Fotoeins Fotografie

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

Then and now, on the tram across Hong Kong

“Ding ding! 叮叮!”

The thin brightly coloured rectangular box with a single pole trundles down the track towards me. 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.

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 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, and 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.

Kings Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong

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

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

Hong Kong Tramways, Wikipedia


•   HK Tramways route maps with stops (PDF): eastbound and westbound
•   2014, Electronic music artist Choi Sai Ho’s “Freezing Night. Tram Depot”
•   2013, 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 as

12 Responses to “Then and now, on the tram across Hong Kong”

  1. malaysianmeanders

    I saw those double-decker trams when we were on Des Voeux but didn’t have a chance to ride one. I always wondered what it was like, so your story was really interesting to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fotoeins

      Hi, Michele! I’m glad the story resonated with you, and that perhaps, next time you’re in Hong Kong, you’ll give the trams a try. Compared to the MTR subway/underground, the trams are slow, but it’s a unique (and very inexpensive) look at Hong Kong. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment!


    • fotoeins

      Hi, Tasha. I agree with the almost-lull-to-sleep ding-ding sounds from the trams. If I wasn’t careful, I’d hop on a tram and stay on them for hours. Thanks for reading and for your comment!


    • fotoeins

      I spent a significant amount of time in places with driving on the left. Even with consecutive months under my belt, I would still look the wrong way, but fortunately, I didn’t get hit. 🙂


    • fotoeins

      Maria, I had to look back … aaah, I forgot that one of the trams was plastered with poppies. There are an amazing array of designs and advertisements, not only on trams, but on whatever (approved) surfaces can be found. That’s definitely Hong Kong!


  2. Adelina | PackMeTo

    I can’t wait to ride these trams! They look so rickety and like they shouldn’t be running, yet with their bright colours and paint job I can almost be convinced that they were constructed recently (I wish! haha)

    Liked by 1 person

    • fotoeins

      The trams are very inexpensive, and I think you’re going to love the trams. Take multiple rides of varying length across the Island: at least one time in the lower compartment, but the remaining rides in the upper compartment for the view of the streets. You can’t help but notice the people coming in and out, and listening to some of the conversations. I can’t wait to hear about your experiences on the HK Trams, Adelina! 🙂


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