Hong Kong: the Human Race in Concrete

Humanity piled on top of humanity. Stacks of human beings in concrete towers, some of which look like they’re on the verge of collapse.

There is a bright and shiny Hong Kong. This is the Hong Kong that most people think of. Glitzy glass towers where billions of dollars are traded back and forth in English and Mandarin. There are so many guys in suits there. Expensive suits with expensive women tugging the sleeves.

A red sailed boat in front of the Hong Kong skyline.
A dilapidated building in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Kowloon is across the bay. Specifically, the Mong Kok neighborhood is known to be one of the most densely populated areas on the planet. There are no high finance deals being made here, no stocks and bonds to be traded. Here are people in jeans and t-shirts trading raw fish and knock-off Gucci handbags.

Here the air is thick and humid. Not because of the climate, but because of the human bodies crammed between the concrete. When the sun sets, the neon Chinese characters shine like eternal daylight.

Neon lights on a night time street scene in Hong Kong.

Hawkers set up their merchandise outside the temple. Hundreds of varieties of dildos and vibrators for cheap. Pornographic magazines are on display next to copies of the South China Morning Post. Women in impossibly short black dresses expertly navigate the cracked sidewalks in their high heels. You can never be sure if that massage parlor is a massage parlor or a “massage parlor.”

Fortune tellers set up booths along a side street. Plastic tarps like tents. Some shout out in English, hoping you’ll want your palms read or your tea leaves analyzed. A block away, there are outdoor karaoke tents. A woman warbles out an out of tune Cantonese song. She makes up for her tone-deafness by being extra loud. A drunk old man starts a fight as he tries to pull her offstage.

Sex Shop on a street in Hong Kong.

It’s Asia’s most expensive city, but in the shadows of the neon lights, people still write graffiti in the alleyways. Men with gaunt faces, wearing gold chains and no shirt, glare as you walk past. They’re probably dealing drugs, but you’re not sure and you don’t want to find out. There are men in suits here too. They’re in the bars, drinking whiskey and betting on horse races.

On the other side of the bay, lush green hills overlook Hong Kong and all its humanity. A cemetery built into the side of the hill holds thousands of graves. Graves set into the hillside, looking strangely like seats in an arena. A concrete arena where the dead watch the living. People are born in concrete and they die in concrete.

Concrete graveyard on a hillside in Hong Kong.

Snakes lie hidden in the underbrush and black birds of prey circle overhead. Hike up the hill and it will be a lot less humid. Look down and consider all the lives below you. Guys in suits, hawkers, drug dealers, and dock workers. Millions of lives all jammed together in concrete towers.

view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak.

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