Normally I walk around the West area of Nathan road – but this time I explored the East area. Starting from Jordan MTR station, which is in the heart of Yau Ma Tei I walked south-east, to Austin Road.
From there it was only a few footsteps to the Jordan Path, that runs between the Kowloon Bowling Green Club and the Gun Club Hill Barracks, which is a nice, shaded path with some old Bauhinia trees (the flower symbol of Hong Kong) …
… a few flowers were already visible, some in the traditional white and pale pink colours, others with bright pink flowers. It is quite surprising how green and quiet some areas of Kowloon can be – just five minutes down the road it will be loud and hectic!
The name of the military complex Gun Club Hill is derived from two nineteenth-century rifle ranges – and it is the only original barracks complex that still remains in Tsim Sha Tsui (it was built in the 1860s, below is an old photo). As it is still in operation, you can’t access the barracks.
It was used by the British and then handed over in 1997 to the People’s Liberation Army, so the ground actually does not belong to Hong Kong but is part of China. The military complex is manned by Chinese soldiers, who usually are single men on a six-month rotation – but apparently visitors are allowed during the weekend, hence the two girls standing at the entrance, when I took this photo.
Interestingly, there were quite a few military complexes all over Hong Kong, especially in the Kowloon area. As a result, Tsim Sha Tsui life had a distinct garrison flavour to it, with numerous bars, restaurants, tailor shops and other businesses that specifically catered to the needs and wants of service personnel and their families. In addition to Gun Club, barracks also stood at the harbour end of Chatham Road. The present-day Kowloon Park was used by the military; parts of Kai Tak Airport were used by the Royal Air Force and further north, the Army occupied sizeable sections of both the Sham Shui Po waterfront and Kowloon Tong.
On the other side of the foot path are the Kowloon Bowling Green Club’s immaculately kept lawns – but because the weather was not great, there were no white-clad bowlers to be seen. The same sight occurred at the Kowloon Cricket Club – despite it being a Saturday afternoon, no one was playing outside.
A few steps down the road, I turned left and walked along Jordan Road, until I saw the Union Church – which is a tiny red-brick reminder of interwar Kowloon. Back then it was perfectly sized for the small share of protestants among the population of one million people – nowadays it looks tiny! It is still in service and caters for a congregation of people of many backgrounds, interests and ages as long as they see Jesus Christ as saviour and lord.
The tree-shaded Manse next door is a beautiful colonial building and a pleasant reminder of what many houses looked like in Kowloon in the 1930s.
The Manse was constructed adjacent to the church in 1931 as the pastor’s residence. The Manse is rented to Christian Action as a centre for Domestic Helpers and Migrant Workers Programme since 1993.
A few steps away is the South Kowloon Magistracy – and the austere red-brick and concrete pillared building that was built in 1936 has now become the Land’s Tribunal. It has an imposing flight of stone steps leading up from the road and a sad history. The South Kowloon Magistracy building was used as the Kowloon Headquarters of the Kempeitai during the Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong. The Kempeitai were the Japanese secret police feared even by the Japanese themselves.
The building features a mix of different styles – cement columns up front and then red brick on the sides. It is huge – but because there’s now a big flyover right in front of it, it kind of gets lost. I never noticed it before!