Sunday, December 18, 2011

A tale of two Pat Sin Leng Country Park pavilions

The Sir Edward Youde Memorial Pavilion located
near the northern edge of Pat Sin Leng Country Park

The more architecturally modest Spring Breeze Pavilion
located near the more popularly traversed south-eastern
corner of the same Hong Kong country park

Earlier today, a friend and I went hiking in Pat Sin Leng Country Park along a route that took us from near Bride's Pool to Luk Keng (located near Starling Inlet and the Frontier Closed Area that borders Mainland China) that had us traipsing along the end part of the Pat Sin Leng Country Trail in reverse, sections of the final stage of the Wilson Trail and another well marked but unnamed hiking path.

Among the highlights of today's excursion was our passing through several abandoned villages whose ruins we found prettily picturesque as well as interesting -- and the stunning views we got of Nam Chung, Luk Keng, the Starling Inlet, Shenzhen and more from the Sir Edward Youde Memorial Pavilion erected in memory of the only governor of Hong Kong to die in office -- and whose official opening, according to a plaque at the site, was presided over by his widow, Lady Pamela.

One of the things I've found (and like) about hiking in Hong Kong is how this activity can get one learning more about Hong Kong's history along with natural and cultural heritage. One way that this happens is by way of one's curiosity getting piqued as to who hiking trails and landmarks such as the Wilson and Maclehose Trails as well as this Pat Sin Leng Country Park pavilion are named after. (For those who are wondering, while David Wilson was the hiking enthusiast governor of Hong Kong after Edward Youde while Murray Maclehose was the governor during whose rule the first Hong Kong country parks as well as Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) were established.)

Additionally, one often finds that it's not just the sites and locales named after people that have stories of their own to tell. In the case of the Spring Breeze Pavilion, the tale is a sad one that can act as a cautionary note to many a hiker -- since this rain shelter erected on the southern slope of Hsien Ku Fung, the eastern most of Pat Sin Leng's eight peaks, was built in memory of two teachers who died while bidding to save their students from a hill fire on Pat Sin Leng in 1996 that was the worst wildfire in Hong Kong history. (For the record, 47 of the 50 students in that hiking party were saved but three perished along with the two teachers.)

In a way, it can seem ironic that two pavilions in such beautiful parts of Hong Kong are associated with death. Given that a hike through the Hong Kong countryside often also involves one passing by graves (see examples here and here) and along routes whose views include those of cemeteries (see here for instance) though, one can't help but come to accept this as part of the Hong Kong hiking landscape.

In addition, there's something to be said about both the pavilions being located amidst, and looking out to, scenes that full of (natural) life -- especially in the case of the Spring Breeze Pavilion as the area near it may once have been burnt and charred but its present appearance only goes to show how quickly nature can regenerate and, indeed, that life really can go on even after a terrible disaster that can feel like the end of the world at the time for some of the people involved.


Pip the Troll said...

Nice post YTSL. I seem to recall a news item about one of the teachers, who helped save some of the students in the hillfire, killing himself a few years later (around '98?). Really sad.

Even more sad is the fact that people haven't changed and hillfires are still a major problem, especially during Ching Ming and Chung Yeung.

YTSL said...

Hi Phil --

So sad about that teacher who survived the fire but then killed himself... I don't want to think of what demons he or she were haunted by... :(

On a lighter (sorta) note: did you see SCMP Harry's cartoon once around Ching Ming/Chung Yeung. Two ancestral spirits sit chatting on a cloud floating above Hong Kong. One of them says that his ancestors burnt him lots of gifts. The other one was like Yeah? Well *my* ancestors burnt me half of Lantau Island... ;(