The meta-hotel as micro-city

Chungking Mansions

The meta-hotel as micro-city

In many ways, Chungking Mansions appears to be a system on autopilot, a sort of urban artificial intelligence. It’s also an illustration of ground-level globalization (it’s estimated that at least twenty percent of all mobile phones in usage in Africa have passed through #36-44 Nathan Road at one point) and a condensed model of world catastrophe.

Up in my room, things are quiet. Though there’s a softly whirring fan and water dripping in the airshaft, the ancient, wall-mounted television doesn’t rise above a murmur. Down in the street, on the other hand, the world runs at full volume. On a typical night, the sidewalk of Hong Kong’s Chungking Mansions is roaring. In contrast to the sedate Peninsula Hotel just across Nathan Road (the colonial grande dame of hotels, where white-gloved waiters serve tea), there is no marble reception desk here — there is only pavement.

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