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Chungking Mansions

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Uploaded on May 4, 2008

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Chungking Mansions is a building located at 36-44 Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. The building is well known as nearly the cheapest accommodation in Hong Kong with a single bed of US $8 one night. Though the building is supposedly residential, it is made up of many independent low-budget hotels, shops, and other services. The strange atmosphere of this building is sometimes called by some "the scent of Kowloon's Walled City".

Chungking Mansions features a labyrinth of guesthouses, curry restaurants, African bistros, clothing shops, sari stores, and foreign exchange offices. It often acts as a large gathering place for some of the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, particularly Indians, Middle Eastern people, Nepalese, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, Nigerians, Europeans, Americans, Pakistanis, and many other peoples of the world.

The building was completed in 1961, at which time Chinese residents predominated. Now, after more than four decades of use, there are an estimated 4,000 people living in the Mansions.

Chungking Mansions is 17 stories tall and consists of 5 blocks, A, B, C, D, and E.

There are two elevators in each block, one of which serves even-numbered floors, the other one odd-numbered floors; there is often a queue for this lift.

The price of a flat in the Chungking Mansions ranged from HK$1,000,000 to HK$2,000,000 as of August 2006.

While the Chungking Mansions are nominally intended for residential use, there is a large variety of commercial establishments in the building.

Chungking Mansions contains the largest number of guesthouses in Hong Kong in one building, with 1980 rooms in total. The rent ranges from HK$60 to HK$380 per day (as of 2006). Since it offers some of the cheapest rates in town, it has become a legendary haunt for backpackers and budget travellers.

The age of the building, the diverse ownership, and management structure are the cause of the building's reputation for being a fire trap. The unsanitary conditions, security, ancient electrical wiring, block staircases contribute to the hazards.

On February 21, 1988, a fire broke out in the building. A Danish tourist who was trapped inside was killed. The fire in this building, as well as a blaze in a similar building provoked a review of rules and regulations concerning public safety.

CUHK anthropologist Prof. Gordon Mathews revealed that there are people from at least 120 different nationalities who have passed through Chungking Mansions in the past year.

With this lively mix of guest workers, mainlanders, local Chinese, tourists and backpackers, the Chungking neighbourhood is one of the most culturally diverse locations in Hong Kong. Chungking Mansions was elected as the "Best Example of Globalization in Action" by TIME Magazine in its annual feature The Best of Asia, although racial tensions are known to boil over occasionally.

It is also known to be a centre of drugs, and a refuge for petty criminals, scammers, and illegal immigrants. For example, in a Police swoop in June 1995, about 1,750 people were questioned, 45 men and seven women from various Asian and African countries were arrested on suspicion of offences including failing to produce proof of identity, overstaying, using forged travel documents, possessing equipment for forging documents, and possessing dangerous drugs. In "Operation Sahara" in 1996, 52 men and seven women from 14 countries were arrested for violating immigration regulations.

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