Bride’s Pool: a tragic tale
Place names in Hong Kong often have poetic, almost legendary origins. Kowloon, the peninsula of ‘nine dragons’, actually has a backdrop of eight peaks, but the extra dragon denotes a Song emperor, who took refuge here with his entourage to escape the Mongol invasion.
One of the stories my father told me was that of Bride’s Pool, among many that he narrated on weekend drives to explore quiet reservoirs, abandoned wartime batteries and secluded beaches.
From the road curving high up on the slope we hear it, a consistent rhythm of water gushing through the trees. The path, strewn with fallen leaves and twigs, leads down a terraced barbecue site and into the thickly forested valley. We cross a rough concrete bridge, designed to mimic a set of wooden planks, before reaching a dead end by the river. “Can you see the falls?” My father asks. I shake my head. All I can make out are small pools and bubbling rapids, with no sign of the noise that seemed so prominent from the road.
My father steps forward, ducking beneath a tree branch hanging low over the riverbank. His words surprise me but it reveals a side of him that I had half-forgotten from my childhood. “Maybe we can trace the river from here.” The stones, worn smooth by the water currents, have been conveniently broken into step-like formations – a walk in the park when river levels are low.
Anticipation gives way to disappointment when we emerge into a clearing at the foot of the waterfall, its sound echoing off the valley walls. Weeks of dry weather had reduced the falls to almost a trickle, belying a tragedy that may or may not have unfolded here centuries ago.
Folk legend has it that a bride was passing by on her sedan chair in stormy weather when one of her porters slipped. The bride – along with the wedding sedan – tumbled into the swollen river, where she was washed down the waterfall and into the pool at its base. The unfortunate bride drowned in her heavy clothing, and from then on the pool was given its name in memory of her tragic fate.