China-HongKong3-featA

Up The Peak

8,008 km so far.

Since the sun was shining brightly this morning, and it was a relatively warm 14 C outside, we decided to hike up to Victoria Peak.

I have been looking forward to doing this ever since we decided to come to Hong Kong. Last time I was here, about 5 years ago, I was with my mom and my sister, and we took the tram to the top together.

That was a special day, because it was the first time my sister and I got to see the house where my mom grew up. Yup, that’s right. My mom spent her carefree childhood years living on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong.

Mom and my aunt, Susan, at home in Hong Kong.

Mom and my aunt, Susan, at home in Hong Kong.

If you don’t understand the significance of this, pick the most amazing city park you know of, drop a couple of beautiful houses in the middle of it, and you are close. Picture your own villa in the middle of Central Park, or a Greene and Greene house nestled in the hills of Griffith Park.

Let it be noted that my family didn’t have the whole house – it was divided into a four-plex with room at the back for the servants.

Still, not a terrible way to live.

Wild City

Today, as we wound our way through the backstreets of Hong Kong, on our way from Teresa’s apartment to the hike up the peak, my anticipation was getting the better of me. I tried to let go of the destination and enjoy what we were seeing along the way, but there was a part of me that just wanted to get there already and see the house again.

It doesn’t take much walking to get off of Hong Kong’s densely packed streets and emerge into the forested Lung Fu Shan Country Park. Here, instead of concrete sidewalks and asphalt streets, ferns and fallen leaves fill the forest floor. Instead of apartment blocks with laundry blowing in the wind, here we looked up to see Banyan trees and Indian rubber trees waving their roots above us.

Walking up The Peak holding ears, Hong Kong.

Walking up The Peak holding ears, Hong Kong.

We were on the lookout for the Golden Orb Weaver spiders I’d seen last time I was here. They were easily the size of my hand and I kind of wanted Stephen to experience the dreadful thrill of seeing one up close. Then again, I felt quite relieved when we didn’t spot any, as spiders (especially giant hand-sized spiders) are not my favourite crawly creatures on the planet.

After walking up the steep paved trail through the woods for a kilometre or so, we finally came to Lugard Road, where my mom used to live. During all my childhood years, the name Lugard Road used to conjure up pictures of, well, some kind of road. In reality, it is a bicycle-sized path which loops around the peak of the mountain.

Today's Lugard Road must be almost the same as it was 50 years ago.

Today’s Lugard Road must be almost the same as it was 50 years ago.

Of course, it also boasts world-famous views of Hong Kong. People come from all over the world just to photograph it.

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In its time, Lugard Road was a technological marvel, making use of tall pillars to suspend the road above the steep slopes on which it rested.

My grandmother and the view from Lugard Road in the 1950s.

My grandmother and the view from Lugard Road in the 1950s.

Now, it seems incredible to think that people live here, so far removed from the city, with only a narrow trail along which to navigate to and from their homes.

It is also quite sad to see how many of the once-illustrious homes are empty and in disrepair.

Real-estate buy of the week, an empty home on Lugard Road.

Real-estate buy of the week, an empty home on Lugard Road.

I guess there aren’t many people in the world who can afford a Lugard Road address nowadays.

Domus Mater

When I was last here, my mom’s house at 26 Lugard Road was a construction site, stripped down to its concrete shell. Work was obviously in progress to make the house into something new, something special. With the house in such an unliveable state, it had been hard to imagine my family living here, so I was really looking forward to seeing the finished product.

Mom, Susan, Grandma and the servants at the Lugard Road house.

Mom, Susan, Grandma and the servants at the Lugard Road house.

Sadly, the building works from five years ago had come to nothing.

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There are a few new windows, but the whole house is boarded up.

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The only sign of life was from the rooftop, where we saw two men re-plastering the very peak of the house.

Re-plastering 26 Lugard from the top down.

Re-plastering 26 Lugard from the top down.

It seemed an odd place to start a refurbishment, and I wondered if maybe some squatters were just making their small piece of the house a little more liveable.

After a few failed attempts to get a better look inside, we decided not to risk a breaking and entering charge, and headed towards the peak tram.

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As we walked, I tried to imagine my mom as a tiny child, walking this trail with her amah, who would carry a stick for protection against snakes. My mom’s fear of snakes has never left her, and just the mention of the slithery fellows makes her skin crawl.

Mom used to take the tram down the mountain, walk to the Star Ferry, take the ferry across the water, and then take a bus to her British school on the Kowloon side.

In the age of driving your kid three blocks to get to school, it’s almost impossible to imagine a little girl making this lengthy trek every day – especially in 1950s Hong Kong.

Even in modern day Hong Kong, we encountered an unexpected adventure, involving snakes and other wild creatures, on our walk at the bottom of the tram.

You can find out all about it in today’s bonus post which comes next.

Jane’s addendum: If you have been wondering how we are paying for this trip, and are thinking that this post explains it, that we are living off of a trust fund from my monied past… think again. Though my mom led an upper-class life for a few years in Hong Kong, that all ended long ago.

There is a sad story about fortunes and family lost and a brave mother (my grandmother) making a new life for herself and two daughters in a new country… I will try to share that in some future post.

I will also share in a future post just how we are paying for this trip, which involves hard work and a lot of saving (and does not involve trust funds or family fortunes of any kind). The point being, you don’t have to be a rich kid to explore the world by bike.  

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3 Comments

  1. Patti says:

    Wow! I wish I was there too! If only we could buy the house back and restore it; sadly, we are “unmonied” and I believe HK is the most expensive real estate market in the English-speaking world. Anyway, a lovely blog entry and very sentimental. I loved the photos of mom and grandma and Susan.
    Happy New Year! Your sister.xxoo

  2. […] all the climbing, hiking, and walking down memory lane, we were famished. Our post-tram hike took us straight to Pure Veggie House where we got vegetarian […]