HK Magazine Archive

Guide to Hong Kong: Old Meets New

A series of stories, recommendations and tips on Hong Kong from people in the know. Explore our city based on the travel experiences that interest you and get itineraries for off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods..

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 February, 2016, 11:48am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:56pm

While Hong Kong has no shortage of big, glitzy high-rises, remnants of the old city remain apparent in its many historical buildings—in its old-meets-new character. You can discover streets where new businesses exist alongside old and where run-down tenements have been revitalized into modern urban projects. While some have been repurposed as museums, others are now restaurants, theaters and shops.

Take a Walk
Thanks to efforts to preserve these beautiful older buildings via adaptive reuse, you can easily explore these fascinating sites. Take Wan Chai’s Blue House: this rare example of a wooden tenement building, known in Cantonese as a tong lau, dates back to the 1920s and is classed as a Grade 1 Historical Building. Or nearby Tai Lung Fung, a stylish bar decorated in a classic “nostalgic Hong Kong style”—a perfect place for happy hour after a day of shopping.

Hong Kong’s Hollywood
Another “old-meets-new” hub is the well-trodden Hollywood Road. Home to antique shops and art galleries, the area is becoming increasingly gentrified. Start in Sheung Wan and walk to Central along this road and you’ll find kitschy souvenirs on sale alongside designer clothes, and traditional tea parlors standing beside European-style cafes and restaurants.

Preserving and Protecting
Within such a compact and varied city, there are myriad examples of how Hong Kong’s historic tapestry is etched onto its architectural façade. Dig a little deeper—take a tour, push open those ancient doors —and you’ll uncover how this cultural heritage is being preserved, but also how it’s being renovated and adapted for the city’s future generations.

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Spotlight on: Tsuen Wan

At the end of its eponymous MTR line, you would be mistaken for thinking Tsuen Wan is simply a remote rural backwater. For here exist many of Hong Kong’s greatest ancient monuments—old Hong Kong at its most fascinating. You don’t have to travel far from the modern city to discover ancient trails, delve into historic temples and sup on traditional tea

Mountains High, Rivers Low
An influx of Hakka people in the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) shaped Tsuen Wan, with Agrarian villages sprouting up around the then–named “Chi’ien Wan” which means “shallow bay” in Cantonese. One of the oldest villages is Chuen Lung Tsuen (“Dragon Stream Village”) in the foothills of Tai Mo Shan mountain. This sleepy enclave sees a high turnover of visitors at its renowned tea houses. The most famous of these is Choi Lung Restaurant, which uses mountain spring water for its brews.

Tales and Trails
You can learn more about the history of ancient settlements at the Sam Tung Uk Museum, a 200-year-old Hakka walled village that was declared a historical monument in 1981. Another remnant of the district’s agricultural past is the Yuen Tsuen Ancient Trail, an old trading route through the mountains that’s now a 12.5km-long path through Tai Lam Country Park. The trail offers great views over Tsing Ma Bridge—the world’s longest road-and-rail suspension bridge.

Palatial Offerings
For a more recent reflection of the district’s culture, head to the Western Monastery, a relatively new Buddhist temple at the foot of Tai Mo Shan. Established by the Hong Kong Buddhi Siksa Society in 1970, the temple was expanded in the late 1990s and now covers an area of 200,000 square meters and is home to nine pseudo-Chinese palatial architectures, plus an exhibition area about Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, and more.

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