It’s hard to distil the landscape of Hong Kong into one word. The former fishing village had turned into a cosmopolitan city in the years leading up to its handover in Hong Kong, and as economy soared in the city, the divide between the poor and rich became even more endearing. Many who visit Hong Kong for the first time will notice the paradoxical aesthetic of the city. Ultra-modern buildings are often juxtapositioned next to traditional, Chinese residential buildings. However, many of these historical Chinese buildings are being taken down one by one due to redevelopment.
As Instagram becomes increasingly prevalent among millennial travellers, local sites that residents may deem as ordinary in their daily life have turned into hotspots for photographers and travellers. We’ve come up with a list of the best Instagrammable spots as well as the stories behind them.
The photogenic residential complex is known for its colourful facade and has been featured in Hollywood blockbusters Ghost In The Shell and Transformers: Age of Extinction. While it’s commonly known as “Monster Building”, it’s made up of five buildings all crammed up cosily next to each other (their names are Yik Cheong Building, Yick Fat Building, Fook Cheong Building, Montane Mansion and Oceanic Mansion). It’s one of the many government-subsidised housing built for low-income residents in the 1960s. As the complex becomes insanely popular among travellers and photographers, residents express their dismay by putting up a banner that says no photography is allowed as the area is private property. Little has deterred people who venture out to seek the infamous Monster Building, however, as you can still see plenty of crowds snapping away for the best shot.
How to get there: Take the Island line (blue) and get off at Tai Koo Station. Get out at Exit B and head west on King's Road for two blocks.
Lai Tak Tsuen Housing Estate
Built in 1975-76, Lai Tak Tsuen is the only circular-shaped housing estate in Hong Kong. It’s named after Michael Wright (Lai Tak is Wright’s name in Cantonese), a former colonial government official and Deputy of Public Works. The living condition was dire at government-subsidised housing, and residents had to share a communal bathroom. Wright saw it as the government’s duty to improve such poor living environment. As a former concentration camp captive during WWII, Wright endured sharing a bathroom with more than 30 people at once. He strongly advocated for each unit to have its kitchen and bathroom in public housing estates, and the change boosted the quality of living among the residents after.
Lai Tak Tusen Housing Estate is home to more than 2000 units, and as it’s located up on the hill in Tai Hang, its residents get to enjoy the view of Hong Kong skyline and Victoria Harbour just like the upper class who live in private condos nearby. Its rent is also the highest among all the public housing estates in Hong Kong.
How to get there: Take the Island line to Tin Hau Station and get out of Exit B. Then follow your Google Map! Just an advice: keep it low key when you get into the housing complex. You also need to get in a password so follow the locals who are getting in, keep your camera gear in your bag as you walk in.
Choi Hung Housing Estate
You've probably seen a photo or two of this pastel rainbow coloured complex with palm trees along with its colourful basketball court before. The housing estate is called Choi Hung, which translates to “rainbow” in Cantonese. Famous political figure and royalty such as Richard Nixon (President of the United States in 1969) and Princess Margaret from Britain were also a fan during their trip to Hong Kong in the mid-1960s. It’s home to nearly 43000 people, and it’s hard to escape its presence on Instagram. On a regular weekday morning, you’ll find plenty of girls snapping away, and its popularity reaches its peak during the weekend.
On another note, the station nearby the housing estate is also called Choi Hung, and it's no surprise that the tiles of the entire station are in rainbow colour!
How to get there: Take the MTR to Choi Hung station on the Kwun Tong line (green line), then get out at Exit C3 or C4. The basketball court is located right above the parking lot.
Nam Shan Estate
Situated at Shek Kip Mei in Kowloon, Nam Shan Estate is a 40-year old public housing estate that’s known for its multi-green shades residential blocks. However, the story behind this neighbourhood was tragic. On Christmas Eve in 1953, a fire broke out in Shek Kip Mei and made more than 6000 of residents in the area homeless. The incident called for immediate evacuation, which led to the government to build temporary housing estates to house the survivors. Nam Shan Estate is one of the first permanent public housing estates built under the new housing development schemes back in the 70s. It’s also a food haven for the locals and university students in the area. Our favourite Cantonese restaurant, Ban Heung Lau, is tucked away among the small shops, and you’ll find plenty of students from City University dining there!
How to get there: Get off at Shek Kip Mei Station (green line) and get out at Exit B2. Walk along the road, cross the street (McDonalds will be right behind you) and you’ll come across with some old shops and Nam Shan Shopping Centre. Get to the playground at the housing estate for the best shots through the staircase at the wet market at the shopping centre.
Tung Choi Street Overpass
Every Sunday, there’s a massive crowd sitting on cardboard and plastic mats at this overpass that overlooks Tung Choi Street and Mong Kok Road. The walkway is THE place where Indonesian housemaids hang out with their friends on their only day off during the week (watch my video that time when me and my guest got invited to share a meal with the ladies on Youtube). Besides the festive atmosphere during the weekend, it’s also an excellent spot for street photography. The best time to go in the evening, when the neon signs are bright and shining above a flight of red minibus, with tong lau (old residential buildings) crammed alongside each other.
How to get there: Get off at Mong Kok Station (red line) and get onto the walkway through Exit B1