Easily Nathan Road's most famous address, Chungking Mansions is a warren of cheap guesthouses, hostels, residential apartments, budget shops, offices, money changers, eateries serving ethnic cuisine and three shopping ‘malls’. Believe it or not but this gigantic block of depressing, grey concrete is actually five, 17-storey towers that are all but glued to each other.
Once a den of thieves, gangsters, drug dealers and prostitutes, Chungking has since cleaned up its act and is populated largely by asylum-seekers and traders from Africa and South East Asia, both living here and/or doing business in a parallel economy far, far from the world of high finance and power that dominates the rest of Hong Kong.
Walk the corridors, look up and you can occasionally catch a sliver of light – the sky. Quite literally, most of the mansions’ denizens rarely see the light of day. They are busy doing business – sorting, packing, cracking deals and packing goods in suitcases to sell back in their home countries. It is said that 20 per cent of cheap, Chinese cell phones used in Sub-Saharan Africa pass through the dodgy portals of Chungking every year. Undoubtedly one of the most culturally diverse locations in Hong Kong – perhaps in the world – it is estimated by an anthropological study that people from at least 120 nationalities pass through Chungking Mansions every year.
And why are we telling you this? Well, you must have figured by now that Chungking Mansions are nothing short of a phenomenon, and ducking in and out of its portals is an experience like no other. The first two storeys are common space and you can wander around unhindered. So suck it in and take the plunge!