I moved back to Hong Kong in an attempt to really get to know the place I called home; and to find how I fit in, if at all, in the city that I grew up in. I knew there was so much more to Hong Kong than what I had seen and experienced, so much that I hadn’t been exposed to, or perhaps to be more honest, just didn’t really remember. What I saw day to day was just normal, and only now through adult (debatable I know) eyes am I really appreciating the beauty in the chaos and contradictions of Hong Kong. Some places I’ve visited ‘for the first time’ only for my Mum to send through a photo of me in that exact same spot as a child.
That said, Hong Kong really has changed vastly since I was a kid, everything is busier, bigger, glossier and sadly, more built up. Still, there are many hidden pockets of history, with low rises not made out of marble and shiny stuff, and I’ve been doing my best to seek them out.
Today, walking around Pok Fu Lam village was quite the magical experience. The first I time I’d even heard of Pok Fu Lam village was a few months ago at the Walled Village Sam Tung Uk Museum in Tseun Wan. One of the exhibits was displaying the ‘famous dragon’ from the dances held in Pok Fu Lam village during Mid-Autumn Festival. I knew Pok Fu Lam as a pretty nice area with modern apartment blocks, and had occasionally gone there to play netball against Kellett Primary School. I definitely didn’t remember anything remotely resembling the pictures in the exhibit. I asked a few other old school Hong Kong friends if they knew about this village. Nope. It became a bit of a joke that I was going to seek out and explore Pok Fu Lam village, and I’m glad I finally did.
Getting out at Kennedy Town MTR I jumped on the green 23 mini bus. When I told the driver to stop, he kept driving… about 10 meters further and dropped me off right outside the entrance and gave me a big smile as I got off. Bless him, he knew. The village is on a hillside and looks from afar, pretty much like a shanty town.
At the entrance is the head of a Dragon. And it looks very, very cool. After walking down a few steps I could go left, or right. I opted left and started heading up some steps, smiling to myself, happy to be exactly where I was. Then I saw a dog. The dog saw me. Then another dog saw me. And then a third dog appeared, saw me, and started moving towards me and barking. I did my best ‘run, but not really run, and be cool’ down the steps, and thankfully they didn’t follow far. With my heart pumping in my chest I laughed through the fear and sat in the ‘Sitting Out Area’ for a couple of minutes and ate half a sandwich. I love dogs, but they scare me. This is why.
I then went back down to the fork and headed right through the vegetable and fruit market and started walking around the labyrinth of little paths and alleyways that make up the village. No dogs to be seen, but plenty of gorgeous, non intimating cats.
Walking around, exploring a new place, whether at home or abroad (basically when I’m not commuting!) I always smile if I catch someones eye, regardless of what their initial facial expression towards me is. Many of my smiles today resulted in continued blank stares; fair enough, I’m clearly a tourist walking around their home, but many others broke into a big smile and said ‘Good Morning’ (it was 3pm..) For every ten blank, stone cold responses I get against the one massive smile and hello, it’s always worth it.
There was one elderly lady sat inside her super cute yellow house (above) with the front door wide open allowing you to view the entirety of her front room. Though I tried to be respectful by not peering in, she gave me a huge wave to get my attention, along with a beaming smile, both made even bigger in response to mine back.
In a city full of incredibly expensive apartment complexes with swimming pools, spa suites and security guards, it may seem surprising that I thought, if I wanted to settle somewhere other than my tiny studio, I’d prefer to live here. The village to me had a real sense of community, and the houses looked inviting, homely. Corrugated iron and rusting exteriors, some were adorned with traditional Chinese decorations, and others, I suppose more recently designed were painted in pastels, with bright murals on the side. Little sitting areas were dotted around the village, some government installed, others obviously made by the villagers themselves.
One thing I have failed to find out is the meaning of the ducks that seemed to be placed outside some peoples homes, and on the walls.
I was also intrigued by this house; political slogans and all.
Pok Fu Lam itself, as I have now learnt has quite a lot of historical significance in Hong Kong. The Bauhinia, Hong Kong’s flower (the white one on the flag) was first seen here. (How they know that, or that it’s a ‘fact’ I don’t know…) and housed it’s first reservoir. It was also the sight of Dairy Farm. Anyone growing up in the 80s here will remembers the jingle ‘Hey Mum where does Milk come from? Dairy.. Dairy… Hey Mum where does milk come from? Dairy, Dairy Farm..’
The village has been around since the 17th century, growing from 20 households pre WW2, to over 100. In 2014 it was included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch to ‘raise awareness of its significance and scarcity in the modern metropolitan Hong Kong.’
I loved it. I thought it was charming, and whilst walking around and up and down, I was smiling from the inside out. And, despite its small size, I managed to get lost trying to find one of the three (at least) ways out. Haha.