We had an amazing adventure and outing in Chung King Mansions, including a guided history of the building from the Management team and security personnel, followed by team missions to meet and talk to many of the business owners and finally a taste of Sikh vegetarian food at Smrat restaurant.
HISTORY OF CHUNG KING MANSIONS
- 1961 – Built as a luxury residence for local Chinese people, it is one of the tallest buildings in the neighbourhood. It features a shopping mall and a nightclub, as well as expensive jewellery shops.
- 1964 – Kowloon Mosque is rebuilt two blocks away – contributing towards the Muslim presence in the building.
- Late 1960s – The Vietnam War brings American servicemen to Tsim Sha Tsui and the area develops into a red light district. They start to use Chungking as a place to meet sex workers.
- 1969 – Backpackers and hippies begin to arrive. By the 1970s, Chungking Mansions has become a haven for cheap accommodation.
- 1981 – Chungking is listed in the Lonely Planet guide ‘Southeast Asia on a Shoestring’, boosting its popularity. Unfortunately, as apartments get subdivided, the aged electricity supply struggles to cope and the building sees frequent fires.
- 1988 – A fire breaks out on the 11th floor, killing a Danish tourist and injuring nine.
- 1993 – The overloaded power system explodes – the building has no electricity or water for a week. Under public pressure, new requirements for guesthouse licensing are brought in.
- 1994 – Following the new licensing requirements, 61 guesthouses are closed.
- 1994 – The building is immortalised in Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express. See number 25 on our 100 Greatest Hong Kong Films feature.
- Early 2000s – African merchants begin to pass through the mansions, eager to buy products to sell on at home – soon, they are the largest population staying in the building.
- 2005 – The Incorporated Owners upgrade the building’s electricity supply to boost its reputation. They also install over 200 CCTV cameras and hire 30 guards to improve security.
- 2011 – The Mansions has its first facelift in 50 years, at a cost of $19million. Hundreds of LED lights now adorn the building, and air conditioning units are removed from windows. (Anna Cummins)