kowloon walled city.

Monday, 6 January 2014

my origins are in hong kong.  my parents came over in their teens and me and my brothers were born in Sheffield, but we have always kept a close link with hong kong.  we still have various family members there and we all have citizenship too.

i love hong kong.  i visit as often as funds allow, which is not as often as i would like.  it is a fascinating, wonderful city and i miss it so much when i am not there.  but i don't always remember it that way.  when i was younger, i remember it as a dirty, crowded, dilapidated place that intimidated me greatly.  people were rude and obnoxious, places were scary and filthy, our family home was old and uncomfortable.  and, actually, when i think about, those things have not completely changed.  there are still rude people, filthy places and the family home is still a little uncomfortable.  so maybe it is me that has changed and my perspective.  before i probably used to compare everything to back home. i remember the old buses and thinking that they were just the ones that we in the uk had finished with and they were shipped to hk for their use.  these days, whenever i ride the tube in london, i always find myself saying "it is so much cleaner and more efficient that this in hk".

i recently came across this amazing photo collection from photographer, greg girard, who took some really eye-opening images of the kowloon walled city.  the walled city was a densely populated settlement which was riddled with crime.  it was destroyed in 1994 and a park was built in its place.  it house 33,000 residents and countless small businesses.  in some ways, it was maybe a larger, more grimier version of park hill flats in sheffield.  the walled city has inspired a great deal of popular culture including judge dredd and batman begins.

when i think back at my childhood trips to hk, it looks something like this.  luckily, we lived in sai kung, which is one of the more open and spacious areas of hk, with hardly any high rise buildings.  but still, it is hard to imagine that a place like the walled city even existed in a city that is known for its huge shiny shopping centres and post hotels. of course, there are still pockets of the city that resemble this. there is the well known tourist book hong kong that paints a cosmopolitan city advancing at great paces, but the real hong kong is still so traditional and sometimes just walking into a local shop can feel like you have stepped back a couple of decades. if you ever get the chance, you should step away from the main tourist traps and go and explore places like tai po, choi hung, mong kok, sham shui po.  they give a much more realistic view on everday life for the vast majority of the population.

anyway, here are a few images i have picked out, but the whole collection is really fascinating and well worth a gander.  go to greg girard's website here to have a look at the full gallery and also his other work.

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