Anyone who’s been to Hong Kong is probably familiar with Chungking Mansions, the building that towers over the lower end of Nathan Road and is home to shops, restaurants, apartments and hostels.
In the 90’s I travelled to Hong Kong at least twice a year, and without fail my colleagues and I would enter the Chungking Mansions and stand in long lines to board the elevator that would take us up to The Delhi Club, a fantastic little Indian eatery on the 3rd floor. Upon entering the building I always felt a bit like I was back in Pakistan since most of the shopkeepers hailed from the sub-continent.
The Chungking Mansions is a unique place in Hong Kong and the BBC recently did a story on the place, calling it Hong Kong’s “favourite ghetto.”
Eyesore, ghetto, jungle, goldmine, little United Nations. These are all words that have been used to describe Chungking Mansions, a building complex that is seen as both a foreign island in Hong Kong and an important part of the Chinese city’s identity.
From the outside, Chungking Mansions looks like a single, imposing concrete block – 15 identical residential floors on top of a neon-lit, two-storey mall.
Past the front, it is like a maze – there are in fact five separate blocks, 10 lifts and multiple old, twisting stairwells filled with swathes of electrical cable, crumbling concrete and graffiti in multiple languages.
The complex began life as an upmarket residential estate in the 1960s, but has since become a hub for traders from developing countries, backpackers and asylum seekers in Hong Kong.
More than 10,000 people are estimated to enter or exit the building every day, and African and South Asian faces often outnumber Chinese faces – something remarkable in a city where 94% of residents are ethnic Chinese.
The building complex has a somewhat notorious reputation among locals and, until recently, many in Hong Kong were wary of stepping inside.
However, the building has a buzz that most Hong Kong Chinese would also recognise – nearly everyone is there to make money.
Click here to read the entire article and see a great slide show.
I’ve also got this book queued up on my Kindle: Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong, by Gordon Matthews.
So, dear readers….do you have any fun memories or stories of The Chungking Mansions?
Photo source: BBC