The famed (notorious) Kowloon Walled City (KWC) was brought up in this thread. If you don't know what KWC is, here are moe infos (mostly culled from the same thread, so credit to the posters there), but basically it looked like this:

(1) The City of Darkness

(2) 99% invisble article

(3) Recreating Ghost in Hong Kong

(4) German Documentary from 1989

I lived in KWC when I was 2-3 years old but I have no recollection of that time. Later on, even though our family moved out of there, but since I was enrolled in the schools near there and my parent worked during the day, so my bro and me were dropped off at my relative's place in KWC everyday. I got to know the place pretty well because I spent at least 4 hrs there everyday from 1984 to 1991. So ask away!

Note: I will be back in a few hours to start answering questions, got shit to do today.


(1) I know a lot of you want proof. I can think of two things that may prove it, my school photo from Bishop Ford's memorial school and Angel's Kindergarten which are both next to KWC and I think both still exit. I will see if i can find them and send it to the Mod when i get home.

(2) Many of you asked for pictures inside. Even though everyone has a camera now, back in the 80s it was not that common and even if our family had one, it made no sense to waste the film inside KWC from the people who lives there perspective.

(3) Bishop Ford's memorial School is on top of a hill next to KWC and it's next to a cementery. Even most Hong Kong people don't know this fact unless you are a Kowloon or Lok Fu local!!! People from Lok Fu can back me up on this. I guess this is like a semi-proof that at least I am local to that area.

(4) I need to go now but will be back and answer a few more and hopefully find my photos and send to the mod as proof. Thanks for the interest in this AMA!

Edit 2:

(1) I just sent some strong circumstantial proof to the mod because as I said I don't have direct proof.

(2) My answers are vague? Yea true, but I am recalling things that happened 20 or more years ago and I was about 8-10 years old at that time, how can I comment on the nuances of the socio-political situations there from the memories of a child?

(3) I am not familiar with every single place in KWC? This is true, now just look at the photos and tell me, would you let your 8-10 years to roam the dirty alleys inside KWC?? I mostly travelled back and forth from my relative's place and school and when my bro, cousins and me went out and played, we played OUTSIDE the fortress. Kids don't play hide and seek inside KWC.

Edit 3:

(1) The mod hasn't got back to me about the proof I sent, probably because it's thanksgiving.

(2) Lack of photos inside? I am repeating myself here, it was in the 80s, I didn't have an iphone back then, I could't just take random snap shots of the place. Do you notice that all the photos of KWC are from journalists or professional photographers and not from residents who took photos of themselves inside? It never came to mind back then that I should take a photo of myself in the dark alley under the leaking pipes with all the shits and trash on the ground.

(3) I will probably pop back in tomorrow to answer a few more questions.

Edit 4:

(1) Here is the google map of Bishop Memorial School, you can see the Kowloon Walled city park just next to it.

(2) I will probably look at this thread again for the last time tonite and answer a few more questions and maybe do a summary.

Final Thoughts:

Well I think I will leave this AmA now. By some requests, here is the photo of KWC where I indicate (red arrow) approximately the building I spent most of my time in, it is only approximate since there was no way I could know what the building looked like from the outside and I locate it by approximating the way I took to get there. The yellow arrow indicate the Kindergarten I went to and the blue arrow points to the location of the Bishop Ford Memorial school. Where did most of the residents go? The buildings pointed by the purple arrow and many more behind them not shown in this photo were the destinations of many of the residents.

There is some misconception about KWC, by the mid-80s, it was no longer as dangerous as it once was. There were probably still many drug problems/prostitution/gangs and triads, but they have all gone underground. On the surface, at least from what I remember, it was a very busy place where people carried on with their lives just like any other places.

Many people asked about fire hazard, I had seen a few fires broke out throughout the years, but they were always isolated to a few apartments. There was never a really big scale fire that I remember, probably due to the all concrete buildings and high humidities within the fortress, but honestly I don't know why it never happened (thankfully).

Comments: 1467 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

yelo_canu776 karma

Was it more preferable to live high up at the top or close to the ground?

