Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Walking Tours in Hong Kong A Century Before

There is an excellent 19th century book written by a colonial official, E.J. Eitel, actually a German, that wrote a book called Europe in China. Published in the late 19th century, it is a valuable primary source, and often, the first source turned to about Hong Kong's past by English-speaking historians.

In it, there is a fascinating section on tourism in Hong Kong. I must quote from it one gem:

"The prevailing opinion among tourists visiting Hong Kong for the first time seems to be that there is little or nothing in the island worthy of their attention. This is a great mistake, however; and although the climate can hardly be considered as conducive to a lengthy stay (except during the six winter months, when magnificent weather usually prevails), a week spent in exploring the highways and by-ways of this beautiful island cannot fail to charm. It is doubtful if the walk from the Happy Valley, along Bowen Road, return to the city through the Botanical Gardens, can be excelled in any other part of the world."

Eitel, like many long-time residents of the city, came to believe that the city was best explored on foot as a walking tourist. We can't help but feel the same way today, and although the weather today is no better, we at least have the consolation of air-conditioning to ease our discomforts. And today, as it was over a century ago, the walk along Bowen Road from Central to Happy Valley continues to be one of the wonders of Hong Kong - many joggers today agree with me, including the Right Honorable Tung Chee-Hwa, whom I once encountered on that particular 'by-way' with his bodyguard. But let me leave that story for another time...

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