The Ghost Villas of Hong Kong

After a run of history-heavy posts, here comes the light relief: a cheeky little tale of urban exploration, set against the abandoned apartments of Hong Kong Island.

Hong Kong Urbex

Back in March 2013, I spent a weekend hanging out in Hong Kong with fearless local adventurer Airin. After an epic mission up to the rooftops of Hong Kong one night, the next day we just relaxed – and had a bit of a nose around some interesting abandonments in the city.

We took the metro over to Hong Kong Island, in the region of Wan Chai; and there, heading along a series of backstreets and through what appeared to be a construction site, Airin led me to a gloomy block of apartments nestled in the shade of Victoria Peak.

A light still burned behind the tarpaulin which hung from a nearby scaffold; the sounds of power tools mingled with the distant hum of traffic. Keeping out of view from the worksite, we snuck up a flight of stairs to come face to face with two green art deco towers rearing out of the night. We headed between them, through the main doors and into the complex.

The building had been designed to hold something in the region of 40 apartments.

These spilled inwards to a series of balconies, themselves surrounding a courtyard at the building’s core. The ground was paved in a tessellating pattern of tiles, set about with lamp posts that rose into smooth, perfectly spherical shades. Stylistically, the whole place looked as though it could have been built in the 1920s. In truth though, it was much newer than that; and abandoned long before it saw its first resident.

By torchlight we climbed the stairs, the angular metal railings casting peculiar geometric shades against the walls. The apartments themselves had been left in varying states of completion. Some were bare plaster rooms, victims of graffiti and vandalism. Others featured cupboards, toilets and basins, even a wall mounted telephone here and there.

We spent a while ambling from floor to floor, finding old magazines or looking out over the balcony to the courtyard below. The apartments were a generous size by Hong Kong standards, it would have made a pleasant place to live… if they’d ever finished building it.

Eventually we headed up to the roof.

There seemed to be no locked door in the building, and the hatch at the top of the stairwell simply opened freely onto a large expanse of rolled asphalt. We were level with the construction site now, close to the lights and noises that shuddered out from the veiled scaffolding attached the building beyond… and so we kept to the shadows.

From here we had a clear view of the project’s ultimate demise: the mountain itself, cast in silhouette against the bright nightlights of Hong Kong.

Airin told me that construction had been abandoned here after a minor landslide gave the development company a scare. They had built too close to the mountain, they realised, and with this little rockfall rose the possibility of others. Housing families in the shadow of a shifting rock face – well in the end, they simply thought better of it and left the building as it stood.

As we made our way back out, I noticed signs of life at number thirteen. Or at least, so it seemed – mops and brushes, bags of cement mix. Most likely, the work crews from the site across the road. We tiptoed on past and headed out into the streets to find a bar.