You emerge from the subway and are confronted by a street-a whole maze of streets, as you soon discover-of brash neon light and more people than you've ever seen anywhere, at least on an ordinary Monday night in July. This is Mongkok, one of the world's most densely populated neighbourhoods and the epicentre of Kowloon, the more down-to-earth, Hong Kong-esque part of Hong Kong you rarely hear about. A quiet lowrise neighbourhood just fifty years ago, Mongkok came alive with the massive influx of mainlanders to Hong Kong in the fifties and sixties. Over the course of forty years, it has evolved into the thriving commercial hub and intriguing residential district it is today.
In my next column, I'll explore Mongkok's markets and its pedestrian environment; in the meantime, enjoy this photographic introduction to Hong Kong's most intense neighbourhood.
Sai Yeung Choi Street, a pedestrian zone known for its electronics shops but packed with restaurants, cinemas and clothing stores.ALL PHOTOS BY CHRISTOPHER DEWOLF
Sunday afternoon crowds on Sai Yeung Choi Street.
Pedestrians overtake an intersection near Sai Yeung Choi Street.
Evening crowds on a Mongkok pedestrian street.
Buying an afternoon snack at one of Mongkok's many bakeries.
At dinnertime, outdoor restaurants offer a vast variety of food.
Many of Mongkok's side streets are overcrowded with pedestrians, so a new plan calls for the widening of sidewalks, the installation of more street trees and the creation of still more pedestrian zones.
A minibus forces its way through a crowded street.
Many pedestrian streets are demarcated only by these signs, which prevent vehicular access.
Time out on Sai Yeung Choi Street.
A crossing signal in Mongkok.
A smiling face in the crowd.
Nathan Road, a main artery, slices through Mongkok.
Nathan Road is a major bus corridor.
The corner of Sai Yeung Choi and Argyle Streets
Mongkok is not all Blade Runner-esque: its northern and western parts can be downright calm.
Mongkok, being a residential area, includes dozens of greengrocers and supermarkets.
Nighttime traffic on Mong Kok Road.
Fa Yuen Street, one of Mongkok's street markets.
Apartment above Fa Yuen Street.
Fa Yuen Street's vendors seen from above.
Vendors on Fa Yuen Street sell mostly clothing and accessories for women, but produce vendors, food stalls and restaurants always spring up in markets, too.
Purses for sale on Fa Yuen's crowded sidewalks.
Fa Yuen Street from above.