Crypt0n1te1132 karma

Definitely higher up, the closer to the street level, the dirtier it got. Just look at the pictures in the links. yuck! It was a freaking maze inside, I remember I had to go up and down 2 buildings to get outside the fortress everyday and inside one of the building, the first 2 floors were permanently flooded (no one lived there).

cocktails4263 karma

From the photos I've seen, the rooftop places looked relatively nice. Decks and gardens and whatnot. I imagine that anything with sunlight was in higher demand.

davvblack293 karma

And no sludgy shit water dripping down from above, if you live on the top.

Crypt0n1te232 karma

yuck, absolutely true! See my reply above.

RuskiTavarish504 karma

1.) Is it hard to find your way around?
2.) After it was torn down, how did your relatives adapt to the outside world?
3.) Why did your family/relatives live there anyways?
4.) What was the most common reason for living in KWC?


Crypt0n1te549 karma

(1) I don't think it's possible to find your way if you had no idea where you are going. It was an absolute maze in there.

(2) The government moved everyone out to the nearby public housing way before it was torn down.

(3) Poverty, if you were recent immigrants from China to HK at that time, you didn't really have much option to choose from.

(4) Poverty. Illegal immigrants. People with no where else to go.

redvelveteenrabbit79 karma

With such limited resources, what kind of games did kids of KWC play back then?

Cromock215 karma

The greatest game of hide and seek.

Crypt0n1te279 karma

Yep, hide and seek mostly.

pseudononymist109 karma

did anyone ever not get found?

Crypt0n1te153 karma

Most kids in KWC were sensible enough to play outside of it.

alien6154 karma

I'm not OP, but I think I can answer some of these questions.

2) KWC inhabitants didn't really consider themselves to be different from ordinary Hong Kongers, and most people there were workers who didn't actually live there. However, I don't know OP's specific circumstances.

4) KWC inhabitants were often criminals, refugees, and drug addicts who for one reason or another could not find work outside the city, or who had reason to fear the authorities. Other people were there because they grew up there, since their parents lived there.

Crypt0n1te119 karma

(2) Maybe true for some but most of my classmates back then ddi live in there.

(4) Some of them were definitely what you said, but most of them were just ordinary families.

deirdreofthegaians455 karma

I have been fascinated by KWC ever since seeing it in Shenmue II and remember being really disappointed by finding out it had been demolished.

Therefore, my only question is whether there were actually elevators that only stopped on about 1/3 of floors, necessitating puzzle-like solutions to get to markets where you could buy birds.

Crypt0n1te281 karma

The few buildings I was familiar with didn't have elevator and I don't recall seeing one might have existed though.

avgnmldude342 karma


Crypt0n1te442 karma

(1) I don't really know, I was very young then and I don't remember hearing about collapses.

(2) At my relative's place where I spent most of my time, it was surprising quiet. Probably because it's all concrete buildings and really no one opened their windows anyway especially if you live in the middle because all you see is the dirty wall and disgusting leakage of the other buildings.

(3) Seriously no, it's too dirty, just at those pictures, specially the street level alleys.

(4) It was back in the 80s and I think cameras were still a luxury at that time and our family back then wasn't wealthy (else wouldn't be living in KWC), so no unfortunately.

(5) Honestly there were lots of crazy passages between buildings, but they were too filthy, you wouldn't want to walk in there.

bobbincygna298 karma

What makes the city different apart from the infrastructure?

Could you talk about crime, laws, government, prostitution, regulations, safety, drugs, contracts, poverty, communal organization and dispute resolution in the city?

Crypt0n1te412 karma

I was in grade school so I don't think I have much recollection of these heavy stuffs. But some comments on some of these points.

Poverty: For sure, everyone in there were poor, if you were rich you would not go within 100 feet of KWC.

Crime: I think the only crime that happened to our family was that my grandma was robbed by an addict with a butter knife. A story from one of my old classmate was that his neighbour got into a fight, I think the wife cut the husband with kitchen knife in the corridor, so for the longest time, there was a big pool of blood outside their door.

