Cramped public housing “mansions” from the 1960s perfectly convey the feeling of Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
“4 to 5 Million HKD….to live in this graveyard.” (500–640 thousand USD) my friend Bonnie tells me. She’s from Hong Kong, grew up here. Her parents worked in Hong Kong back when there were more factories before most moved to mainland China or Southeast Asia. “I’m a tourist here too.” She tells me as I remark on the people walking around. It’s an unlikely place to see tourists. A grungier side of Hong Kong where, if it weren’t for social media perhaps this “Monster Building” as it’s called by the locals, wouldn’t be famous.
The massive E shaped housing complex sprung up as an answer to the population influx in post-WWII Hong Kong as people fled from China. Now it’s taken on a celebrity status in this age of Insta-famous locations. It was even featured in the movie “Ghost in the Shell” released earlier this year as well as “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (incidentally, during the filming, air conditioner units were thrown at the crew by some disgruntled local businesses.)
Almost every hostel I’ve stayed at in Hong Kong feels like this, cramped, with little room to move or store luggage. There is a certain beauty to the faded colors and layer upon layer of apartments though, coated in city grunge, clothing drying in the breeze. A dystopian metropolis of the future. Something from Blade Runner or the Fifth Element. The bottom level is lined with shops and tenants go about their business not paying much attention to the tourists and their victory finger poses.
How to get there:
The Monster building is located on Hong Kong Island and composes various “Mansions”. You can use the following address.
Montane Mansion 1028 King’s Road, Quarry Bay
Take the “Quarry Bay” Metro stop, then Exit A. Turn right on the street (King’s Road). You will pass “Taikoo Place”. Keep following the road passing “Mount Parker Road Green Trail”
It’s less than a ten-minute walk from the metro station. The entrance looks like this
- Don’t forget to see both courtyards. There are two. You can access the second through the back stairs or from a little further down the street at 1032 King’s Road. This second courtyard is actually the one that is photographed most.
- I recommend going at night. If you want to go during the day and night go for it. But I think the night is more beautiful. Look at the pictures and decide for yourself.
- If you go at night, bring a tripod if you’ve got it. Otherwise, you can lay your camera on the structures in the courtyard.
- You’ll want your widest lens for this.
- Look at the outside of the building. While not quite as photogenic it’s still a monstrosity.
- Be respectful of the people who work and live here.
Update: Montane Mansion Photo Ban
In February of 2018, there was a sign posted in the Montane Mansion (Monster Building) telling people that photography isn’t allowed. It appears this area is actually public property and they can’t enforce this Photography Ban. However please always be respectful of the residents inside. You are going into the courtyard of a building many people call home. Do not shout or hang around longer than you need to. Buying something from the stores at ground level I believe will also be appreciated.
What to do in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a city full of things to do and not just shopping (though with no sales tax and one of the largest ports in the world it can be a great place to shop). Here are some more suggestions on what to see and what to do in Hong Kong after you’ve visited the Monster Building.
Another great place to visit is Victoria Peak, what I believe is one of the best city views in the world. Check out the article on Victoria Peak, Hong Kong here. (I recommend walking up there but you can just as easily take the Victoria Peak Tram or a bus)
Unbeknownst to many, Hong Kong has some pretty spectacular hikes. The hike up Dragon’s Back is probably the most accessible for great views. Read the full article on the Dragon’s Back hike here.
Good luck with your journey to Hong Kong and I hope this article has been of some use to you. Let me know how your visit to the Monster Building went in the comments. I love hearing feedback.