The Eiffel Tower and Lau Fau Shan peninsula

Not a lot of people know that on a clear day you can see the Eiffel Tower from Lau Fau Shan in the Northwest New Territories. Actually, it isn’t the fake one in Paris. This is the ‘made in China’ copy-tower in a distraction known as Windows on the World. Working from recollection as hazy as a normal day in the HKSAR, the story I heard was that Windows on the World is a theme park that enabled Chinese to see sights around the world without having to mix with barbarians or leave the Middle Kingdom. In some of the following photos you can also make out the Arc de Triomphe and perhaps a pyramid or two. There, ticked those, what’s next!

On a typically murky day.

No doubt about it, it’s Eiffel and not Blackpool Tower we’re looking at here

More on China’s penchant for copy-architecture here and here.  Another great article in the Guardian about “copy architecture“.

If you look carefully at the last image, you can see the reclaimed land on the Chinese side of Inner Deep Bay. This is noteworthy as Inner Deep Bay is a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance which supports many rare and endangered waterbirds and waders. Amongst the species are the Black-faced Spoonbills, visiting Pelicans, Avocets, Spoonbilled Sandpipers and Godwits. Residents include four or five species of Kingfishers such as the Crested. Tens of thousands of migrating waterbirds stopover along the shores of Mai Po and Lau Fau Shan twice a year. Hong Kong’s map of Inner Deep Bay diplomatically skirted around the rapid reclamation on the Chinese side of the border long after satellite photos gave the game away.

More ducks and waders at the mouth of the Tin Shui Wai channel than you could shake a stick at. This photo was taken as part of the new town construction impact monitoring before the Wetland Park was built.

Early editions of HKU’s Porcupine! notebook mentioned that Otters might be found around Inner Deep Bay. On one of my first few visits along LFS peninsula I saw something (actually a number of somethings) running across the border patrol road. I grabbed photo after photo as I quietly moved towards these playful mammals.

Porcupine! It’s amusing to note the confusion of the first edition wherein the pair of editors of the newsletter set out to attract mates with the following singles-type ad – “Incidentally, we are both young, free and single…and raather sexy!” and included their contact numbers. Hope that worked out for you guys!

By now, Porcupine! had realised that these were actually Crab-eating Mongoose, not otters.

The Herons and Mongooses (geese?) faced stiff competition for the crabs from chaps like this on the mudscooter. I suspect that he was over from China to gather his dinner.

Lau Fau Shan used to be better known in pe-handover Hong Kong as a place to go to eat oysters and other freshly caught seafood. Oysters were still farmed along the coast and the huge volume of discarded shells have changed the western shoreline. I have to say that I only ate once at the famous seafood dai pai dong (squid, not raw oysters) and had 24 hour dysentry commence within about 4 hours. Never again. The problem here is that the Shenzhen River discharges into Inner Deep Bay, so the famous mudflats are actually Shenzhen’s untreated sewage beds. Raw oysters anyone?

The discarded oyster shells seen from upland LFS

Down amongst the rather unpleasant seashell shore.

Swinging the camera around 180degrees reveals the LFS police station over looking the oyster shell beach to ensure that no IIs slipped ashore with the catch.

There is another police post at the northern end of the peninsula. Before the handover, the most common access for IIs was across the mudflats. The northern police outpost overlooks the police jetty.

The jetty from sea level, surrounded by mangroves.

Heading back down the eastern side of the LFS peninsula you’ll find the heavily fortified bridge (for the patrol road) over the TSW channel. Public access was supposed to be restricted to this part of the closed border area long after the handover. The truth of the matter was that sentries were no longer posted at the guard house meaning anyone could wander in there, although there was the risk of being caught on cctv or by irregular patrols.

The view across the bridge towards Yuen Long in the distance.

The peninsula hosts the one-time remote village of Mong Tseng Wai. Before Tin Shui Wai encroached, this was an unpoilt historic place that time had forgotten.

Mong Tseng Wai

In 1995, there was no road into Mong Tseng Wai, just a path.

The first and biggest project I worked on in Hong Kong was the development of the Tin Shui Wai ‘reserve zone’, the northern half of the new town for 300,000 people. The civil engineering company was responsible for detailed design of the land formation and infrastructure…oh, and the environmental impact assessment and mitigation. We’ll get into that (and my part in the Wetland Park’s evolution) in more detail in another post. For now, let’s just see how beautifully you can blend 40-storey tower blocks into a valuable wetland environment…

The view northeast along the Tin Shui Wai channel showing the reserve zone reclamation to the right. Surprisingly picturesque – it could be France or Tuscany we’re looking at.

The same view not too many months later. Not like France or Tuscany now. One of these is the infamous leaning tower of Tin Shui Wai which sank a degree off true in the mud.

The view of the tower invasion from the north of LFS. The incoming HK Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa promised to resolve decades of British administrative incompetence by providing 1000s of extra apartments in new developments like the TSW towers. His solution (given that the building footprints were already committed) was to reduce the size of the apartments and cram more into each floor. Who needs a 350sq.ft apartment when a prison cell will do just as nicely? Thousands of new apartments and the Asian financial crisis of 97-98 combined to slaughter property prices burning home owners and speculators into negative equity. The law of unintended consequences at work.

One response to “The Eiffel Tower and Lau Fau Shan peninsula

  1. Pingback: Police Station Turrets « Hong Kong (& Macau) Stuff·

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