HONG KONG -- From the bustling streets of Central to the green open
spaces of the New Territories, one of the best ways to explore Hong
Kong's mix of old and new is on foot.
For visitors who want an up-close look at daily life in the
city, the Hong Kong Tourism Board publishes a Hong Kong Walks
brochure with several suggested walking tours.
The walks detailed in the brochure lead visitors through some of
Hong Kong's well-known and not-so-well-known areas: the converging
cultures of the Central and Western districts; the bustling markets
of Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok; the island retreat of Cheung Chau; the
wild corners of Lamma Island; the picturesque Peak to Pokfulam
walk, and the serene Tai Tam Reservoirs which lie in the city's
This year's brochure contains two new walking tours: the Sha Tin
Walk and the Back Streets of Central by the Mid-Levels
The Sha Tin Walk takes participants into an area of the New
Territories originally known as Lek Yuen, or "the source of clear
water," a reference to the Sing Mun River.
During the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644), many farmers settled
here, and eventually the area became the site of more than 50
villages, the most famous of which was named Sha Tin.
When the New Territories were leased to Britain in 1898, a
surveyor asked a villager the name of the area and was told it was
called Sha Tin. Since then, the name has been used to describe the
entire Lek Yuen area.
In 1970, the government began building satellite towns in the
New Territories to provide housing for the fast-growing population
of Hong Kong.
Sha Tin was the first new town developed, and much of it was
built on land reclaimed from the sea. It is now home to about
584,000 people, and although indisputably modern, it also contains
many sites of historical interest.
The walking tour leads participants to temples; to the former
home of a wealthy 19th century resident; to the Hong Kong Heritage
Museum, which contains 12 galleries of permanent and temporary
exhibitions; to lush Sha Tin Park; past Sha Tin Town Hall, home to
many free cultural performances; to the New Town Plaza for
shopping, recreation and entertainment, and for those with energy
to spare, up the 400 steps to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery,
home to 12,800 Buddha statues.
The Back Streets of Central by the Mid-Levels Escalator is quite
a different kind of "walk." The "world's longest covered, outdoor
people mover" is part commuter escalator, part sightseeing
These elevated escalators, moving walkways and the stairs that
link them, snake through some of the most expensive real estate in
They also provide leisurely views of busy markets, lively
neighborhoods, antiques shops, old temples, cobbled streets and the
city's trendy bars and cafes.
Opened in 1994, the Mid-Levels Escalator is 2,624 feet in length
and links Central's office district to the Mid-Levels'
It takes about 20 minutes to travel from one end of the
escalator to the other, but with 29 entry and exit points along the
route that enable passengers to hop on and off as they please, the
trip usually takes much longer.
The escalator runs downhill from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and uphill
from 10:20 a.m. until midnight.
Throughout the Mid-Level district, visitors can shop for a
variety of goods -- from clothing and antiques to buttons and
freshly baked egg tarts at 32 Lyndhurst Terrace. The latter was a
favorite of former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten.
When a more substantial meal is in order, many of the cuisines
of the world can be found in the chic area known as SoHo (South of