Taking Care of Business

I think I’ll be in Hong Kong for a few more days. I have resolved myself to not leave here until I am caught up on my photo processing and have gotten ahead a few posts. My cold is for the most part gone. I have finished all my photos from South Korea and have gotten some of my Hong Kong photos done. They should be finished by the end of today.

I’ve been surprisingly busy the last few days even thought I haven’t really gotten too far from the slum Chungking Mansion. I’ve been spending a lot of time working on the website, doing behind the scenes things. It is difficult and frustrating at times to try and keep serious website while traveling.

When I initially started this trip, I had intended to shoot a lot more video. The problem has been having to shoot on tape, then having to run an hour of tape for every hour you shoot, then having to slog through one giant file to get to the footage you want. Even getting Kris to help with editing hasn’t really solved the problem of having to send him tapes, and him having to go through the same process back in the US. In fact, the best footage I have taken was on Easter Island, and that tape is defective and somehow it can’t be read.

I think I may have the solution to my video problems. Sanyo has introduced a new line of video cameras which save everything to flash memory. No tape, no hard drive with moving parts. I could save almost an hour and a half of HD video on an 8gb card (which is one thing that is cheap in Asia). With this, I would solve most of the problems I’ve had with video editing. I could FTP files to the US and even do smaller things myself because the clips are all random access. The quality should be more than good enough for the web. The cost isn’t that bad either.

I really would like to do more video podcasting, and be able to do it on a regular basis. Any camera solution I use is going to have to be something which is easy to edit and turn around video. I think the Sanyo is the answer to my prayers. Too bad it wasn’t on the market last March.

For people who are new to the site, you can see my previous video attempts here (me getting a tattoo) and here (swimming with jellyfish in Palau).

Chungking Mansion

The Chungking was built in the 1960s and is home to over 4,000 people
The Chungking was built in the 1960s and is home to over 4,000 people
Hong Kong is very densely populated. I knew that before I came here and I knew that my selection of affordable lodging wouldn’t be first class. I have no problem with that, and for the first several days I was in Hong Kong I had a nice, but small, place to stay. However, I wanted to stay a few more days and (this has happened a lot in Asia) they were booked over the weekend. I fired up the internet and checked out places that were available. I wound up at a hostel in the Chungking Mansion in Kowloon.

Normally, when I do longer posts, I tend to wait until I’m out of the country when I have more time to go over photos and think about what I”m going to say, but I wanted to make an exception here. I’m writing this inside my tiny room in the Chingking Mansion and I think it is so different, so unique, so……Hong Kong, I had to share this immediately.

I have never, ever seen anything like this place in my life. Do not let the word “mansion” fool you. This is as far from a mansion as Miller (the champaign of beers) is from champaign. The fact that this building has its own Wikipedia entry should tell you something.

Inside Chungking Mansion
Inside Chungking Mansion
The moment I walked into the doors I felt like I had stepped into a scene from Blade Runner. Africans, Indians, Arabs, Europeans, Filipinos, and mainland Chinese made this look like an alien experiment where they took a sampling of people from every part of the world and put them in one place to see how they would live together. Time Magazine called the Chungking the best example of globalization. I’m not entirely certain that if I were globalization, I would not want the Chungking Mansion to be my poster child.

The first floor of the building is all shops, stores and restaurants. It is nothing but remittance stores, money changers, places to buy luggage, electronics stores, cutom tailoring shops, cell phone kiosks and halal restaurants.

If you walk with a bag, you will be accosted by people trying to sell you a room. In the A Block of the building alone (and there are five blocks), I counted 30 guesthouses, hostels or hotels. That isn’t a typo. Three-zero. I literally cannot walk in or out of the building without someone trying to rent me a room.

Chungking Mansion Block
Chungking Mansion Block
Getting up or down the building is difficult. Each block has two elevators: one for even floors and one for odd. The elevators are small so there is always a queue to get in. More often than not, there is a full car going up and a full car going down. I’m on the third floor so I usually just take the stairs.

Being on the third floor is a good thing because this is probably the biggest fire trap I’ve ever been in. Lets just say the wiring codes in Hong Kong are not at the same level as the rest of the developed world. The third floor is the base floor for the building. All the different blocks seperate on this floor. This means I can get out side quikly if something were to happen (I know. I actually took the time to check the escape exits in here).

I’d say that if you are around Nathan Street in Kowloon, you should stop by and see it, if only for the experience, but if you are in the area, you probably can’t avoid it. I can’t really recommend anyone stay here unless you are really on a budget or have no choice. There are better places to stay that are cleaner, nicer, and you don’t feel that you are trying to get ripped off by everyone you meet. You also wont have to deal with the ever present smell of feces.