I did a bit of research on how I could spend my one day off in Hong Kong. I was looking for a place that had soul. A place that I could get away from the glossy towers in the filthy rich financial centre and the forgettable shopping malls so I headed for Sham Shui Po. What I found here, was chaos. Chaos for my eyes, chaos up my nose, in my ears bombarding my head. There was a fascinating authenticity here that I had not found in other parts of Hong Kong. I felt closer to the real everyday life of working class Hong Kong locals.
Sham Shui Po, doesn’t put on any airs and graces for visitors. It is what it is. As always, I like to take a walk to experience new places after dark. The way in which a place is lit with artificial light tells you a lot of about the culture, context of the place and the people who live there.
As I reached the outer edge of Sham Shui Po, I was faced with signs of so-called ‘regeneration’ whereby the old soul is rapidly being replaced with waves of new soulless buildings and commercially driven ideologies. I have witnessed this type of change happening in many cities around the world. I cannot help but feel that the voices of native locals are often ignored by the government, investors and developers who seem to be only interested in making a quick profit. Whilst I can appreciate some of the benefits that arise from these ‘gentrification’ projects, such as improved safety, sanitation, transport infrastructure etc, sadly it is only after the old are demolished and replaced with the new until the true cost of ‘regeneration’ can be reviewed and evaluated. As I rested my tired legs in a crumbling shack with distinctive pink fluorescent spill light from a nearby brothel illuminating my midnight tofu snack, I wondered for how much longer Sham Shui Po’s rich culture, vibrancy and the energy that defines the character of this soulful part of Hong Kong will survive.