(Classical Mailboxes: These tin mailboxes were characteristic of the 1970s when the general domestic buildings in Hong Kong did not have a place for mailboxes. I took this shot on the ground floor of a tenement building)
Some weeks ago, I published a post about the tenement buildings in Hong Kong. Most of these old buildings remain in Mongkok, Yaumatei and Shumshuipo on the Kowloon side, with some declared as monuments in Wanchai and Sheung Wan on the Hong Kong Island. Let’s get down (or up?) to the nitty-gritty of these buildings.
In most cases, these tenement buildings are closely packed together from wall to wall, making it possible for residential units to have front and back windows only. Most of them are still poorly managed. There is no proper place even for mailboxes. The communal electrical and TV cables are lined casually in the common areas as you see in the photos below. (Letters are frequently stolen)
A large number of them are of three to four stories while those built in the 1960s have as many stories as eight and, for later ones, higher. But, sorry, you’ve got to walk up the stairs for no lifts are provided, which is, well, the second most appalling fact. What topping the list of appalling facts is: there was no flashing toilet in tenement buildings at first!
This is going to be filthy, mark you: The back section on each floor of a tenement building was used to be a communal kitchen next to which there was a “toilet” where tenants got rid of their waste in a round, wooden “Si Taup” (literally, faeces tower) of 2.5 feet in height. The “Si Taup” has a top opening of 2 feet in diameter. It is covered with a lid when not in use.
(Fire hazard is severe)
The lack of flashing toilet gave rise to the profession of what was known as “Ye Heung Fu” (literally, nightly fragrant ladies) who cleared away the human wastes in containers in which the tenants empty the Si Taup at mid-night. The colloquial term “Ye Heung” is still used as a euphemism for human faeces, and "Si Taup" is playful equivalence of "toilet". (From a higher angle)