Mongkok might be one of the world’s most crowded places, but sometimes all you need to do to escape is to make a right turn down a quiet alleyway. That’s what I discovered when I was walking from home to the Flower Market the other day. Instead of taking the usual route along Sai Yee Street, I ducked into the laneway that runs behind it and discovered a kind of parallel university of greenery, graffiti and informal living space.
One of the first things I encountered was a lean-to with a mattress, some newspaper and various other objects inside. It seems to have been built by a homeless person but I’m not sure if it’s still occupied. Taggers have been using its wood walls as a canvas.
Graffiti was everywhere in the alley — and not just random tags, but full-fledged murals, which is unusual in Hong Kong.
Halfway down the alley is a Chinese altar, some cupboards and a rack of clothes. I’m guessing it’s used by the street sweepers who work around here. Inside the altar are cards representing the various Chinese gods; several lottery tickets are taped to the side. Ash from spent joss sticks covers the altar floor.
Down the way, somebody has fixed a broken drainage pipe by attaching to it the mouth of a sawed-off soda bottle. A plastic bucket collects runoff water.
On the sunny afternoon when I walked down the alley, the only person around was a street sweeper who was taking a break and reading the newspaper. Birds chirped and sirens wailed in the distance. Thirty seconds later I was back in Sai Yee Street, traffic roaring around me.
Tags: Exploring the City, Hong Kong, Informal Space, Kowloon, Laneways, Mongkok, Street Art, Street Furniture, Streetlife