Other Sights of Hong Kong (4)
If you were visiting Hong Kong 20 years ago and interested in “other sights” of the city, by which I mean sights other than those normally interested by tourists and casual visitors, or sights that may not be beautiful but have historical or cultural meaning, I would suggest you go to the Kowloon Walled City (九龙城寨), a densely populated, largely ungoverned, extremely dilapidated area in Kowloon, which was demolished in 1993-94. Now that it is gone, what other sights you might find interesting in Kowloon? The “13 Streets” (十三街).
Flanked by Kowloon City Road (九龙城路) and To Kwa Wan Road (土瓜湾路), the “13 Streets” are actually 11 short streets with imaginative names that are related to auspicious animals in the Chinese mindset – namely dragon, phoenix, deer, unicorn, eagle, lark, egret, cicada, swallow, horse and crane. The auspicious street names cannot cover the grossly sordid status of the buildings on each of these narrow streets. Although painted in bright colors recently, these half-century-old buildings are dilapidated to the core due to lack of maintenance and cry for demolition. And the government has put the area under an urban renewal plan that will, if implemented, turn the area into a revitalized residential-cum-cultural district. However, difficulties abound due to complicated ownership structures of those properties.
If you find the sights of the 13 Streets disappointing, then at the south end of the 11 streets across Ma Tau Kok Road (马头角路) there is something that may surprise you. Historically a cattle depot and slaughterhouse, the Cattle Depot Artist Village (牛棚艺术村) is now home to around 20 art groups and site for book fairs, performance rehearsals and art festivals from time to time. The government’s urban renewal plan has envisioned to incorporate the Artist Village in the development of a “Heritage Trail” that would also include a renovated or redeveloped 13 Streets.
I believe that five years later, the 13 Streets will be history but the Cattle Depot will remain.
A corner of the “13 Streets” area:
A montage of the 11 auspicious street names:
The main building of the Cattle Depot and the buildings of the “13 Streets” behind it:
Images of the “13 Streets” buildings reflected on the windows of the Cattle Depot:
A corner of the Cattle Depot:
The Cattle Depot Theatre: