Fotoeins Fotopress

One photo at a time – one journey to last a lifetime

Then and now, on the tram across Hong Kong

It’s wrong to think this, but that vehicle looks like a death contraption. I’m not afraid; on the contrary, I’m excited to ride on a piece of transport history.

Kings Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong

Westbound tram to Happy Valley: King’s Road at Westlands Road, Quarry Bay

Des Voeux Road West at Sutherland Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Des Voeux Road West at Sutherland Street, Sheung Wan

Hong Kong Tramways, otherwise known as “香港電車” (literally, “Hong Kong electric car”), provides an inexpensive form of east-west travel across the northern part and former coastline of Hong Kong island.

I enter through the back, pushing through the small wooden swing-doors. It’s an instant trip back in time, looking now as it must have decades ago, with passengers squeezed into a tall thin wooden box, powered down the tracks by electricity.

On my way into the city centre, I’m stuck on the bottom deck in a full tram. The muggy mid-June afternoon means all the windows are open, but that’s just more hot humid air blowing into the tram.

Old and young are present, seated or standing. Some are looking intently at their smartphones; some are buried in a book or a magazine; some are in animated conversation with each other or on the phone. Street noises mix with human voices; I’ll snatch pieces of conversation in between shrieks from the tram’s brakes. I understand Cantonese, one of the most common dialects spoken in Hong Kong. I’m grinning at some of the gossip and exaggerated drama, filling the air and pushing both conversation and progress down the track.

On another ride, I snag a seat up top on the upper deck. Most seats are by the windows, and it feels like I’m riding high-shotgun with an especially “secret” view up and over the streets of Hong Kong.

With densely packed tram stops at an average separation of about 250 metres (820 feet), tram travel amounts to a slow “rock and roll” journey down the tracks. People come and go, jostling one another in between constant stop-and-go motion through unending traffic. In the cramped spaces, riding a tram is yet another reflection of everyday life in Hong Kong.

If you’re in Hong Kong Island and you’re not rushed for time, I highly recommend riding on the inexpensive tram for an unconventional view of the streets and measured observation of the city’s people.

Westbound tram to Kennedy Town, King's Road at Westlands Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong

Westbound tram to Kennedy Town: King’s Road at Westlands Road, Quarry Bay

Eastern terminus, Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong

Eastern terminus at Shau Kei Wan

HK Tramways

Operating since 1904, the Hong Kong Tramways has operated electric trams along the north shore of Hong Kong Island. These trams have been the world’s only fleet of tall narrow double-decked wood-sided vehicles. Recent technological innovations now produce trams made with aluminum metal-alloys for improved operation longevity.

Trams on six routes operate from 6am to 12am with a frequency of about every two minutes during peak hours. Regardless of the distance covered, a single fare for an adult is $2.30 HKD ($0.30 USD), and is payable with either cash or the Octupus card upon exiting the tram by the front door. The map below sketches out the service area; check the website for routing updates.

HK Tramways map

An article from the NY Times’ “Hong Kong Journal” compares the historical trams on the streets with the modern MTR subway below ground.

I made the four photos above in June 2012. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com, and also appears as part of the Sunday Traveler series.

Fotoeins Friday: Peace in our time

New Zealand anthems in Māori: Pokarekare Ana, E Ihowa Atua

Mount Tasman, Mount Cook, Southern Alps, Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand (HL)

I know I’d like to sing … : last light on Horokoau & Aoraki (Mount Tasman & Mount Cook) | HL

New Zealand inspires fully with her magnificent scenery and the easy friendly warmth displayed by her people. These continue to provide insights, leading me deeper into her lands, her languages, and her culture. An appropriate choice of music evokes a grand sense of longing and isolation, especially true among the Southern Alps.

Memories remain sharp and fresh, as seeing for the first time the Southern Alps across Cook Strait. Multiple visits to Wellington and Auckland, combined with three weeks in and around the South Island have left me in an undeniable state …

“I’m beached, bru … I’m beached az …”

I am hopelessly in love with New Zealand.

