Worrying Heights - The Rooftops of Chung King Mansions
Murder, drug trafficking and illegal immigrants. When these things are what’s brought up first, there’s no doubt you’d stay the hell away from any place containing all three. That’s Chung King Mansions for you. A ghetto condensed into five dodgy towers, I’ve been there myself. I wish…I could forget the things I saw. Restaurants, clothing stores, food stalls, DVD stores and worst of all, foreign exchanges offices. Foreign exchanges offices, everyone. I thought I’d never be able to get out of there.
Chung King isn’t as terrible as the articles make it out to be. Not the ground and first floor at least. The upper stories are filled with low-budget guesthouses with hundreds of ethnicities checking in and out of them. Nepalese, Indians, Sri Lankans, Nigerians, Europeans, Americans, Pakistanis - you name it.
I’ve walked past by the place countless of times, hardly peering at the chaos that goes on inside. It’s what’s above it that I was interested in. There’s a scene in Johnny English 2 that was filmed up there. “That is one amazing view up there,” I remember thinking, “How could I access that?” when I watched it. I looked online for months, but there was hardly any information to help me. I started to plan trying to find a way up but there was no way I was going to explore alone. What if I got caught? What would they do? It was impossible.
Until last Saturday. A friend of mine had come back from Italy and messaged me asking for help. He wanted to submit a photo of himself to the NY Times and needed a photographer. We bounced around ideas, and on Monday he messaged me again.
"I’d like to take two more shots if you don’t mind. One can be where I live. I live in the infamous Chung King Mansions and it will involve getting to the roof. I live on the highest floor and know how to get there.”
I nearly fell off my chair as I read what he’d written. What a fucking beautiful coincidence. And that’s how I managed to get to the top of Chung King. They say the higher you go, the crazier it gets. I never thought I’d ever go up to the second floor let alone set foot on the rooftops.
Yet there I was finally looking down.