YHA Mei Ho House Youth Hostel – revitalisation of old public rental housing
Public rental housing and hostels may seem totally unrelated. Could you ever have imagined that today these two concepts would merge in one building? A few days ago, I attended the opening ceremony of the YHA Mei Ho House Youth Hostel, which is one of the Batch I projects of the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme, and witnessed, together with other guests and friends, the remarkable results achieved by the revitalisation project. Mei Ho House evokes our collective memories. From above, its shape looks like the capital letter “H”. In fact, it is the only surviving first generation H-shaped resettlement block in Hong Kong. Mei Ho House marked the beginning of the territory’s public housing programme and was part of many Hong Kong people’s lives.
Since its soft launch on October 21, 2013, the YHA Mei Ho House Youth Hostel has attracted over 25 000 visitors, including me. On my first visit, the hostel was still under construction, so I made another visit in early December and chatted with the local residents and students I met. Together, we recalled the bittersweet years of Hong Kong and spent a delightful morning there. It seemed that we went back in time when we walked into the Heritage of Mei Ho House (HMHH) Museum. The vintage photos, bunk beds, public toilet compartments, the plain corridor used as a place for cooking, and grocery stores showcased in the museum all tell us the heartwarming stories of old Hong Kong. In the past, people felt as if they had won the lottery if they could move into public rental housing. Even though two families had to live together in a unit of only 120 square feet and use public bathrooms and toilets, it was considered a precious gift for the people at that time. Life was really tough back then, and children very often had to supplement the family income by making plastic flowers or cane baskets at home after school. Yet we still cherish those years when people in the same neighourhood would help and care for each other, sharing the little we had with a strong sense of solidarity.
Besides the HMHH Museum, I also visited a vintage-style store which reminded me of my childhood. Do you remember those simple toys we played with as children, like the “bamboo dragonflies”, paper shuttlecocks and watermelon-like plastic balls? The store also sells nostalgic sweets and snacks that make you recall the good old days even without tasting them.
If you want to know more about the environment and living conditions of public rental housing in the past, you are welcome to visit the HMHH Museum and join the free guided tour for a glimpse of local history and culture. You may also spend a night there with your family and friends, and taste a delicious breakfast in a local-style cafe similar to the ones in the old public housing estates.
Christmas is coming. In this festive season of love and hope, a visit to Mei Ho House calls to mind a short poem. Let me share with you part of it here:
22 December, 2013