(3) Regulation: Probably not that much since it's just too hard to enforce, it was a maze! I only saw police in there a few times and they only showed up if there were serious murders or drug raid.

2xE265 karma

The 99% invisible article mentions "high levels of prostitution, gambling, mafia activity, and rampant unlicensed dentistry". Did you experience any of that yourself while there in the day time?

Crypt0n1te156 karma

I was a kid so really no experience with that. But it's certainly true there are a lot of dentists' and doctors signs.

tnuts42085 karma

yeah OP, are you now or have you ever been involved in rampant unlicensed dentistry? we demand answers!

Crypt0n1te143 karma

Nope, I was in grade school when it existed, free high quality dentistry for school children in Hong Kong.

Crypt0n1te68 karma

I may have answered this question somewhere else but i can't find it now. Anyway here is my answer again. I was too young to really know about prostitution, gambling, mafia activity etc but there were tons of dentists' office signs though.

fiplefip192 karma

How did the local kids have fun? Epic hide and seek? Roof top tag?

q1o2376 karma


Crypt0n1te257 karma

It would have been the ideal place to do it.

Crypt0n1te173 karma

There were some open space next to KWC if you looked at pictures toward late 80s because they started building biking lanes. That's where most of the kids from KWC spent their afternoon chasing each other doing kids stuffs.

JustZisGuy172 karma

Not for nothing, but some form of verification would not be amiss.

Crypt0n1te213 karma

I would love to but it was 20 years ago and I was a kid back then. Would a passport showing I am of the right age and that I am from Hong Kong do? I am in North America now so I don't have access to my kindergarten and primary school photos. Anyway, I went to Angel's Kindergarten and Bishop Ford's Memorial School, both are just next to KWC (I think they both still exist).

tetratomic149 karma

Do you have any never before seen photos of the interior? What was in the apparently open area in the middle?

Crypt0n1te148 karma

I wasn't even aware there was this open space until many years later when I saw the same photos of the city we are seeing now.

Krandel104 karma

What was the craziest thing you witnessed while growing up there?

Crypt0n1te241 karma

When they were building the bike lanes next to KWC, my bro, my cousins and me would play in the dirt open spaces there. One day I saw a dead rat near the circular bike ramp they were buiding (you can see the finished circular ramp in one of the photo in the links) and I deicided to bury it in the dirt and I put a sign to mark the place so that I could come back to dig it out again (no idea why I wanted to do it). Anyway, I came back a few days later and dig the rat out again and all i saw was a carcass that was half eaten by tens of thousand of maggots and the image of tens of thousands of white maggots squirming inside the open belly of the rat had scarred me forever....

321dogeeseseegod12393 karma

How was the smell?

Crypt0n1te150 karma

Depends where but terrible mostly especially if there were fresh shit droppings from humans/dogs/other animals on your way to your destination.

birdthesquire75 karma

were there mass lootings and theft? what what the most craziest thing you saw someone do? Edit: I should start proofreading.

Crypt0n1te96 karma

I never witnessed any mass looting, but then it was 80s in HK so even though it's a shady area, it's still a relatively orderly place. HK is a first world city afterall.

Shortdude161973 karma

How was medical care distributed? What about fights or murders and stuff? Did you have "police"?

Crypt0n1te60 karma

If you were a HK citizen, you coud choose and i think most of them did, to go to the government hospitals and the many private practices of licensed doctors office outside of KWC . You could also choose to see one of the many "doctors" in and around KWC if you want lower price.

amnesiasoph66 karma

  1. Was the KWC organized in any way? If you were looking for something in particular, how would you have found it?

  2. If you had a place in the upper levels of the Walled City, how would you get there? What if it was on the top and not on the outside?

oakydoke31 karma

  1. Not OP of course, but I do believe KWC was mainly residential, and Hong Kong's not too big so once you left the Walled City you could probably just walk up a few streets to get to the nearest market or Circle K.

  2. And I think OP mentioned it being really mazelike, and based on the pictures it looks like you'd really have to pass through multiple buildings to get to places.

