Feature: Walking from past to present -- Rediscover Hong Kong with volunteer tour guide

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, August 20, 2023
Adjust font size:

by Xinhua writer Chu Mengmeng

HONG KONG, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- For the 71-year-old Ng Likbo, "city walk," a new travel trend for youngsters, has never been a novelty.

Since around 13 years ago, it has been the routine work of the retiree and volunteer tour guide to lead citizens and tourists to walk along the streets and alleys of Hong Kong, his hometown, viewing buildings up close and gaining a deep understanding of the local history and culture.

As countless young people flock to the city to embark on a random roaming journey this summer, Ng expects more visitors to take a walk along a trail in Kowloon City District, where he has been living for almost all his life.

Strolling around this old district that is undergoing the process of urban renewal with the contribution of professionals and local residents alike, one can have a mixed taste of Hong Kong both old and new.


Titled "Kowloon City in Transformation," the 6.5-km walking trail recommended by Ng traverses the hustle and bustle of Kowloon City District, stretching from north to south in the eastern part of the Kowloon Peninsula and finishing at the north shore of the Victoria Harbor.

Kowloon City District, one of the 18 districts of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), has a retro street view that is reminiscent of Hong Kong depicted in old movies and songs.

In this densely populated district, narrow, converging roads are dotted with numerous neon signboards, each representing a restaurant or a shop that is time-honored and has its own unique features.

"The history density of the district is really high, which means that many historical events might happen at the same place, as if the history has been piled up layer by layer," Ng said, while guiding a group of tourists.

Ng's metaphor can be best demonstrated by the Kowloon Walled City Park, the starting point of the trail. Before turned into a public leisure place in the 1990s, the site, once a military post in the late Qing dynasty, was heavily populated with more than 50,000 residents for a land of around 2.7 hectares.

From the Park, the trail goes through three areas: Kowloon City, To Kwa Wan, and Hung Hom. Ng told tourists that each of them has its own unique "character."

The self-educated expert was quite knowledgeable about the local history and had the gift of the eloquence for a good guide.

"By telling the history of the district, I would like to invite more people, especially my neighbors, to understand this region, appreciate it and then explore it by themselves," said Ng.


Ng, who had worked only in the manufacturing industry, began his personal research on the local history quite by chance.

In 2009, just before Ng's retirement, his father was seriously ill. While being cared for by Ng in the hospital, the father, in his last several months of life, one day came upon the history of their community in chatting with the son.

"He became more and more interested afterwards and could keep on talking about that without fatigue," Ng recalled.

"He knew so much that he was like a history book of our community," said Ng, who then began his own study in this direction.

After his retirement, Ng took a training course for tour guide and then started to present local history to other people just like how his father did to him.

Ng has also worked at museums and other scenic spots in Hong Kong, but he cares more about his home district, the Kowloon City District.

"Of course I have a deep affection for this district," Ng said. "Although I'm not an expert, I, as a local resident, have unique understandings about it." He explained that his presentation as a tour guide has the three dimensions -- big history, small anecdotes and his personal feelings.

Ng has always kept expanding his reserve of knowledge in order to be a better guide. Once, from several different references, he discovered and patched up a rarely-mentioned story of a neighborhood in which he had lived and designed a themed tour about it.

One of Ng's old neighbors was curious about the topic and signed up for the tour, without knowing that Ng was the guide. Ng felt delighted to see the neighbor's participation, as he thought that under his efforts, more residents began to pay attention to local history and culture.


Since more than five years ago, Ng began to guide citizens and tourists to walk along the "Kowloon City in Transformation" Walking Trail.

Built from the beginning of 2018 to July this year, the trail is an urban renewal project supported by the Urban Renewal Fund of the HKSAR government and operated by the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Welfare Council.

"We encourage people, whether neighbors, citizens from other districts or even tourists from other cities, to walk along the trail so that they can have a direct perception of the district," said Chan Winglam, the project manager.

Not only a route for tourists to roam the city, the trail is more of a platform at which various urban renewal activities have been held.

"Old districts inevitably have to be regenerated," Chan said. "We want to involve more residents to participate in the renewal work, as the place belongs to them all."

Walking along the trail, from time to time, one can see special patterns on some upgraded public infrastructures, such as lamp standards, handrails, benches, tiles, and well lids, among others.

According to Chan, those designs were inspired largely by the experiences and memories of local residents. "We invite them to our workshops and collect their impressions about the district," she said.

Chan gave an example to illustrate the working procedure. As "Kowloon" means "nine dragons" in Chinese, a lot of residents chose the traditional Chinese character of "long" which means "dragon" to represent the district. Then, several versions of the character were designed by professionals and evaluated by the residents. The top-voted design has been added on the handrails along the trail.

So far, based upon the trail project, more than 760 various urban renewal activities, including design workshops, photo contests, guided tours, and story collections, have attracted around 85,000 participants to get to know more about the Kowloon City District.

Ng himself have led more than 100 tours along the trail. As the new fashion of "city walk" has been embraced by an increasing number of youngsters, he welcomes more visitors to follow him to wander in the regenerating Kowloon City District, as if walking from past to present. Enditem

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter