Yesterday the New York Times published an article about how Hong Kong’s old walk-ups are experiencing a grand restoration. Millions of dollars are being poured into these old apartments to give them a modern, comfortable feel.
With all the demolition of old buildings and construction of sterile, glass monstrosities in Hong Kong, this news is as refreshing as the clean air Hong Kong used to enjoy.
My best friend lived in one of these walk-ups (photo on left) when we were both in Hong Kong. It stood near the old Kai Tak Airport and belonged to her relatives who had upgraded to a villa house in the New Territories, the parcel of country land that borders mainland China. When Jean moved into to the apartment in the mid-90s, it had recently been used as a dormitory for her uncle’s factory workers.
Bunk beds are a staple in Hong Kong, what with a shortage of living space and multiple generations living in one small apartment. Jean’s place was no exception. When I used to stay with her (before an early morning flight or after a late night of clubbing), I got top bunk of the wooden bed in her room. On the other side of the sparsely-decorated living room (something out of a Wong Kar-Wai film set in the 1960s), another bedroom held several metal frame bunk beds. We never ventured in there. It was kind of creepy.
Jean and I both left Hong Kong more than a decade ago. She’s in Europe now, but we still keep in touch with cheap international phone calls, e-mail, and Facebook.
Last year I asked her about her relatives’ old apartment in Kowloon.
“You wouldn’t recognize it now,” she told me. “It’s been completely remodeled. And it’s beautiful.”