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This time when I was planning a trip to Hong Kong I wanted a gritty ethnic experience, and decided to stay in the infamous Chungking Mansions. I had no idea how gritty and how ethnic that would turn out to be. All my previous experiences of cheap Hong Kong hotels could be described as "small but livable" and I tend to assume that bad reputation of various places is overblown. Well, it wasn't. I heard that the place was renovated, cleaned up, etc. All of this seems to refer only to fire alarms, sprinklers and security cameras, which is nice but not enough. The building has 5 blocks, each of whom has two elevators: one goes only to he even floors, and one goes only to the odd floors. The elevators are equipped with security cameras, and people who are waiting in line for an elevator get to see what the people currently in the elevator are doing there. This included, but was not limited to, checking their phones, and the cameras were conveniently located for all of us to see each others' security patterns and other passwords. The true hell is the ground floor of the building, filled with all kinds of gentlemen from various countries trying to sell genuine fake watches and genuine fake SIM cards to everyone who walks by. I had a reservation in a place called Peace Guest house. When I arrived there I showed the reservation to the guy at the reception, and he grabbed my phone and ran somewhere with it. I demanded it back, he said that it's OK, I said that it's most definitely not OK and ran after him. After consulting with a coworker he said that they have cancelled my reservation. I told him that that's not how reservations work, and he told me that he doesn't know or care what it says on Hotels.com, but my reservation is cancelled, they don't have any rooms left, and I should go elsewhere. I demanded some written proof that I was there and the guy said it was OK. I said it was most definitely not OK and told him to write it down. He said he couldn't write in English. I told him to write it in Chinese. He got scared at told me he cannot write anything at all without the permission from the big bosses on the Mainland. Anyways, I found myself another hotel in the same building. It was fearsome to behold, but it had a working toilet, a working shower in the toilet a working internet and a bed that didn't do "bed kaput" every night, or indeed any night. The place even had a water boiler in the hall so one could even have tea. On the minus side, the place was overrun by little ants, and you could hear everything that you neighbors were doing. On the night that the restaurants downstairs served beans there was both the sound and the smell effect. The security was fantastic, with the door code 987654, and the WIFI password abcd1234. The most horrible thing were the restaurants downstairs. I usually like the food from the Indian subcontinent well enough; this was some evil cousin of the real Indian food, or maybe all the chefs were the people who were forcibly exiled from India and/or Pakistan for being a huge disgrace to the local food culture. The most amazing thing was that at some point a couple of guys started to sell drugs outside the building. I'd never seen that in Hong Kong before. I asked them if they would like to talk to the police about it, and they disappeared. But hey, at least the location was good.
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