The secret gardens and monastery
By: Daniel Otero
A little over a year ago, I discovered a special place here in Hong Kong.
Coming from New York City, it was like a mini-Central Park here in Kowloon. However, it was impressively beautiful and being on this side of the world, it made for a fascination to watch in every way. And nothing like this could be compared to NYC. Diamond Hill is a unique area on this side of the world.
It was easy enough to get here and a great experience to embellish. Because once I found it, I quickly new I had fallen in love with something pleasant. A place which a person can feel a level a tranquility not often experienced in Hong Kong’s rapid paced environment.
Yep, I visit these places across HK and Kowloon that are more often than not stress free. I come here to think when I’m hit hard by work and problems in my life. It’s my escape from China and Hong Kong within Hong Kong!
If you’re the type whom likes to travel on the cheap and cheap, and see beautiful and peaceful things. It’s certainly here! Via MTR from HK into Kowloon it’s an average of $13.50 to $14.50 Hong Kong Dollars one way (prices are subject to change). The stop is Diamond Hill and take exit C1. I had mistakenly called it in the past: the Diamond Hill Gardens and Monastery. Stupidly so, I had to correct myself and to use the proper names, which are: Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery.
The Gardens don’t cost a thing. The area opens from 0700 to 2100 hours. What’s even more special is the exquisite enhancement of it all. Chinese culture at its best with gorgeous architectural elements of the Song Dynasty.
It addresses something often lost in our busy world. When coming here: slowdown, walk calmly and take-in this Cultural Heritage of greatness.
The elegant entrance is a channel into the facilities which snakes upon rows of gorgeous greenery and pine trees.
What’s spectacular once I can notice it, is the pavilion to take one’s breath away. In deep colours of yellow nearing gold and with two bridges in orange that are nearing more to vermilion. I still felt ‘God smacked’, because I was impressed, enamoured and feeling emotional about the place. But, it was all in a good way!
The Lotus Pond in its middle is attractively decorated with its red and white-fat fish. The Pond was like a protective barrier for the Pavilion; however, it didn’t only protect or give a natural feel, but it enhanced naturally everything in its surroundings.
The walk thralls every sense of the body to enjoy the trees, breathe in the air and view something attractive. For the trees, some appeared to be in the form of a ‘controlled’ bonsai. Feeling in their smallness the grandness of these man-made miracles.
I sweat what I have to sweat, but I feel tranquil in my visit. As I snap away photographs and come upon its delicious waterfalls. In its pathways, I can see the stones decorate its views, from the Mill to the Pavilion Bridge.
Backtracking to the Xiang Hai Xuan exhibition hall, I get the best treat of all, a pottery show by Gao Feng. This classical art form in ceramic that’s almost lost with social modernisation. This exhibition will not be here for long, but if you’re in town, the cost is $20 HKD and will only be here till the end of September, 2017.
After 45 minutes of walking, I climb some steps and decide to cross into the Nunnery.
God! There’s that sweet smell of sandalwood which I clearly remembered. Just pleasant on this side and it’s a very spiritual place. Completely quiet to contemplate, think and hear my own heartbeat. Then, I begin the calm myself more, as I’m before the Buddha. People come here to pray and meditate. I guess, I come here to do the same and feel a sense of tranquility.
There isn’t only sandalwood, ponds and stones; but there are more Buddhas inside according to the believer’s or visitor’s preference.
One thing that’s important to note, once inside the Temple, like any church, synagogue or mosque, please observe the customs and beliefs. No photography, and please keep your voice down out of respect for the sanctity of this place. Whether you’re a believer or not, when in doubt, just ask.
I simply meditate and admire the Gardens and Nunnery, noticing at a distance a lovely pagoda.
One visit is never enough around the premises. Every time upon my return to Hong Kong, I have to promise myself a return.
Furthermore, advice for the traveller, these places don’t sustain themselves. Please place a small offering whenever possible into their collection boxes or go into one of their grand exhibitions. They’ll certainly impress you!
You’ll rapidly see what I mean when visiting this place. You’ll always want to complete a return to peace by visiting Diamond Hill’s Gardens and Nunnery when arriving in Hong Kong.