Step Inside The Most Densely Populated Place on Earth…


Hey Thoughty2 here. Welcome to what was the most densely populated
place on Earth, Kowloon Walled City was home to over 33,000 people, all crammed into a
measly six-acres. It sat right in the middle of Hong Kong. Manila, the capital city of the Philippines
currently holds the title of the world’s most densely populated place, but that’s
only because Kowloon Walled City was demolished in 1994. Prior to this it held the title for over 20
years. But this mish-mash of buildings, cobbled together
from scrap materials was one of the most interesting communities on the planet. It was no ordinary slum. It’s thousands of residents lived toe-to-toe
with crime and the weird and wonderful. It was a self-sustained city, like a world
within a world. Let’s take a trip down the alleyways of
this incredible shanty town and uncover its secrets. But first, how the hell did THIS happen? Kowloon Walled City has a long and intricate
history and like any good tale from history, it all started with the British. Hong Kong island was ceded to the British
in 1841 as part of the Treaty of Nanjing, that ended the Opium War. However, China wouldn’t give the British
Kowloon Walled City and held onto it for military use and they built a wall around it, hence
the “Walled” bit. Kowloon Walled City began life as a salt trading
outpost during the Song Dynasty, all the way back in 960. And it remained a small, forgotten outpost
for hundreds of years, until the British got their invasive hands on Hong Kong. As you can imagine, being a tiny Chinese owned
settlement, entirely surrounded by a foreign country caused some issues. The British found the Walled City a curiosity. They affectionately called it “Chinese Town”
– seriously, they named it this on maps of Hong Kong. It became somewhat of a tourist attraction
for British Colonials. So how did it turn into this… and what happened
to the wall? Well during World War II, amidst the Japanese
occupation of Hong Kong, the Japanese demolished the stone walls of the settlement. As to its extremely dense population, well
that happened because of a political peculiarity – because Kowloon was a Chinese nation surrounded
by a British overseas territory it was impossible for China to police the area. And because it didn’t belong to the British,
they couldn’t care less what went on within its perimeter. This made Kowloon Walled City essentially
lawless. Thousands of refugees from the Chinese Civic
War of the 1940s came to live in Kowloon Walled City – it was perfect, since it was essentially
Chinese, but it’s residents were surrounded and protected by the British. Since there were no rules or laws, people
self-built rooms to live in, wherever they could find a space. There was absolutely no order – if there
was a space free, then somebody was bound to build their own Kowloon penthouse there,
no matter how cramped it would be. And when all the floor space was filled, they
simply built upwards. All the way up to 14 stories high. They would have kept going if not for the
nearby airport that said they needed the airspace above Kowloon to be kept empty due to airplane
traffic. The whole structure is quite an impressive
piece of engineering, considering it was built by ordinary citizens. They even assembled a gigantic maze of water
pipes to bring running water into everyone’s homes. In a world with no police to keep watch, crime
and business flourished, often as the same entity. Within no time at all the city became ruled
by organized crime syndicates, the Triads. The slum became littered with endless brothels,
gambling parlours and opium dens. Even more disturbing is that due to a lack
of space, during the day these same rooms were used as schools and hair salons; during
the night, they were strip clubs and brothels. But it wasn’t just outlets of criminality
that lined this endless warren of hidden alleyways and courtyards. Genuine businesses thrived here too. It became a self-sustained, tightly knit community
with hundreds of shops selling anything you could imagine. Hundreds of products were manufactured within
the walls, dog-meat, fish balls, noodle makers, you name it, all free to produce and sell
to the rest of Hong Kong without any fire, health or labour safety laws. But above all else, it was known for two things,
unlicensed dentists and doctors. Due to the virtually non-existent laws within
Kowloon, you didn’t need a license to setup shop as a “professional” dentist or doctor,
which made for some rather dubious places to get your fillings done. Hong Kong residents who couldn’t afford
the high healthcare costs in the actual city, went to Kowloon Walled City to get it done
on the cheap. Which is probably not a very smart idea, considering
absolutely zero qualifications were needed to practice here. Conditions within the slum weren’t comfortable
at the best of times, because the accommodation had been built so high, and so unevenly, there
was absolutely zero natural light at the bottom levels, and most residents lived without sunlight
24/7. Children would play on the roof, which was
incredibly dangerous, with gaps between buildings that had been shoved together, and endless
dangerous items protruding from the ground. Eventually the filthy, cramped urban maze
that thousands called home was demolished. In 1993 both Britain and China mutually agreed
to demolish Kowloon Walled City. Residents were given a small amount of monetary
compensation. In its place now, a public garden called Kowloon
Walled City Park – there’s even a small memorial of the goliath structure that was
once the most inhabited six-acres on Earth. Thanks for watching.

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