With the majority of young people living with their parents, Hong Kong’s couples are turning to alternative means of having a private life.

Not far from Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, two university students were feeling excited and a little nervous as they stood outside an old commercial building with a neon-lit sign, just after dawn.

Two weeks into dating, the now 20-year-old Waddy and 23-year-old Moomoo found themselves unwilling to separate after talking until the early hours of the morning. Like the majority of other young Hong Kongers, they both lived with their parents, so going home was not an option if they wanted some alone time.

Their solution was to go to one of Hong Kong’s hourly love hotels. Popularised in Japan, short-stay hotels began to pop up in Hong Kong in 1960s. There are about 300 love hotels in the city, according to Hong Kong Guesthouse Association founder-chairman David Leung, ranging from slightly seedy to discreet and demure. And in one of the most densely populated cities in the world, these hotels offer something that is hard to come by in Hong Kong – affordable privacy.

60-year-old Cheng has been running her love hotel for more than 20 years. Her 18-room guesthouse is located in Mongkok, the busiest commercial district for local people. She says lack of space at home has long been an issue for many. “Some are even married couples who want to have some privacy to themselves at the weekend, when it is too packed at home,” says Cheng.

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