"One of Hong Kong’s greatest advantages is the city’s proximity to the countryside. One can step into nature, breathe in fresh air and enjoy a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of the densely packed neighbourhood anytime.”
I have grown accustomed to living in a village house where I am greeted by hills and trees. I can't bear to go back living in a housing estate with a flyover connected to a mall. I don’t think one gets much contact with the sun or nature. This was my belief. I had no idea that in the 18 districts of Hong Kong, some residents in fact have their own private backyard garden that outsiders are not aware of. Today, let me take you to Checkerboard Hill, the backyard garden of Lok Fu residents.
Standing at 98m above sea level, it takes less than half an hour to reach the top of Checkboard Hill. After leaving Lok Fu MTR Station Exit A, turn left and walk towards the direction of the shopping mall car park. You’ll see a staircase next to the car park, go up and walk towards Lok Fu Park. Alongside up the concrete road are leisure and morning exercise facilities. At the top, turn left and head for the large field near the service reservoir. Besides great for a picnic, this spot also offers a magnificent view. To the north is Lion Rock and if you lie on the grass and look up, you feel a sense of protection and belonging under it while on the other side is the view of Kowloon City. There are benches for visitors to take a break and is ideal for a family picnic. There is even someone flying a kite!
After taking a rest, it’s time to catch the sunset. But there’s no hurry as it’s just around the corner. Returning to the diversion on the route, take the small stone staircase to the right and go up the peak. Then follow the narrow path along the catchwater lined with wire fences. Soon, look to your left and you’ll see the grass field of Lok Fu reservoir, with an old trigonometrical station which is the smallest stone pillar I’ve ever seen. Here the view is obstructed by large trees. This is not the destination. It takes a few more minutes to walk from the right side of the pillar and you’ll be greeted by a splendid view from the top.
休息過後要捉緊時間去看⽇落，但都不⽤急，因為轉個彎就到。回到剛才的分差路，向右走上⼩⽯梯上⼭。接著沿引⽔道走，旁邊都是鐵絲網，⼭徑也較窄。很快回望左邊就看到樂富配⽔庫的草 地，旁邊有條⼩⼩的舊的標⾼柱，那應該是我⾒過最⼩的了。但這邊風景被⼤樹包圍，還不是終 點，要從標距柱右走，幾分鐘就迎來⼗分開揚的⼭頂風景了。
There was no fence here a few years ago but concern for the safety of visitors eventually led to its installation. If you take a few more steps, you’ll notice the concrete walls on several sides are painted red and white. Why is this? In fact, in the 1950s, when the runway of Kai Tak Airport was extended, this small hill was in the landing lane of runway 13. For safety reasons, part of the hill was levelled. Planes were guided to the hill before pilots turned the planes around for a visual landing. As pilots are required to guide the aircraft on its correct course, the hill was painted in red and white checkers and equipped with navigation lights and radio navigation equipment. Hence, the name Checkerboard Hill! After the closure of Kai Tak Airport in 1998 up to 2003, the red and white grids remained. The grids were subsequently painted grey and gradually covered by trees to avoid misleading pilots. But in 2021, the grids were repainted in red and white so we can look back on this unique piece of Hong Kong history.
Talking about small hills, Garden Hill certainly comes to mind. In comparison, I prefer Checkerboard Hill because it offers an expansive view and not close by high-rises. I believe the greatest appeal of any place is the story behind it. Due to the building height restrictions imposed by the old airport, the buildings near Checkerboard Hill such as Nam Shan Village, one of the oldest villages in Hong Kong, offers a distant but clear view of the grids of Checkerboard Hill.
Standing here and looking down, you see the tennis courts and football pitches of Kowloon Tsai Park with people in action. I wondered if I put a camera here to record the early construction of the buildings and the change of day and night in time-lapse, would it give me a sense of pride of the city's prosperity and development, or would it give me a sense of helplessness as the years go by? I think that anyone who comes here with their own story will have a totally different set of emotions when confronting the view in front of them.