Fotoeins Fotopress

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

Posts from the ‘Hong Kong’ category

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.

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

At the Lo Wu gateway: almost China, but still Hong Kong

True clichés in Hong Kong

Lockhart Road at Tonnochy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Hong Kong is represented by 香港, or “fragrant harbour”.

It’s an understatement in two Chinese characters.

Near the mouth of the Pearl River, the city has a very active port with the movement and shipping of trade: by sea, by air, or by surface.

But then, so it is with people: by sea, by air, by rail, and by car. Internationally they come, from Shenzhen, on ferries from China or Macau, or on big planes from Asia and around the world, pouring into the glass halls at Hong Kong International Airport.

A cacophony of sounds comes from all sides at any hour of the day.

Drivers honk their horns, the screech of brakes by trams on the surface-rails, people on their phones in conversation shouting at the top of their lungs.

Seven million people in a relatively small and enclosed space is always going to be about finding new and adventurous ways to defining and redefining terms of individuality and personal space. It’s no wonder why some escape to the New Territories or to the outer islands for a little bit of peace and quiet.

A symphony of lights comes out nightly at 8pm, like a game of neon-sign ping-pong across Victoria Harbour, between Hong Kong and Kowloon.

Bright gigantic lights and signs stream their company, product, or logo. It is hard not to stare.

No sign is too large; some are the buildings themselves. Reaching ever higher into the sky, buildings cannot be ignored at night, their illumination staking out their claims: “we are here, and don’t you ever forget it.”

O'Brien Road overpass over Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Smells hit you from every corner.

Cars, trucks, and busses belch out exhaust from their tailpipes. Rotting bins of garbage line up on the sides of alleys. Sweet scents follow you in the Flower Market and from fresh fruit and vegetable stands. Your nose catches that complex whiff of an outrageous blend of aromas from barbequed meat to seafood to dried herbs, fungus, roots, and berries; from egg tarts to noodle soup to smoky temple incense.

Herbal Street, Ko Shing Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

It can be inviting, that you cannot help but taste the food that you know you can get from just about anywhere. The smells lure you inside; you may be at a restaurant, a food centre, or a tiny shop by the corner; and you’ll happily tolerate getting squeezed into a table shared with three strangers. You know it’s just right when the world opens up when you take your first bite and slurp of a dumpling or a fried noodle.

It all seems very banal.

Doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Joy Hing Roasted Meat, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

I made all of the above photos in June 2012. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

HKG Dragon Boat Championships in Stanley

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