Southside story: take an ecological and historical tour of the Southern District

As a city with its sights firmly set on the future, it can be easy to overlook the many reminders of Hong Kong’s past. ECO Travel Limited, however, has conceived a walking tour that delves into the ancient, architectural, wartime and ecological histories of our hometown, exploring relics from 3,000 years ago right up to the present day.

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Traditional architectural details of Old House, No. 10, Wong Chuk Hang Sai Wan

Beginning in Wong Chuk Hang Sai Wan, one of few remaining traditional Chinese vernacular dwellings in Hong Kong is the first visit of the day. Built in the 1890s, it is the oldest existing building in the village that was once known as Little Hong Kong – and is, anecdotally at least, where the city gets its name from. After admiring the auspicious decorative features of the home that almost certainly once belonged to a particularly affluent family, it’s on to the second destination – a set of three Bronze Age rock carvings. Dating back thousands of years, these carvings are unique in that they are the only ones in the territory that are not adjacent to the ocean.

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The red blooms of the carniverous Sundew plant

Leaving the prehistoric past behind, one of ECO Travel Limited’s environmental and conservation experts takes the lead to guide you along the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail, identifying plants, insects and animal tracks along the way. Of course, this route was conceived as Hong Kong’s first battlefield trail and a history expert from ECO Travel Limited will also identify points of interest along the way, including an old anti-aircraft battery, pillboxes and the former West Brigade Headquarters, all of which bore witness some of the worst fighting during the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941.

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The glasshouse conservatory structure of Crown Wine Cellars, which occupies the site of the former Central Ordinance Munitions Depot 

The final port of call is Crown Wine Cellars, a private members’ club located at 18 Deep Water Bay Drive in what was once the Central Ordinance Munitions Depot. Built in 1930s by the British Royal Engineers, it was the final place to fall to the Japanese on 27 December 1941, two days after the official surrender of Hong Kong. Sadly, the historical significance of the site was forgotten and it fell into disrepair until the Government of Hong Kong called for its restoration in 2000. Enter Jim Thompson and Gregory De’eb, co-founders of Crown Wine Cellars, who proposed an innovative commercial adaptive re-use of the underground bunkers. The rest, as they say, is history – and history is at the heart of the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Site, which sees two of the eight remaining bunkers at the location transformed into the clubhouse and world-class wine storage facility, as well as a colonial-style glasshouse conservatory.