Crypt0n1te74 karma

yep pretty much.

  1. I honestly only go to places that i know, even though i was a kid, i was very aware that I shouldn't really explore inside the city.

(2) It's a collections of buildings, so you need to get into the city through one of the many alleys that provide access to the inside.

OhSoAwesome8965 karma

What kind of jobs existed in KWC?

What kind of shenanigans did kids get in to in such a dense environment?

Was there gang violence or turf wars in the open?

Thanks for this interesting AMA and your time.

Crypt0n1te57 karma

(1) I really have no ideas but there were many restaurants on the outside of the city but I think manual jobs were the most common ones.

(2) My bro and my cousins just played in the open spaces next to fortress (look at the photos in late 80s) mostly.

(3) I wouldn't have known.

ceresbrew50 karma

What's the best thing about a place like that?

Crypt0n1te64 karma

I don't know to be honest....I don't think I would like to live there.

MissMayhem936 karma

Did you ever find it overwhelming? Did you get caught up in any of the illegal activities? What are your feelings about it being torn down?

Crypt0n1te49 karma

The atmosphere in there was threatening for sure, even though I never got caught in any dangerous situation, I was very aware, even as a kid, that I should not just go to random places inside the fortress.

I felt sad of course when it was torn down, after all I spent so much time in there. But then again I think it should be torn down because the living condition in there was just too horrid.

senor_derp32 karma

Were there any weird, secret passageways between buildings? What was the most interesting secret place you found there?

Crypt0n1te13 karma

There were complicated passageways between buildings for sure. We only used the well traversed ones though. My parents were sensible enough to NOT let me and my bro to explore inside the fortress.

maxkmiller32 karma

Can you elaborate more on what you would describe cyberpunk in KWC?

Crypt0n1te39 karma

The atmosphere in there kind of remind me of the blade runner movie...

ellatheevil30 karma

How do addresses work? Is postal service reliable? Is it a nightmare if some kind if internal plumbing or electricity problem occurs in one of the huge buildings?

Crypt0n1te35 karma

The postman delivered door to door since I did see them walking up and down some buildings sometimes.

photojacker27 karma

Pretty jealous of you. I lived in Kowloon City (no relation) around that time and I never got to go and see it. As an adult, I'd absolutely love to go now if was still around. My question is where did you move to after KWC was demolished, and what happened to the communities after?

Crypt0n1te16 karma

Even though I went to KWC everyday, i didn't live there, my grandparents lived there and they took care of me and my bro and my cousins when we were not in school. My family lived in Kowloon Bay. I am very familiar with Kowloon City, it was basically my hood haha.

ieatglass15 karma

Were there schools inside? If so how were the conditions? Was the overall sentiment every person for themselves or was there a greater sense of community? Did the majority of inhabitants feel mistreated or forgotten by the government?

Crypt0n1te12 karma

There was a kindergarten inside and it was actually on the way that I needed to take everyday. All kids go to primary schools nearby outside the fortress.

People kept to themselves mostly, for example, I have never talked to my relative's neighbour inside KWC even though I was there almost everyday for many years.

I can't speak for other people but I don't think they felt mistreated since most of them move there voluntarily. Hoever I did hear a lot from my classmates/friends back then that they wanted to move out there when they get the means to do so.


Was the whole place pretty dirty like the photos in those articles, or were there any "Nice" areas?

What is in that large open area in the middle?

Was there any way to get around besides walking?

Crypt0n1te7 karma

Some buildings seemed to be cleaner than the others, it really depends on the resident in those places whether they wanted to keep it relatively not dirty or not.

I actually don't know, but it might have been the temple which means it's not an open space at all, just the the surrounding buildings were much taller than the temple.

Walking was the only way I know.

hotweels25813 karma

How did you get inside? Was there just a gate?

Crypt0n1te22 karma

There were many alleys between the building to provide access inside. Also some buildings had complex interconnected corridors that will somehow led into the inside through the stairways in the back.

Also parkour.