After disembarking from my rolling metal home for the past day-and-a-half, I plopped down my stuff and waited in the Shenzhen train station for the China-Hong Kong border crossing to open. Then I walked across.
My first order of business was, as always, to find a place to stay. There’d be no messing around with this unmanageably massive pile of luggage I had on my back.
…Straight to the infamous Chungking Mansions I went!
As any Google search will tell you, Chungking Mansions is a bit of a landmark here in Hong Kong. From the outside, the 50-year-old building looks like a standard rotting dump of an apartment complex. But on the inside, it’s one of the most diverse, bustling, and notorious spots in the city.
Chungking Mansions is quite literally a labyrinth of curry restaurants, African bistros, clothing shops, sari stores, foreign exchange offices, electronic kiosks, Halal stands, and of course, guesthouses – hundreds and hundreds of them (offering just under 2,000 rooms, according to Wikipedia). Its so culturally diverse – particularly with Indians, Pakistanis, and Africans – that while inside, there’s almost no hint that you’re even in Hong Kong. For nearly half a century Chungking Mansions has been a landmark for backpackers – and for some slightly seedier characters as well.
So after joining up with a group of three friendly Irish backpackers I’d met at the border, we consolidated our luggage and split up to sweep the place for good deals on lodging. Initially they proposed sharing a larger 4-person room, but I opted to get a single, knowing that I desperately needed some time to catch up on personal business. I ended up in a small corner-room in the back of D-Block for $120HKD a night.
Although tiny, I have to say that inside it wasn’t half-bad. Definitely better than I would’ve expected considering the outside appearance of the building. I suppose my only complaint would be the Indian guy at the front desk – who didn’t have the best vibe of anyone I’d ever met, and virtually never seemed to smile. I think he was a bit irritated at the severely-negotiated price his partner had agreed upon. And he never left the place, sleeping on the tile floor of the entryway every single night 😛