Discovering Hong Kong's Cultural Heritage: 12 walks in the New Territories by Patricia Lim, Oxford University Press, $115 Local bookstands are full of books carrying grainy black-and-white photographs of grand colonial edifices, European villas and street scenes that used to represent Hong Kong. Beautiful though they may be, these wistful collections smack of sorrow for an era lost. Few of the buildings survive, and these photo-rich publications are intended for the armchair reader. But Patricia Lim's book detailing Hong Kong's indigenous culture offers something different: a practical guide to architectural gems and historical sites you can visit. Discovering Hong Kong's Cultural Heritage claims to be the first guide to local traditions and vernacular buildings through 12 do-it-yourself guided 'walks' around the New Territories. It reveals the beliefs behind practices dating back hundreds if not thousands of years, which have survived to this day. Forget the blight of car dumps and container storage areas; tucked away in villages and country parks are magnificent ancestral halls, incense-wreathed temples and wobbly-walled houses. For instance, pass through the red-hued stone gatehouse of a walled village in Sheung Shui and enter a world alive with sizzling woks, crying babies and clatter of mahjong pieces. True, the moat - the only surviving example of the walled villages' traditional defence - stinks and many houses are dilapidated or already torn down to make way for modern replacements, but the downsides are outweighed by the wealth of interesting sites into which Lim's book breathes life. Dozens of gods are clustered around the base of a banyan tree, beneath whose spreading branches old men of the village congregate. Even the top of a nearby post box - still adorned with George V's monogram - has been adopted by the gods. Nearby is a wok-yee house, with gables reminiscent of wok handles. This design, once a mark of a scholar's house, is increasingly rare in Hong Kong. Though the reader is often left wanting more information about each site, the book's strength is the section on cultural heritage which includes chapters about traditions, the clan system and village life. Maps, directions for private cars and public transport are provided; perhaps names in Chinese would have been useful for getting around.