A Revisit of Life at Hong Kong's Under-Developed Sham Shui Po District 重返香港旧社区, 重温老味道 － Sham Shui Po 深水埗
This is a special edition of my recent travel trip to Hong Kong two months ago: A Revisit of Life at Hong Kong's Under-Developed Sham Shui Po District 重返香港旧社区, 重温老味道 － Sham Shui Po 深水埗.
A stroll around the streets in Sham Shui Po, where shophouses from the 1920s and 30s survive in significant numbers, offers a glimpse into early 20th century Hong Kong. Sham Shui Po is the most densely populated of Hong Kong's 18 districts and also among other things, is known for its poor mainland immigrant population and cage homes. Once a popular trade centre, it faded out when Hong Kong transformed into an Asian financial centre.
Not sure if some of you still remember about my photography blog post on Hong Kong Sham Shui Po district in April last year but when i went to Hong Kong recently in January, i just can't resist but made a revisit to the all-time popular Apliu Street Market at the heavily poverty stricken Sham Shui Po district. Indeed, my tryst at this place is always an eye opener. Some people call it as a reality check in life.
I'd like to say, the roads between the prosperous, chic Hong Kong and the slightly jaded, cramped bylanes which lend to the view from the Peak without giving a whiff of the poverty and grime within. I could feel a change in the air, the people, their clothing and their attitudes as soon as i stepped out of the Sham Shui Po MTR on to the Apliu Street.
深水埗, 老片场, 年代久远, 有几处建筑堪称 "香港之最". 深水埗是一个典型香港旧区. 到香港如果想买名牌, 没有人会去深水埗, 如果想像在迪士尼, 海洋公园那样劲玩一番, 也没有人会去深水埗. 有人说, 深水埗是香港历史的见证者, 走进这里, 也就走进了普通人日常的香港.
我喜欢在深水埗游荡, 深水埗是穷人聚居之所, 密密麻麻的唐楼又残又旧, 街道乱糟糟的. 当到达目的地的时候, 我可以感受到深水埗的贫穷.
The area is best known for the Apliu (means duck coop) Street market, where shoppers can pick up cheap electronic gadgets of all shapes and sizes and the occasional illegal satellite television decoder.
Believe it or not, behind what it seems to be a prosperous appearance of a well developed city Hong Kong, it conceals the problem of poverty. One of the typical examples is Sham Shui Po district. It is well-known for its poverty problem and crowded living area. Sham Shui Po has always topped the list of most poverty stricken districts in Hong Kong. Along the two sides of Apliu Street, there are many dilapidated buildings where many low income people occupy. Many of them are living in the cubicles or bed space apartment.
Such precious features in Sham Shui Po is discovered facing threatened crisis when eyeballs move from the on floor stalls upward on the old style tenement, Tong Lau 唐樓. Dense establishment of air-conditioners and pipes indicated the divisions of flats, forming the cubical apartment. Poor living conditions that forward urban renewal planning there may put the features and cultures of the shops and stalls their on threat.
No one knows for certain how many partitioned flats or cage homes exist in Sham Shui Po but they are certainly rife. Walk into a tong lau, or tenement house, and you are likely to find several households crammed into an apartment that’s just a few hundred square feet. And although there are 10 or more people living under one roof, there is only one communal bathroom and kitchen. Inevitably, the hygiene conditions of these flats are poor.
Do the dilapidated houses and the beggars in the street in Hong Kong nowadays ring a bell on Hong Kong's poverty problems? Poverty problems may not take up any awareness among the teenagers in today's society, as we do not need to worry about earning money and the source of daily use etc. Therefore, we cannot get a personal concern on the poor.
We cannot experience how a poor live in our daily life but actually they live in hard situation: dress in rags, live in dilapidated houses and even torment for their next meal.
在香港, 房龄超过三十年的老房子, 称为 “唐楼”, 密密麻麻的窗户, 意味着数以百计的家庭挤在一起生活, 这是香港深水埗一类老区的独特面貌. 香港最穷的人口就住在深水埗这里, 他们一般都是生活在香港社会底层的老弱困苦人士.
在香港繁荣光鲜的背后, 依然不缺少蜗居的现实, 最常见的就是板间房.
深水埗很多旧楼丢空无人理, 部分更是历史建築, 希望政府可多出力, 例如加码资助业主维修, 刺激租赁市场等.
在高度密集的居住环境中生活, 有什么体验呢? 我到其中一幢 “唐楼” 看个究竟. 首先要步行五层楼梯, 走进单位只看见一条窄窄的巷子, 这就是三, 四十年前开始在香港出现的 "板间房", 所谓 "板间房", 指的是房东把一个单位, 以木板改建成多个小房子分租.
唐楼至少有数十年楼龄, 很多都日久失修, 居住环境亦不佳. 唐楼环境不佳, 墙身剥落, 电线外露, 防火门也是破烂的, 不过这些楼宇是很多人的安乐窝.
Reading through what i have written, i realise, everything written here has come out the way from i saw and felt it at Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong. It was a facet of life that i do not get to meet in my day to day life. Whenever i am asked if i like Hong Kong, i usually break into a Singapore versus Hong Kong monologue.
Hong Kong may be strides ahead when it comes to infrastructure and amenities but in terms of social security and tackling social issues like poverty, i do not see any difference here.
In Hong Kong or for that matter anywhere in Sham Shui Po district, poverty and squalor are in the people's faces.
While it hits you as an unending sea of sequestered thatched and tin settlements when the plane descends at the Singapore airport, in Hong Kong you have to pull yourself away from the fireworks and walk the less trodden ways to see it.
深水埗穷人多旧楼也多, 埋藏板间房这支港人住屋哀歌, 还有多个草根边缘故事. 如今在深水埗仍可见到市集特色, 鸭寮街二手跳蚤市场, 多个电脑商场等, 还有很多店舖都几近绝迹香江. 旧社区比新社区拥有更多人情味, 以住旧楼业主, 不介意把楼梯租给别人做生意, 没有什么租约, 没有所谓.
旧的处事方式会跟着旧楼一起改变, 新思维跟着新楼不停发展. 我只能感叹, 人可以怀缅过去, 但一定要展望将来, 过去只能用来怀缅, 地方旧左就必需要折. 现在说的保育, 都只是拖延重建的时间. 最终都是要折掉, 但我们在处理新旧交替时是不是可以做好些?
深水埗作为香港一个人口密集的老区, 没有名店, 豪宅, 四处都是小店和旧楼, 对我这种在市镇长大的人来说十分新奇, 也有一份连锁店怎样装也装不来的人情味. 拂去华丽的外表, 香港还有很多地方就像电影《桃姐》由叶德娴, 刘德华主演一样, 不慌不忙地过活, 当年华逝去, 余下脉脉温情, 散发着香港老味道. 如果有时间, 不妨去香港深水埗走走, 感受一下老区的味道.
Please feel free to browse my last blog post on Hong Kong Sham Shui Po travelled in April last year at this URL link:
A freelance Singapore-based travel photographer / photojournalist. I seek the extraordinary, but finds beauty in the everyday. Life is interesting, capture it.
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