When I hear Hong Kong, the first thing that pops out of my head is the skyline of its modernized city. I’ve always imagined Hong Kong as something like the Central Business District of Makati in my home country. That’s one of the reason why I’m not that interested in visiting Hong Kong. Since I live in the city, I am more attracted to places that will give me a break from city life. To be honest, the main reason why we visited Hong Kong was to visit Disneyland. I never thought that there’s more to discover in the country despite the first impression of its high-rise buildings.
When we arrived in Hong Kong International Airport, we got this brochure from the Visitor Information Center that caught my attention — Old Town Central. The night before we decided to go for a walking tour, we were still undecided between spending our second day in Macau or exploring Hong Kong by foot. I did some research and told TJ that we can just spend another weekend in Macau next year. And that’s how we ended up doing the walking tour in Old Town Central.
There are 5 different routes you can follow for your self-guided walking tour around Old Town Central:
- Heritage: Time Traveller
Before Hong Kong became what it is today, it started out as some place like how any other modern city began. This walking route will take you from Possession Street, where the British flag was first officially raised, to some of the city’s oldest streets. If you want to travel back to that time when the city was still in the making, this is the best route for you.
- Art: Crazy for Art
Now if you’re that type of traveler who loves to feel that artistic freedom as you walk down the old streets around town, then this route is for you. Get to see a number of aesthetic street arts and discover art galleries by local artists.
- Dining: Tasting Hong Kong
I know most travelers travel for food! Who wouldn’t love to try out some local food? So if you want to indulge your taste buds with some of the traditional chinese dim sum or food from local dai pai dong to streetfoods around the old town, then go for this route.
- Shopping: Treasure Hunt
Some of you might be interested in looking for antiques you can bring home as souvenirs. Or maybe you’re just keen when it comes to hunting for something unique —something you cannot see anywhere else. If that’s you, then go for this route.
- Highlights Trip: Something for Everyone
Now if you wanted to experience all those you’ve just read, then this is the route that I would recommend. Discover heritage sites, appreciate art by local artists, savor some local food and hunt for one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
HIGHLIGHTS WALKING TOUR
The best point to start your walking tour around the Old Town Central is in this old street called Possession Street. It was called as such because it is where the British claimed possession of Hong Kong on the 26th of January in the year 1841. That’s almost two centuries ago! The area used to be a landing place for boats but now, it’s already jampacked with residential buildings and stores.
TAI PING SHAN STREET
Since the colonization of Hong Kong under British government, there had been coexistence of eastern and western culture. Having been near Victoria Harbour, which played an important role in trading between the east and the west, the neighborhood became the center of the British colonial rule. At the same time, people from Mainland China flock the area, hoping to have better livelihoods. These Chinese settlers built homes, temples and stores within the neighborhood.
You could even see some of those old stores as you stride along the length of Tai Ping Shan Street.
CHINESE YMCA OF HONG KONG
As you continue your walking tour, you’ll pass by Bridges Street where you’ll see the Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong. Built in 1901, it is one of the city’s first youth centers for teenagers. It has an indoor playground, swimming pool, fitness center etc. and had been the social center for the Chinese community.
We didn’t enter the center because we actually just planned to have the walking tour for the first half of the day. So all we did was admire it from the outside.
As we made our way to Man Mo Temple, we passed by Ladder Street. From its name, one can obviously conclude that it’s a street leading you to either somewhere higher or somewhere lower. It extends from the higher parallel streets down to the Hollywood Road, bridging a link between the Chinese community to the foreign communities within the area.
MAN MO TEMPLE
As you descend, you’ll be welcomed by Man Mo Temple from the corner of Ladder Street and Hollywood Road.
The temple was believed to have been built between 1847 and 1862. It pays tribute to the God of Literature, the God of War and all the other heavenly Gods.
We went inside and got the chance to listen to a tour guide explaining the different beliefs of the Chinese community. First was the ritual of praying with the incense. For the chinese people, it signifies that your prayers go to the Gods as the smoke of the incense goes up.
Another interesting thing that I learned was about the ringing of the bell. When you enter a temple, you would notice some people are striking the bell as some sort of ritual. I just learned that it’s actually their way of saying hello to the Gods.
Formerly the Police Married Quarters, you can now find artworks, designer products and photographs by the local artists, designers and photographers in PMQ.
I could say that the highlight of our Highlights Walking Tour was strolling along Hollywood Road and the nearby alleys. As someone who has the heart for art, this made me feel like I’m in heaven. There were street arts and graffitis in almost every corner!
There were art galleries too! But because we don’t have much time, we didn’t get the chance to check out the exhibits. Maybe next time!
There were souvenir shops along the Hollywood Street as well.
From antique Buddha figures to chinese porcelain, you’d find yourself looking for something to bring home!
If you’re not into those antique souvenirs and trinkets, you’d still find yourself strolling down the alleys and looking for some bags or clothes to buy as there were several Boutique Shops you can find around the town!
There were flower shops too!
PARK TSZ LANE PARK
Tucked away from Hollywood Road and Aberdeen Street, you would find this historical site where the revolutionary group, headed by Yeung Ku-Wan and Tse Tsantai, met to revive power from the British Colony. The park features exhibition panels in memory of the group.
KUNG LEE HERBAL TEA SHOP
Walking for more than 2 hours was very tiring. So we went to find a place to eat but we ended up finding the Kung Lee Herbal Tea Shop instead.
We bought their bestseller sugar cane juice and it was really good that I wanted to buy some more if not for its price. A small cup of juice was about HKD 10. That’s approximately Php70! My goodness! Haha! But you should try it at least for a few sip — really worth it!
HONG KONG POLICE: TAI KWUN
While finding our way to our last destination, we passed by this building. At first, I thought it was some kind of city hall or whatever but damn, it’s a police station! How good can a police station look in your country?!
And finally, we reached the end of our walking tour — Pottinger Street!
The stone slabs along the length of Pottinger Street was what made it known to tourists. It was said to be made uneven to make it easier for commuters and merchants from the early days of Old Hong Kong to go up and down the street.
This self-guided walking tour around Old Town Central organized by Discover Hong Kong was definitely one of the best walking tour I’ve ever had so far. Not only did I get to work out my legs but I definitely indulged myself in an unknown city — learning about its heritage, enjoying its art, appreciating its culture and tasting its local cuisine.
I hope you’d get to experience it too.
Thank you for reading.
P.S. Leave no trace but memories.