New Zealand has three official languages: English, Māori, and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). Along with definitive images of the country, there are two songs which sung in Māori always bring me back to this beautiful land. “Pokarekare Ana” and “E Ihowa Atua” are, respectively, the unofficial and official anthems for the nation.


Pokarekare Ana

“Pokareare Ana” began as a love song on New Zealand’s North Island in the second decade of the 20th-century. The song is identified widely as uniquely New Zealand.

“Pokarekare Ana”, by Wanda

“Pokarekare Ana” (a cappella), by Front Row Chorus

Pōkarekare ana (They are agitated)
ngā wai o Rotorua/Waiapu (the waters of Rotorua/Waiapu)
Whiti atu koe hine (But when you cross over girl)
marino ana e (they will be calm)

E hine e 
(Oh girl)
hoki mai ra 
(return to me)
Ka mate ahau
 (I could die)
I te aroha e (of love for you)

Tuhituhi taku reta 
(I have written my letter)
tuku atu taku rīngi 
(I have sent my ring)
Kia kite tō iwi (so your people can see)

raru raru ana e (that I am troubled)

Whati whati taku pene 
(My pen is shattered)
ka pau aku pepa (I have no more paper)

Ko taku aroha 
(But my love)
mau tonu ana e (is still steadfast)


E Ihowa Atua (Aotearoa)

“E Ihowa Atua” is a Māori adaption in 1878 of the poem “God Defend New Zealand” which was published two years earlier. Also known as “Aotearoa”, the Māori version of the song is an approximate translation of the English version. Royal assent in 1977 finally confirmed the song’s status as one of the nation’s two official national anthems, including “God Save the Queen.” Presently, the official national anthem is performed with the first verse of “E Ihowa Atua”, followed by the first verse of “God Defend New Zealand”.

“E Ihowa Atua” (Aotearoa) & “God Defend New Zealand”, by Hayley Westenra

Performed in 3 official languages, by Deaf Aotearoa NZ – Tangata Turi

E Ihowā Atua (Oh Lord, God)
O ngā iwi mātou rā (Of nations and of us too)
Āta whakarangona (Listen to us)

Me aroha noa (Cherish us)
Kia hua ko te pai (Let goodness flourish)
Kia tau tō atawhai (May your blessings flow)
Manaakitia mai (Defend)
Aotearoa (Land of the long white cloud)

God of nations at thy feet
In the bonds of love we meet
Hear our voices, we entreat
God defend our free land
Guard Pacific’s triple star
From the shafts of strife and war
Make her praises heard afar
God defend New Zealand


How do I love New Zealand’s South Island? Let me show the ways …

•   Akaroa: Akaroa’s Long Harbour with special guests
•   Akaroa: La petite ville française de Akaroa
•   Christchurch: Christchurch’s changing Red Zone
•   Christchurch: Christchurch’s Art Gallery: glass and light
•   Dunedin: Baldwin Street, steepest in the world
•   Fiordland: Cruising up and down Milford Sound
•   Fox Glacier: The slow forest walk up to Fox Glacier
•   Franz Josef Glacier: The slow approach to Franz Josef Glacier
•   Interislander Ferry: On the ferry between the North and South Islands
•   Lake Matheson: What are the sounds of a New Zealand sunset?
•   Southern Alps: Flying over the South Island’s Southern Alps
•   Southern Alps: The Southern Alps at sunset, from Lake Matheson
•   Train: Coastal Pacific train, from Picton to Christchurch
•   Train: TranzAlpine train, from Christchurch to Greymouth

Have you visited New Zealand? Where are your favourite places and memories? Please leave your comments below!

This post marks Māori Language Week (Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori), celebrated annually in New Zealand since 1975. Māori Language Week in 2014 takes place 21 to 27 July inclusive. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com, and also appears as part of the Sunday Traveler series.

Fotoeins Friday: Copenhagen’s Nyhavn at night

Above Hong Kong’s Lantau Island on the Ngong Ping 360

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