17 floors, five thousand people, friends and delicious food

To spend a last day together with our MESCA secondyears, we organized a MESCA outing and went to Chungking Mansions to have “some real MESCA” food, as we always say. Chung King Mansions has become one of the most interesting places in Hong Kong for me. It fascinated me so much that I even wrote my Geography Internal Assessment about it, spending hours in the building,  investigating to what degree it could be classified as a global hub and digging deeper into the building’s history and secrets (and to be honest, it was probably one of my favorites pieces of academic work I have submitted so far). Chungking Mansions is a 17 floor building located in Tsim Sha Tsui. When we think about Hong Kong, the first thing that comes to mind is the well-ordered worldliness of big banks, fine hotels and skyscrapes and delicious Dim Sum. However, there is also another side of Hong Kong or as I would say a little micro-universe in the middle of Asia’s World city: Chung King Mansions.

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While some people prefer not to set a foot inside, most LPCers, especially the MESCA students love going there. Chung King Mansions is a sleepless citadel offering low-rent guesthouses, African bistros, sari stores, money exchange services, restaurants and mostly Southasian shops. The second you enter you will be surrounded by Southasian men eagerly trying to convince you to eat at their restaurant, and the food is indeed one of the main reasons why we go there.

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Chungking Mansions often acts as a large gathering place for some of the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, particularly South Asians . But you will also find many Middle Eastern people, Nigerians, Europeans, Americans, and other peoples of the world. As this blog title suggests, more than 5,000 people live in Chungking Mansions and the population swells daily by an extra estimated 10,000 multinational visitors, buying and selling everything from secondhand mobile phones to old clothing (or in our case hennah for the ultimate Middle Eastern look, souvenirs and delicious Southasian treats).

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The bottom floors of the building contain mostly shops. And you can find almost anything there: not only traditional items from all over the world, but also trendy goods, articles which are imported from Asia and Africa, computers, DVDs and clothing. The entrance area consists of mostly money exchange services, catering to the high number of people from all over the world living or doing business here. The upper floors offer an incredible number of restaurants located side by side making the city’s best tradition Indian curry and Nepalese food. The very top floor, on the other hand, is a refugee centre run by the nonprofit organization “Christian Action” A little fun fact: Chungking Mansions also contains the largest number of guest houses in Hong Kong in one building, with 1980 rooms in total. Since it offers some of the cheapest rates in town, it has become a legendary haunt for backpackers and budget travelers. (I would have love to stay there some day, but due to the not necessarily safe nature of the place have refrained from doing so. Despite that,  my fascination with this place continues to grow bigger)

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Our MESCA group hopped onto the MTR – a lively and colorful crowd constantly smiling – and after arriving at Chungking Mansions, made its way to the fifth floor. Our final destination was a lovely little Southasian place offering anything from freshly baked Naan and Chapati to all variations of curry and biryani. We ordered several dishes so that all of us could try each and shared everything. It was absolutely delicious. Now, what would a MESCA outing be without music and dance, considering that there is no event in Middle Eastern culture which does not make participants shake their bodies to the sound of strings, percussion and winds 😉

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Our evening ended with a – so to speak – crazy dance battle. Music, laughter and happiness filled the common room and in the end we could not decide between Taha (Iraq) and Farangiz (Tajikistan) who both stunned us with their improvised yet great choreographies. (Video to be up soon!)

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Secondyears, bhebkon kilkon!