This is part of the Trip Report So Long Mongolia, Hello SE Asia (December-January 2015) which covers:
- Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Chiang Rai, Thailand
- Yangon, Myanmar
- Ngwe Saung, Myanmar
- Mandalay, Myanmar
- Bagan, Myanmar
- Hong Kong
- Orlando, Florida
Catch up by reading the preview, The Banana Pancake Trail to Myanmar Starts This Monday, then the overview, Thailand, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Disney, Home, where the game time decision was made to leave Mongolia for good.
After my pampering at the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, it was time to get back to real life. It was time for my stay at the Chungking Mansions Hong Kong, a city within the city. Walking into this massive building, I am overwhelmed at the sights and sounds of this fascinating ecosystem.
I turned to my friend and said wouldn’t it be remarkable to live here and write a social study on life in the mansions? A quick Google led me to a man who did just that. The building is divided into various blocks with elevators servicing each block separately. Those in the know understand how to maneuver within the maze and bypass the elevators which are programmed to go all the way up or all the way down. For example, if you are on the 6th floor and want to go to the 9th, you must go down to the ground floor then head back up.
Each block has a few hostels with varying rates. Rooms can be booked online at hostelworld/hostelbookers or simply by standing in the lobby of the mansions and waiting for a suspect representative of each hostel to approach you. My brand new hostel was $30 a night for a tidy little fort that had a small bed, a mini fridge, a safe, and a hot shower. It even had a window and rooftop access which provided tremendous views of Hong Kong.
The tiny rooms aren’t the main attraction of the mansions. Staying there is worthwhile because of what you learn by observing the people who come and go. After waiting for the elevator, arrive at the lobby and go to the nearest mom and pop shop that sells beer, ethnic food, and retro cell phones. Crack open a can and either take a seat or walk around. There are clothing vendors, money exchange kiosks that trade at better rates than anywhere in the city, and without fail someone getting arrested for something. Later in the night, there are prostitutes propositioning, drug mules slanging, and bootleggers selling ‘bags, watches, purses.’
I never felt that the mansions weren’t safe or that my personal stuff wasn’t secure. All the activity whether legal or illegal seemed normal. After days of repeating this routine, I finally left Chungking for the airport. Emerging from the underworld, it took some time to once again become a functioning member of society.
<==Back to Hyatt Regency Hong Kong – Onto Guns & Butter: Hong Kong Travel Guide==>