7.5 Milestone Rest Garden, Tai Po Road
Not too long ago, before fast cars and kmph took over modern life in HK, distances along many roads were measured by milestones. These things – big stone blocks with a number etched into the side – were everywhere and if you are eagle-eyed, you may still find a few that have escaped removal/destruction when roads were upgraded.
Even quite recently (1970′s) various establishments and points of interest along main arteries (for example the Tai Po Road and Castle Peak Roads in the New Territories) would often be referenced using the milestone marker as part of their address so for example Dragon Inn was at the 19.5 milestone along Castle Peak Road, Shatin Inn was at the 7.5 milestone along Tai Po Road, Tai Po Bungalow was at the 16 Milestone along Tai Po Road (that stretch since renamed Kwong Fuk Rd), and the Lung Wah Hotel and the Shatin Roadhouse were (well the Lung Wah still is) located at the 9 milestone along Tai Po Road.
Anyway, you get the idea, right?
One of my planned projects for this year is to walk the length of the Tai Po Road (the original part from the end of Nathan Road up to Kwong Fuk Bridge in Tai Po) and see how many of these stones are still around. To be honest I’m not that hopeful but it will be interesting to see what things there are still to see, so imagine my surprise when I made an impromptu stop off a bus along Tai Po Road just the other day and found a small and exceedingly empty/unknown/peaceful place called the 7.5 milestone rest garden.
Okay the observant ones out there may have noticed I have already mentioned this particular milestone a few sentences ago, but for the less alert I’ll remind you that – yes – it’s the same location as the Shatin Inn.
Admittedly though this place isn’t the original park. The Tai Po Road has seen a whole lot of redevelopment and rerouting around here over the past ten years (perhaps it now resembles Spaghetti junction a bit) and one of the unfortunate victims of the construction was the original rest garden.
Okay, garden is being a bit generous. In HK terms a garden is anywhere the Govt decides to put a bench no matter whether it’s on concrete, grass or mud. Give it a few years though and perhaps some flowers will start to grow.
Nevermind. However, this place grabbed my curiosity for two reasons. First, when I got off the bus (route 72 from Tai Po, bus stop was the first one along the ‘Shatin Heights’ section of the road) the floor was so overgrown with grass it was quite obvious that no one EVER gets off at this place. Secondly, I found it a bit strange that the Govt would make such a big deal about resiting something as innocuous as a piece of open space with benches – of which HK has thousands…everywhere. Even stranger is the fact that they felt so moved by this place that they even created a replica milestone and plonked it at the entrance to the park!!
Anyway, as you can see they obviously put a bit more thought into this place beyond the usual plonking of a gazebo and benches for the oldies. If anyone knows if this place’s former incarnation had any historical or social significance I would love to hear about it.
The place is quite high up and gets quite breezy and there is quite a nice view down into Tai Wai (okay, Mekon Shing’s vastly grotesque wall-like Festival City now spoils most of the view but hey, this is HK), but the problem is this place is so hidden away and hard to get to, it seems to defeat all purpose for its existence. Oh, and of course you have to contend with the usual familiar over-kill in terms of park regulations.
If this place was in the UK it would already be covered in hypodermic needles and graffiti and have hoodies hanging around it. Thankfully, it isn’t and so it is a pleasant place to just sit and watch the smog roll by.