The Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong

by Emily DUNBAR on July 30, 2009

The mansions are a series of five 17-story high blocks, connected by a two-level foyer with shops, food stalls, and currency exchange bureaus. On any given day an estimated 4,000 people live here, not including the backpackers that take advantage of an array of cheap guesthouses in the building, and the curious shoppers that wander through the halls.

On a weekend, the five lines that form for the elevators in each block display Hong Kong’s multiculturalism at its best. Indian hawkers wait with their Filipino girlfriends, young dreadlocked Australians rub elbows with African women in brightly patterned dresses, and the Chinese security guard carefully monitors the live CCTV footage running inside the elevators.

Chungking, which means “great (and returning) prosperity” is just blocks away from the world-famous Peninsula Hotel in the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) district. TST’s waterfront property offers the best panoramic views of Hong Kong’s iconic skyline, making it some of the most prime real estate in the city.

The Chungking Mansions have avoided any signs of gentrification, and seem to be proudly surviving as the central hub for minority culture in Hong Kong. Moreover, it’s an important place of business - a living example of how a low-end globalized economy functions.

Outside, you will be offered “copy watches” and suits. Inside you can get “anything you need”. Apparently, one fifth of all of the mobile phones in sub Saharan Africa have passed through the Chungking Mansions at some point - and 70 percent of Kenya’s handsets come from here.

More on this iconic set of buildings at http://www.gadling.com

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