Peter Nelson’s travels – Life in Kowloon

by Peter Nelson

After a brief look around for a place to stay in Hong Kong, we settled into Kowloon’s Chungking Mansions, a high-rise building with a varied collection of guest houses on the upper floors, and shops and restaurants on the ground floor. Here’s an interesting quote from the Lonely Planet travel guide to Hong Kong: “There is probably no other place in the world like Chungking Mansions, the bottom-end accommodation ghetto of Hong Kong.” Further on in the same book, right after the list of the 10 best things to do in Hong Kong, is a list of the 10 things you should avoid. Number one on that list? The elevators in Chungking Mansions!

Having ridden in those lifts half a dozen times a day, every day for 6 weeks, I can see what that writer means. All elevators have signs posted, saying how many persons the elevator can carry safely. The load limit for Chungking Mansions was 18 persons. I remember once counting 34 people riding up with us. Was it crowded in there? You could say that! There were so many people crammed into that tiny steel box that you literally couldn’t move a finger. If you had any parcels, to avoid them getting crushed, you had to put them on your shoulders. Being tall was a real blessing in those circumstances. Because my head was above all the other passengers, at least I could breathe!

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Rice paddies nestled among the rocky hills of Lantau Island.
 The night streets of Kowloon.
The night streets of Kowloon.
 The rickshaws are licensed.
The rickshaws are licensed.
 A cigarette lady.
A cigarette lady.
Hong Kong’s backyard, where the fishing boats tie up for repairs and restocking.
Hong Kong’s backyard, where the fishing boats tie up for repairs and restocking.
Children playing on their family boat.
Children playing on their family boat.