It’s hard to imagine in such a densely populated city as ours that there sit nooks and crannies left to decay in solitude. Enter HK Urbex, a group of urban explorers who seek to ‘document and immortalise undisclosed and abandoned nonspaces in Asia”.
With an impressive arsenal of cameras, drones and VR head-gear, they preserve a snapshot in time, not only of abandoned spaces but of clothes, postcards, posters, furniture and photo albums. All the leaving behinds of what was once a space filled with a people’s memories and life.
“Sometimes we’re the last people to step foot in a building before it’s demolished,” claimed Pripyat, an HK Urbex member, when interviewed by the BBC.
Over the years, the team has ventured into antiquated asylums, soon to be demolished homes, derelict courthouses and even the MTR tunnels. Of course, the missions they set out on aren’t always legal, so balaclavas and masks help with some anonymity, as well as to prevent any harmful elements being kicked up into their lungs.
HK Urbex described themselves as ‘an anonymous, grassroots collective that seeks to unearth and document hidden sites in and around Hong Kong. Beyond the shimmering skyscrapers and glitzy malls, the intrepid explorers reveal another side of Hong Kong and the Asian cities they visit, immortalising and bringing undisclosed nonspaces to light. We are a motley crew of photographers, filmmakers, journalists, writers and adrenaline junkies.’
Even as self-proclaimed adrenaline junkies, they’re not ones to rush into a building without first doing their due diligence. On top of sussing out the spaces beforehand, helmets, first-aid kits and headlamps are on the must-have items list.
But, there is one thing you cant prepare for, and that’s the eerie nature of being in spaces of neglect. Haunted by the personal artefacts that paint a picture of someone’s life, or just by the urban legends that plague the building, such as the time they entered the abandoned cinema situated in the Eastern Kowloon district. Beset by ghost stories and sightings it has been left to rot since the 90s and is shunned by developers and property tycoons.
Located on a hilly slope, the area was once prone to landslides, and a tragic incident in the 1970s resulted in many people being killed and buried under the site. One legend tells the story of a chilling encounter; a mother and a child, who spot another family outside the cinema, they see that they are getting drenched by the rain. The mother and child run over to offer them an umbrella, only to be confronted with ghostly figures with silt spilling from their mouths.
Already an uninviting tale but on top of that, there was also a fire in the structure that caused it to shut down. Although repairs were made, it was the never same. Urban legends say the spirits of the dead still live on inside the ghostly cinema.
For those who fear venturing into the unknown, HK Urbex’s youtube and facebook provide a fascinating glimpse at a distance. Speaking in their BBC interview, they said, “We kind of create value where there is no value, we’re shining a spotlight and saying look how gorgeous that is, even in decay.”