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Uniquely HK

Feature Story

In the Governors’ Footsteps

The stories behind the names of Hong Kong’s most famous roads and trails

“Roads are a record of those who have gone before.”

― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking


Des Voeux Road, Wilson Trail, Bonham Strand… during our trips through Hong Kong we cross many of these ways without giving thought as to the history behind them. But each of these names has a story to tell, and as a whole paint the history of Hong Kong in full colour, if one only took a closer look.

British rule in Hong Kong (1841-1997) has left an indelible mark on the city’s landscape. On Hong Kong Island, especially, we see and hear the evidence of the metropolis’s colonial history in the places named after governors of days past.

"The historical buildings are mostly gone, so the real history is in the street names," says Gillis Heller, co-author of Signs of a Colonial Era, a book discussing the roots of Hong Kong's street names.

As the city was being constructed under the administration of these colonial overseers, it was inevitable that they would lend their names to the new thoroughfares in an ever-expanding city. And since the weather is perfect for walking this month, why not join us on a tour of Hong Kong’s best paths (both urban and country) with some fun facts along the way...


Nathan Road: Kowloon’s neon lifeline

This 24-hour-a-day buzzing strip is Kowloon’s lifeline, a 3.6-kilometre stretch intersecting the world’s busiest districts, including Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui. It was called “The Golden Mile” from the 1970s as it transformed into a neon-lit tourist hotspot lined with restaurants and shops – and soon enough, five MTR stations.

Named after                    

Sir Matthew Nathan, Hong Kong’s 13th governor (1903-1907). During his term, Nathan oversaw extensive construction and development in the Kowloon Peninsula, most notably major roads and the Kowloon-Canton Railway.

Famous for                        

Kowloon Park 33 acres of greenery in the heart of Kowloon, featuring a maze garden, aviary, fitness trail, Chinese garden and more. (MTR Tsim Sha Tsui, Exit A1)

iSQUARE Dine at one of the restaurants on the top floors of this popular shopping arcade – breath-taking views await. (MTR Tsim Sha Tsui, Exits H and R)

Street markets around Nathan Road, including Temple Street Night Market (MTR Jordan, Exit A; MTR Yau Ma Tei, Exit C), Ladies Market on Tung Choi Street (MTR Mong Kok, Exits B2, D2 or D3), and the Ap Liu Street Flea Market (MTR Sham Shui Po).


MacLehose Trail: From mountain to sea

From 14-16 this month, more than 4,500 people will be hitting this 100-kilometre trail in a race for charity. Originally, the route was a training exercise by the British Army Gurkhas (a special unit of soldiers selected from young men living in the hills of Nepal).

Named after                    

Lord MacLehose of Beoch, the longest serving governor of Hong Kong (1971-1982). He oversaw the construction of the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) – Hong Kong’s transport backbone – as well as establishing the Country Parks, protecting half of the territory’s nature reserves.

Famous for                       

Tai Long Wan (MacLehose Stage 2) Hong Kong’s most beautiful beaches; Stage 2 not only runs through five pristine shores, it also covers coastal walks and hills, plus ridges and Unesco recognised geoparks in the region’s wildest frontier.

Get there                           

Check www.hiking.gov.hk for complete details on the hikes


Bowrington Road and Market: Get down and dirty

Nestled in the shadow of Times Square, at the edge of glitzy Causeway Bay is this wet market showcasing Hong Kong’s grassroots character. Your senses will be inundated by the different sights, sounds and smells of the marketplace: from Halal meat butchers to fresh seafood vendors – you’ll find them all here, in their rawest glory.

Named after                    

Sir John Bowring was the Fourth governor of Hong Kong (1854-1859), whose high-spirited nature was said to have led to a dispute triggering the Second Opium War (1856-1860). Bowring is among the world’s greatest hyperpolyglots – he claimed he could speak 100 languages. It was during his governorship that the land around eastern Wan Chai was first developed, including a river that Bowring converted into a canal (now underground).

Famous for                       

Bowrington Road Cooked Food Centre On the top floor of the indoor market is this raucous food court renowned for delicious, fresh fare at remarkably cheap prices.

Get there                           

MTR Causeway Bay, Exit A


Lugard Road: Posh circuit

Get stunning views of the Hong Kong skyline and Victoria Harbour on this easy walk around Victoria Peak.

Named after                    

Sir Frederick Lugard, governor of Hong Kong (1907-1912) and later of Nigeria (1912-1919). Lugard put no small effort into founding the University of Hong Kong in 1911, which consistently ranks in Asia’s top three.

Famous for                       

The Peak – the city’s most exclusive neighbourhood since colonial times. The anvil-shaped Peak Tower has a large viewing platform called Sky Terrace 428 and places where you can grab a snack or do a bit of shoppingThe Peak Galleria across has a free-entry observation deck. www.thepeak.com.hk

The Peak Circle Walk, which winds around the highest point on Hong Kong Island. Aside from your bird’s eye view of the city (all 360 degrees), you will also encounter impressive mansions.

Get there                           

Peak Tram on Garden Road from MTR Central, Exit J2

MTR Hong Kong, Exit D then take Bus 15 from the Exchange Square Bus Terminus


Pottinger Street: Costume central

In search of a feather boa? How about a wig? Or a mask? Fans of fancy dress need look no further – this charming little bazaar on “Stone Slab Street” has it all.

Named after                    

Henry Pottinger, the first governor of Hong Kong (1841-1843). He led the naval victory of Britain in Humen and negotiated the terms of the Treaty of Nanking, which ended the First Opium War and ceded Hong Kong Island to the United Kingdom.

Famous for                       

Cobblestoned streets full of vendors peddling costumes and trinkets of all sorts: ribbons, watch bands, hair ties, fat suits, hats, capes, crowns and more...

Li Yuen Street East and West These nearby fashion markets (just across the road) peddle a hodgepodge of clothing and accessories from tailored silk to factory outlet merchandise.

Get there                           

MTR Central, Exit D2


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