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Old Town Central is Hong Kong's most historic neighbourhood, where east meets west, past meets present, and tradition contrasts with innovation. With treasures at every turn, this is where the essence of the city can be found.

ARON HARILELA

Chairman & CEO of the Harilela Group
India

Chancery Lane

Photos by @jordanleephoto

I absolutely love Hong Kong, my family have been here since 1930.

Aron Harilela’s enthusiasm for the city is contagious. “Central is a complete mixture of all different cultures, all different ages. There’s so much life and dynamism, it’s a microcosm of Hong Kong.” He’s well placed to know, as the man at the helm of the Harilela Group, a hotel empire, started by his father in 1959. His family has been a part of Hong Kong’s cultural fabric for four generations.

“I sit at a dinner table anywhere in central, and there’s English people, French people. Chinese people, Indian people, and nobody blinks an eyelid, nobody blinks twice.”

Aron enthuses over the diversity of Central’s food scene, from Cassio, a Spanish tapas bar and club, to Thai street food at Cha Cha Wan. What really wins his heart though is old-fashioned local fayre. “I think that if somebody’s coming to visit Central they should certainly take time not only to explore the modern restaurants but absolutely go and try some street food from your pastries to fish balls. … actually those two are my favourites, fish balls and egg tarts. There’s also a breakfast dish which is spectacular…cheung fan, steamed breakfast rice rolls.” He says, before rigorously explaining the extra sauce options.

Even if you compare Londoners or New Yorkers, a Hong Konger always has a much more international perspective because it is the most multicultural society that I know.

Beyond the glitz of modern restaurants and the fizz and bustle of the street food stalls, there is another side to Central that he treasures. “It also has the oldest antique shops in Hong Kong, small little vendors. I remember when I was young going there to buy books for example. They’re right next to some of your big name brand stores.” He explains.

Even commerce in Central has history woven into it. “If you walk around any corner…you will always find some old street vendor who’s been selling lanterns for moon festival, for example, within their little shop that has not disappeared at all and that’s always spectacular.” Indian by heritage, grown up immersed in Canton culture, Aron Harilela’s view is certain,

I feel more of a Hong Konger than absolutely any other nationality and I am incredibly proud to say so.