Walking a faded concrete path touched by Hong Kong's thick autumn heat, I watch as the sun covers a stretch of shiny new high-rise buildings, that make their way into the clouds and behind Central's usual floating smog.

Settled around the apartments are worn streetside shops and petite newspaper stands, manned by daydreaming merchants.

Hong Kong Central, a thriving economic hub on Hong Kong Island, is recognised for being an all-in-one destination; an enticing balance of old and new.

A bustling business-centric district awash with new-age architecture, trendy recreational spots and artistic flair, Central is equally unafraid to remind people of its deep historical roots.


Comprising the heavily occupied Queens Rd and Hollywood Rd, which blossom at night and welcome busy working crowds during the day, the district is set to be officially launched as Old Town Central in March next year.

Having once housed major military facilities, after British soldiers overtook the then-quiet fishing town in 1842, Central streets now entertain flashy rooftop bars, a string of upmarket boutique motels and cosy cafes spilling scents of weak, creamy coffee.

Yet, despite boasting some of the world's highest skyscrapers and industry renowned eating and drinking hotspots, Central's colonial scars aren't overshadowed.

My walking tour begins through Central's well-known Possession St, which marks a gateway to the past as the pronounced birthplace of colonial Hong Kong.

I'm told about Japan's grasp over Hong Kong during World War II, before the district was regained by Britain in 1945 and finally, 20 years later, the shattered area was handed back to China.

Now, a further 20 years on, shirtless men sit around rickety wooden tables at their local diner, sipping on Hong Kong's strong traditional Milk Tea, inhaling noodles swimming in their late-morning breakfast bowls.

Tourists queue outside air-conditioned bakeries for a taste of the world famous Tai Chong Egg Tart, introduced in Hong Kong during 1940 and a local favourite with its crusted pastry shell, filled with sweetened egg custard and baked to a golden finish.

People sip on Kung Lee's freshly made sugarcane juice, purchased from the authentic streetside store that opened in 1948 and still offers the natural rush of sugars, heavy in texture but known for aiding digestion.


As I pass half-finished buildings held up by bamboo scaffolding, damp clothing from densely populated apartments hangs above my head, drying in the Hong Kong humidity.

I reach Hollywood Rd Park, a Chinese style water garden once known as Possession Point, and a man with ashy hair and a long checked shirt paces towards me, his hand extended and a large smile exposing where his front teeth used to be.

Guiding my attention to an information board, he points excitedly at a black and white image taken in 1930, which shows the park where the two of us now stand, peering silently together through the smudged glass.

My next stop is Man Mo Temple, a striking cultural monument built between 1847 and 1862, and now protected from any modifications.

Alive with the vibrant colours and designs of Chinese vernacular architecture, the temple is extremely well preserved; with its beautiful ceramic figurines, bright murals and granite and wood carvings.

The temple has three major compounds, one of which is dedicated to worshipping the Gods of Literature and Martial Arts.

As I enter, left foot first according to Chinese tradition, the smell of burning incense fills my nose, the foggy fragrance weaving through the temple in unbreakable clouds.

A man is resting on his knees beside a table, which holds the body of a pig wrapped in a pale pink blanket. He has sacrificed it to the Gods as a declaration of his faith.

Trails of smoke lift from incense sticks in his hand, the faint whisper of prayer making its way to the large ceramic figurines in front of him.

I stare for a moment too long, quietly in awe.

Our guide, Frank, invites me to try the temple's Fortune Stick Predictions, and I don't hesitate to accept, passing a dimmed counter housing the temple's eerily serious fortune tellers.

"Should I be a travel writer?" I ask, looking out over the hundreds of lit incense stems and towards the statutes, which are adorned with extravagant head pieces and silk.

After the rhythmic shaking of a container containing numbered wooden prediction sticks, number 73 falls to the floor and I flick through the worn temple message book, where I find the words "very unfavourable prospect".

Slipping coins into a donation box, I escape outside - right foot first - breathing in a deep stream of Hong Kong air that, for the first time, seems refreshing.

After an amazing modern dim sum lunch at Central's popular Social Place restaurant, I stumble across the former Police Married Quarters, a multi-level hub for creative and design industries, scattered with pricey fashion boutiques, art galleries, design studios and beautiful cake shops.

Not far along is Pottinger St, referred to as Stone Slab St hill, an historic road paved with uneven granite slabs and named after Hong Kong's first governor, Sir Henry Eldred Curwen Pottinger.

Although the slabs were installed to make the steep street easier to climb, walking the towering cobblestones still triggers beads of sweat on my forehead as I take in the buzz of the street, crammed with stalls yielding masks, feather boas and various other sequinned costume attire.

The climb prepares me for the afternoon's second major highlight, the MacLehose Trail, an easy taxi ride from Central and, according to National Geographic, one of the World's Best Hikes.

We start at the Sai Kung Peninsula section of the 100km hiking trail, nestled between sea caves, sea stacks and striking volcanic hexagonal columns.

I notice fallen rocks from the orange-hued volcanic wall towering beside me, formed 400 million years ago by earthquakes.

It reminds me of the rumbling quakes back home in Wellington, which shook only days before my trip and almost prevented my trip to Hong Kong.

The walkway ends metres before the rocky opening of a sea cave, beside a pool of clear seawater lit by the sun and riddled with fish.

With my tanned shoulders serving as a reminder of the afternoon's heat, I follow our guide back to the steady MacLehose Trail track.

Tracing the rising path towards Long Ke Wan's iconic white-sand beaches, I breathe in the elevated views of cliffs and sparkling turquoise seawater; a sight never too old.

Getting there:

Hong Kong Airlines flies direct from Auckland to Hong Kong, with return Economy Class fares starting from $1275.