Mei Ho House: The Housing History of Hong Kong

On June 3, 2014 by Oren and Cassie

The Mei Ho House Youth Hostel in Kowloon may simply look like a normal hostel to first-time visitors in Hong Kong. But, for anyone who knows the history of housing in this city, Mei House House is so much more.

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OUR VISIT TO HONG KONG

Hong Kong has always been on our itinerary for our round the world trip. Why? We love new cities and Hong Kong seemed to have a special mix of business, food and culture. But, then we were faced with the dilemma of where to stay. Many travelers leave Hong Kong saying they spent a fortune on a closet-sized hotel room. We are always researching new options wherever we go and during our search we came across Mei Ho House in Kowloon, a new hostel with a half-century of history. The building was the first public housing project in Hong Kong.

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In 1953 a fire broke out in the Shek Kip Mei area, leaving about 58,000 people homeless. The government decided to create the first public housing site in Hong Kong for the victims of this fire. Mei Ho House was one of the eight H-shaped resettlement blocks created for this effort. While it served as residential housing for decades, the city decided it was time for a change in 2009. The Hong Kong Youth Hotels Association (HKYHA) was selected to lead the effort in revitalizing the historic building by turning Mei Ho House into a youth hostel.

MEI HO HOUSE OPENS ITS DOORS

Mei Ho House Youth Hostel opened its doors in October 2013.

An interesting aspect of staying at Mei House House is that the building still maintains its public housing H-shaped structure. But, everything inside is brand new. Remember I mentioned closet-sized rooms? That’s not the case at Mei Ho House. There are 129 rooms including dorm rooms, private rooms and family rooms. And there’s a lot of space. Dorms cost around $45 per person a night. Although it says youth hostel, Mei Ho House has more of a hotel feel. We saw businessmen staying there, as well as families and backpackers.

There’s a restaurant downstairs “Cafe 41″ that offers breakfast and other food starting at $29 HKD, which is about $4 USD.

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THE MEI HO HOUSE MUSEUM

The complex also houses a museum on the first floor called “Heritage of Mei Ho House.” It is a very well-done and informative museum about the history of the Sham Shui Po district and shows how people lived within the public housing buildings. (8 toilets for the entire building. Yikes!)

Some of the more frequent visitors to the museum are former public housing tenants. They reminisce about life during that time period and show their children and grandchildren how they lived.

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As travelers with a journalism background, Mei House House fascinated us. A city is much more than its buildings. It’s the people and community that create the environment that make cities worth visiting. Staying at a place with such a deep history of the city made our visit to Hong Kong that much more memorable.

-C.K.

Note: Historic photos provided by Hong Kong Youth Hostels Association

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