Old Hong Kong Photos and The Tales They Tell, Volume 1 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

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Old Hong Kong Photos and The Tales They Tell, Volume 1

Gwulo book's front cover

Price & how to buy

31 May 2022 - The Gwulo website is set to "read-only" while it is being upgraded. You can still view all of the pages, but cannot edit them, or add new content.
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The Gwulo book is available to buy online, or in local book stores:

  1. Buy online here at Gwulo.com: click the Buy this button above to order online and have the book mailed to you. Local and international orders welcome.

    Shipping within Hong Kong is free of charge, and shipping to other countries is by airmail. You'll be shown the shipping cost during checkout, before you confirm your order.

    SPECIAL OFFER: International customers get FREE SHIPPING if you order two or more copies of the Gwulo books - Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, or any combination - for delivery to the same address. (Just click the Buy this button again if you want to order an extra copy.)

  2. Buy in a bookstore: Hong Kong customers can find Gwulo's books in branches of Art & Culture OutreachBlue Lotus Gallery / Bookazine / Chung Hwa Book Co. (with branches at the airport) / Commercial Press / HK Maritime Museum Gift Shop / Joint PublishingKelly & Walsh / St John's Cathedral Bookstore / Sycamore BookshopTheBookshopVibe Book and Music Shop

  3. Buy online at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk (affiliate links*).



  • "David Bellis has an obvious love for Hong Kong, where he operates Gwulo, a local history website, and this book is, the cover states, Volume 1. Let’s hope the next one comes out soon, perhaps with others to follow. Local historians approach their subjects with a love and enthusiasm sometimes lacking in more academic productions, and books like this are to be cherished for their informality and accessibility to readers..."
    John Butler, Asian Review of Books
  • "Wonderful memories of my childhood were refreshed as the photos and stories brought to mind similar events." - "Very enjoyable especially as it is a project of passion." - "A great book if you're interested in historical changes over time to a city or just plain love Hong Kong." - "A must-read for anyone who loves Hong Kong."
  • "... eye for detail marks out amateur historian’s book from the pack"
    Adam Wright, SCMP
  • "This is an example of Bellis’s deft way of story-telling."
    May Holdsworth, Journal of the HK Branch of the RAS


More information

The book is a 112-page paperback, with a page size of 152 x 229 mm / 6 x 9 inches.

ISBN: 9789887827603

To take a closer look, please click here to download a PDF sample of photos and stories from the book.

From the back cover:

Not your typical photo book!

David Bellis, founder of the popular local history website Gwulo, shows you a selection of his favourite photos of old Hong Kong. So far, so familiar.

But then he takes you on a deep dive to discover and understand the photos’ most minute and revealing details. Plague-ridden rats, flapper hats, and chocolates are just a few of the surprising clues you’ll investigate. Finally, David helps you piece the clues together to uncover the photos’ hidden stories.


"David’s ability to discern useful details from historical pictures of Hong Kong is exemplary. This book and Gwulo.com are essential resources for anyone curious about this city’s past."
Dr Kwong Chi Man, Assistant Professor, History Department, Hong Kong Baptist University


"Listeners to my show on RTHK know David as a great teller of quirky Hong Kong stories. He brings the same insight and meticulous research to this, his new book. Good to see it is Volume 1 – looking forward to the rest of the series!"
Annemarie Evans, Producer & Presenter, Hong Kong Heritage, Radio 3, RTHK



 *The affiliate link takes you to the Amazon page for this book. It doesn't affect the price you pay, but if you order via Amazon, they pay a small commission to Gwulo.


The Ablong family and collegial ex-HKers now resident in Canberra enjoyed the publication particularly the photographs.  The consensus is that it was a well presented publication.  We look forward to vol.2 and any other material (particularly photographs) that may arise.  The acid test imposed by the consensus group was the level of nostalgia and the invocation of memories long lost in the aging corridors of the mind.  Well done David.


It might be on interest to your audience that my great grandfather John Cotton built the first residence in Kennedy Town, and my grandfather John Ablong built the first residence at the Peak. During WWII my mother and I walked up and down North Point looking for my father's (Alfred Ernest Ablong) body to no avail.  He had been shot by a sniper while he and Sgt McDevitt were delivering food and ammunition to those at the Hotel.  It was some years later that we were informed that the vehicle in which they were travelling was torched by fifth columnists.


Wishing you and yours good health, wealth, peace and safety for 2018.

The latest bookstore to carry the Gwulo book is Bleak House Books.

They win the award for "the bookstore you are least likely to stumble upon", as they're on the 27th floor of an office building, in the middle of San Po Kong. They're well worth a visit though, as they've got a good selection of new and second-hand English books:

Bleak House Books


Here are some books from their local-history shelf: 

The "local history" shelf at Bleak House Books


Books at Bleak House Books



Here's a new way to read the Gwulo book - stay at The Pottinger hotel!

The Pottinger hotel has ordered enough copies of the Gwulo book to put one in each of their guest rooms. Though the hotel is in a modern building, it's location on the Pottinger Street steps puts it right in the middle of old Hong Kong. This order is part of a larger project by the hotel to pique their guests' interest in Hong Kong's history.

A big thank you to The Pottinger for their support. I wrote the book hoping it would be as interesting and enjoyable for the casual reader as it is for people who already know about Hong Kong's history. Seeing the book used this way is a thumbs up that it meets that goal.

I'll cross my fingers that the hotel's guests enjoy dipping into the book, and that it sparks their curiosity to learn more about the hotel's historic surroundings.

Thanks to the Asian Review of Books for including Volume 1 in their "list of some books we particularly liked this year".

There are lots more good books on the list, so it's a good place to find inspiration for books to read over the holidays, and in the year ahead: 


I've been reading this blog for a while, because Hong Kong is fascinating, but now that I'm actually *in* Hong Kong I decided to pop along to Bleak House Books and pick up a copy. I bought volume 1, so that I have an excuse to come back and buy volume 2. Mine is signed ("best wishes, David"). The shop is lovely and the general area is interesting. It's next to a bunch of garages where they mend those red buses, and about a ten minute walk from the Kowloon walled city park. It's fairly easy to reach via the 22 bus, which also goes to the former Kai Tak, now a curiously deserted cruise terminal stroke building site.

Thanks Ashley, and glad to hear you visited Bleak House Books. I'm making good progress on book #3, so hopefully that'll be another reason to visit them.