Hidden gems

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 12:00am


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Whenever I'm standing outside the Foreign Correspondents' Club, in Central, smoking a cigarette, it's almost guaranteed that a lost tourist will come up and ask where the Botanical Gardens are.

'Dear God,' I always start. 'Why do you want to go there?' They pull out a guidebook and point to the standard list of Hong Kong's 10 best sights. The others are equally obvious and equally boring: The Peak. Ocean Park. IFC Mall.

There are any number of guidebooks about the inner culture and hidden history of major metropolises such as New York and London, so why are they absolutely clueless about Hong Kong?

Where exactly, you ask, is our city's so-called history and culture? There's a tomb in Sham Shui Po dating back to the Eastern Han dynasty - that's nearly 2,000 years. There's a Central Park-style lake in Wong Nai Chung where you can hire boats. There are prehistoric rock carvings and 1,000-year-old forts, ancient villages and ghost towns, shopping malls with roller coasters and shopping malls shaped like cruise ships. None ever get a passing mention.

Who's at fault? The guidebook companies, for hiring oblivious writers and editors who regurgitate tired suggestions of Disneyland and Stanley Market? The government, for not preserving and publicising our obvious heritage and instead promoting expensive bar districts and never-ending skyscrapers?

Or is it our fault, not just newspapers and magazines, but the very residents of Hong Kong for not caring? Pete Spurrier recently wrote The Heritage Hiker's Guide to Hong Kong, but it only skims the surface.

What we need is a true guide for tourists and residents - which is why you can now follow this writer's adventures around what's hidden in plain sight at a new blog: hiddenhongkong.blogspot.com.