Tag Archives: Kowloon Peninsula

Hong Kong, Land of Potable Water and Colonial-era Firetraps: Part I

6 Apr

My hostel was this sketchy little quarter-of-a-floor in a weird massive building with multiple elevators to non-adjoining wings. It was pure luck that I actually found the darn thing in under 20 minutes, as opposed to 3 hours. Luck plus good signage on the ground floor, I guess…there were like a hundred hostels in the building, which was this colonial-era firetrap called the Chungking Mansions (actually only one mansion?? more like the Chungking Sketchy Apartment Building, if you ask me). The ground floor was absolutely filled with Indian dudes conducting business (specifically men, not women for some reason). At the front were money-changers, and there were little convenience stands and restaurants sprinkled throughout–but when I wandered towards the back of the floor I got lots of stares as a white lady alone. I also got delicious gulab jamun for breakfast because no one could stop me, and a random semi-date with a nice Finnish boy because I was young, free and in Hong Kong for a weekend.

The Chungking Mansions: Source of hostel beds, gulab jamun and Finns

My hostel was located on Kowloon Peninsula, not Hong Kong island proper. The difference between the two areas, in feel, is this: the “Central” district of Hong Kong island is the business district, where all the foreigners have traditionally hung out. It feels pretty much like the financial district of New York City–tall buildings, impersonal, lots of gray and neon.

Kowloon, on the other hand, feels like the area right next to the financial district of New York City, where you might actually be able to buy food for under $50 while still feeling fairly ritzy, still surrounded by tall buildings, gray and neon. It seems foreigners have traditionally shunned this area as “too Chinese to deign to visit,” because the Sort of Foreigners Who Go to Hong Kong Regularly For Business are apparently kind of d-bags. (citation: my friend Dora who is from Hong Kong, also Lonely Planet I think).

Separating the two areas is Victoria Harbour.

I was excited about Hong Kong’s potable water, but less so the firetraps. I heard that the best way to find cheap housing in Hong Kong was to live in the harbour. So I purchased the below boat.

Next time: Did Katherine really spend the rest of her year abroad living on a traditional Chinese junk in Victoria Harbour? What about spring semester? What about AMERICA?! The mystery continues