What better book to pick up after a magical four-day visit to Hong Kong than Pete Spurrier’s The Heritage Hiker’s Guide to Hong Kong (FormAsia, 2011). Yes, I read a Hong Kong guidebook after I returned to Chicago. But this isn’t an ordinary guidebook.
Spurrier mixes history with current attractions, and centers them around planned hikes/walks around the territory. The book is packed with beautiful photos of buildings from yesteryear and today.
I enjoyed reading about old favorites such as Ohel Leah synagogue, the Hong Kong Police Museum, Helena May, and Flagstaff House. Or others I’d passed many times but have never formally visited like the French Mission, the old Bank of China building, or Jamia Mosque. But most exciting of all, this book introduced me to dozens of new places in Hong Kong I never knew existed.
With all the construction in Hong Kong, I was amazed to read about old abandoned buildings that are still standing. A house used in the film Lust, Caution is one of these, as is Nam Koo Terrace, a Shanghai-style mansion above Wanchai that was used as a (free) brothel for Japanese soldiers during WWII.
Spurrier seems to find pieces of old Hong Kong on every turn he takes, be it on outlying Cheung Chau, remote Tai Po, or right in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui or Central. His book proves that buildings and monuments from colonial Hong Kong–and even before–are still plentiful (enough to fill almost 400 pages!).
But he cautions that these treasures are at great risk if the government and developers (who work hand in hand) continue to knock down old structures to make way for mega malls. Case in point is Heritage 1881, which I walked by on my recent trip. The building (former Marine Police Headquarters) was something I had passed hundreds of times in the 1990s. But from what I remembered all those years ago, it was perched upon a hill out of reach to most people in Tsim Sha Tsui. Now it’s been turned into a hotel, complete with–what else?–a shopping mall.
This book is perfect for old Hong Kong hands, people who have visited Hong Kong and plan to return, and for those who have never been but are curious about this fascinating part of the world and would perhaps someday like to visit. I know it has given me a ton of ideas for my next trip back!