of diet, it won’t be long before Hong Kong starts exporting hockey talent to the NHL.
I ultimately made my way to the ticket booth for SKY100, the observation deck on the 100th floor of the ICC Tower. The elevator that goes from the 2nd floor to the observation deck whisks passengers up 1,300 feet — one-quarter of a mile — in just one minute. I am a real sucker for observation decks in tall buildings since I enjoy the bird’s eye view that they provide, and Sky100 fully lived up to my expectations.
The view to the south across Victoria Harbour is the Hong Kong Island skyline and Victoria Peak. From SKY100, I was pretty much looking straight across at the observation tower on the Peak. Immediately to the west is the port of Hong Kong with all the ships with their container cargo and the large cranes that load and unload them, while further out is the airport. To the north is the Kowloon peninsula and the Lion Rock and Tate’s Cairn mountains. To the east is the Tsin Sha Tsui section of Kowloon and Kowloon Bay.
Before I left for Hong Kong, I downloaded a series of free apps called Discover Hong Kong that were created by the Hong Kong Tourism Board. These apps had good information on what to see and what to eat, and they had several recommended walking tours. After leaving the SKY360, I went on one called “Travel Through Time” that was in the Central and Western Districts, reasonably close to both the ICC Tower and my hotel.
The walk started at the Western Market, a building that dates back to 1906. From here, I walked down several streets that sold ginseng, bird’s nests, dried seafood, and shark’s fins, all of which are reputed to provide health benefits when consumed, often in soup. A male swift takes over a month to make the bird’s nest from saliva, and these nests sell for as much as US$1,000 per pound. I have eaten both bird’s nest soup and shark’s fin soup, and quite frankly my plebeian tastes prefer a bowl of French Onion loaded with gruyere.
My walk continued down a street that sold ingredients for traditional Chinese herbal medicine. I wandered through a little park dedicated to Shennong, the first medical expert in China and the founder of Chinese medicine some 5,000 years ago. In order to understand the properties of various plants and herbs, he tasted them himself and was frequently poisoned. However, he also discovered that tea was an antidote for many poisons, so he was able to heal himself.
The journey took me down Hollywood Road, a street loaded with antique shops as well as the Man Mo Temple. Built in 1848, this Taoist temple is dedicated to the civil god (Man Cheong) and the war god (Mo Tai). This small temple was filled with smoke from incense coils that hung from the ceiling.
After leaving the temple, I continued down Hollywood Road until I came to the Central–Mid-Levels escalators. At one-half mile in length, these are the longest covered outdoor escalators in the world. Hong Kong is very hilly and the escalators that travel from Des Voeux Road in Central Hong Kong to Conduit Road in Mid-Level Hong Kong have a vertical lift of over 400 feet. There are exits and entrances at each road that the escalator passes, and there are many stores, restaurants, and bars along the escalator’s route.
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2012 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.