What: "The best hotel in Hong Kong", at least that's what whoever bought this postcard thought:
The back of this photo.
The back of this photo.
The things on the left are rickshas and sedan chairs.
This is about the best hotel in Hongkong.
Can you see the electric tram coming along the street?
Given the question at the end, I guess this was included with a letter sent home.
Where: The photographer is standing in Pedder Street, looking south across the junction with Des Voeux Road & Chater Road. Mansions Building was on his left, the General Post Office to his right, and filling up the centre of the photo stood the Hong Kong Hotel. The Hotel was in its prime, extending along Pedder Street from Des Voeux Road all the way to Queen's Road.
Here's a similar view today:
Today we have Chater House on the left, World-wide House on the right, and The Landmark in the centre.
Who: An Indian man is looking at us from across the junction:
We can only see him clearly because he is standing still. The ghostly figures around him show preople on the move - films then needed longer exposures, so anything moving appears as a blur. For an extreme example, look in front of the hotel's corner pillar and you'll see a disembodied foot! It belonged to the man carrying the sedan chair that appears as a shadowy outline further left.
In the left foreground are the rickshaws and sedan chairs mentioned above. Several of the men among them have noticed the camera and look towards us. But the men at the front of the queue look intently ahead. I guess this was a rickshaw / sedan chair rank for hotel guests, and the men are waiting for a nod from the hotel doorman that their services are needed.
When: The section of the hotel we see is the north wing, finished in 1892, and destroyed by fire in 1926. That gives us a broad outline for possible dates.
The tram helps narrow it down:
We've seen before that their top decks didn't get a canvas cover until 1918 , so the photo must have been taken later than that.
Other possible clues come from business names we can see in the photo. The tram photo also shows the sign of "Thos. Cook & Son", the travel company. Then on the left of the photo there's another name carved into the stonework in the Mansions Building:
It looks like part of the word "Pacific", and is likely the name of a business with a shop or office here. Any ideas when these businesses were at these sites?
Behind the Indian man are a couple of cars. If anyone recognises the models, they might help too.
For now I'll take 1922 as the mid-point of the 1918 tram roof and the 1926 hotel fire. Better guesses welcome!