Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Chungking Mansions, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong

I was on my way to The Intercontinental hotel for dinner buffet. After getting off at Central Station, i thought i would drop into Chungking Mansions to check out the money exchange rates.

Chungking Mansions, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
36-44 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

If you want to see where the immigrants are in HK, you needn't go further than Chungking Mansions, located right in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui. This building is also known to the locals as Chungking Jungle, which has some rather unflattering connotation. The name isn't stood for "concrete jungle" because all buildings have that connotation. Besides, "concrete jungle" isn't a common Chinese expression. The term 'jungle' is used in the sense that "it's a jungle out there". Or in this case, "it's a jungle in there", implying the place is rather wild and lawless (except for the Law of the Jungle). I suspect the word "Jungle" may have racist overtone. But that's my interpretation.

I'm in no position to say whether the place deserves this name.

Chungking Express movie poster

The most critically acclaimed HK director Wong Kar Wai directed an art-house flick named Chungking Express (1994), in which this building provides the backdrop for the story. The Chinese title for this movie is in fact Chungking Jungle (重慶森林). Side-note: This film has the highest rating on IMDB for HK cinema.

Does the name Chungking Jungle comes before or after the film? Dunno (i suspect after). Arts and reality imitates each other, and these days, the line between the 2 blurs so much, it isn't easy to separate them. This film enhances the building's notoriety.

I thought i would do a Wong Kar-Wai moment (not a Kodak moment) with my video recording of the shops on the ground floor. Good enough to win some kind of cinematography award...not!

Anyhoo, this place is like a one stop shop for the immigrants, and with natural extension to tourists with shopping needs like money changers, phone cards, wire transfers, travel goods, etc. The place has many Indian money changers that give competitive rates. The Indian dominates money changer industry in SE Asia that spans from HK to Singapore. That's why i'm here: to swap some Singapore dollars for HK dollars. Yes, they do have better rates than elsewhere.

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