Wan Chai Journey to Reveal Darkest Secrets in English – 18 Nov 2008

‘The Standard’, Page 6: by Adele Wong


Expatriates will have a taste of historic Wan Chai on Sunday as the first English-guided tour of the district makes its long-awaited public debut.

‘A Journey into old Wan Chai’ aims to open the eyes and senses of those who want to know more about Hong Kong history, said Sylvia Midgett, a guide got the Wan Chai Livlihood Place project.

Students from the French International School were among those lucky enough to experience the inaugural schools tour.

The jouney included walking up rickety wooden staircases of historic flats at Stone Nullah Lane – an old prostitution hotspot – and touching the original stone sign on the famous Woo Cheong Pawn Shop.

The Wan Chai Livlihoood Place project is an offshoot of the St James’ Settlement. It was started by a handful of enthusiasts who either lived in the area or felt a strong attachment to the district. Tours in Chinese have always been available and are quite popular among residents of Wan Chai district.

The tours are sometimes adjusted according to suggestions from participants – mainly friendly Wan Chai residents who have some of their own experiences to share.

Midgett, the first and so far only English-speaking tour guide in the project, said many people who live in Wan Chai or who pass through the area regularly are often unaware of the wonderful sights and sounds Wan Chai has to offer.

She grew up in a more secluded and upscale area of Wan Chai and rarely ventured down to where the “action” was during her younger days.

It was only when she began working in the area that she discovered all its attractions, she said.

So Midgett decided to dedicate herself to the promotion of her old neighborhood.

“There are so many interesting aspects to Wan Chai,” said Midgett, adding she plans to educate all tour participants about them.

The English language tours cost HK$150.

In another heritage development, experts from Hong Kong, Macau and Australia are meeting in the city for three days this week to exchange information on heritage preservation and management.

“The Australian Government is very supportive of such cooperation in promoting cultural heritage,” Consul-General Les Luck said.

Vinod Daniel, chairman of the Australian network AusHeritage, said: “A strategic partnership between Australia, Hong Kong and Macau heritage managers could better tackle the enormous challenges of heritage preservation.”

This may include “the careful adaption or adaptive reuse of some heritage places in our respective environments,” Luck said.