We Love Chunking Mansions

One could spend a lifetime trying to decode Chungking Mansions, th hulking interconnected block of 1960's-era towers that mar an upscale district in Kowloon, Hong Kong. A warren of crash pads, tiny industries, spices, electronics, drugs, immigration services, forex, it functions as kind of global souk for black-market exports, a a vital supply hub for the world's informal sector.

The Mansions are the subject of heaps of documentaries, articles, and at least one entire book. Although curry, crime and low-rent capitalism are the main attractions, even the background infrastructure is fascinating.

The buildings guts are visible in the emergency stairways of the lower levels, where the entire ceiling is a thick snarl of cables, encrusted in sticky brown cobwebs formed from a mix of oil from kitchen exhaust fans coagulated with airborne human dander. The broadband internet pipes inside convey messages in a confusion of tongues, purchase orders for sacks of used mobile phones or imitation Prada handbags. Unless UNESCO creates a new class of protected heritage status for unique & irreplaceable urban ecosystems, the Mansions may eventually meet the same fate as her jumbo-sized sibling, the Kowloon Walled City.

There are around a hundred different hotels scattered throughout the Mansions. Twenty dollars a night gets you a windowless cell exactly the size of it's stiff twin mattress. A few more dollars buys an few centimeters of floor space to set your luggage down.

Fat cats could even upgrade to a room with toilet. I didn't have that option so ended up peeing in a plastic trashcan, not easy in a such a tiny space.