The Best Hotel in Hong Kong
This photo shows the view looking south along Pedder Street, across its junction with Des Voeux Road and Chater Road.
It was sold as a postcard, and its title comes from this pencil note on the back.
"The things on the left are rickshas & sedan chairs
This is about the best hotel in Hongkong
Can you see the electric tram coming along the street"
Filling up the centre of the photo is ‘the best hotel’ – the Hong Kong Hotel. It started life as a much smaller building, but this photo shows the hotel in its prime, when it ran from Des Voeux Road all the way along Pedder Street to Queen’s Road.
The section of the hotel we see is the north wing, and it can help us put a date on this view. It was finished in 1892, and originally looked out over the harbour. The reclamation in the 1890s took away the sea view, then in 1926 this wing was destroyed by fire.
That gives us a range of 1892–1926 as possible years this photo was taken. The ‘electric tram’ helps narrow it down further.
Hong Kong’s trams have been through several different configurations over the years. This one has an upper deck with a canvas roof, a design in use from 1913 until around 1924. The motor cars suggest we’re towards the end of that period, so I’ll date it to c.1920.
An Indian policeman is looking at us from across the junction.
We see him because he’s standing still. The ghostly figures around him show people on the move – films then needed longer exposures, so anything moving appears as a blur.
For an extreme example, look carefully at the street in front of the hotel pillars.
At left and right we can see a couple of disembodied feet! They belonged to the men carrying the sedan chair, which appears as a shadowy outline in the middle. Each foot stayed still for just a moment after hitting the ground, and that is why we can see it.
In the left foreground are more sedan chairs, and rickshaws too.
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 the hotel’s guests, and the men are waiting for a nod from the hotel doorman that their services are needed.
For the next photo, follow Des Voeux Road to the right till you reach the junction with Pottinger Street. Stop there, and do an about turn.
This is the second photo from the new Gwulo book: Old Hong Kong Photos and The Tales They Tell, Volume 2. The next four photos continue the stroll through old Central, then we start into the remaining three sequences:
- Queen’s Road from west to east (photos 7-14)
- To school by donkey (photos 15-20)
- Construction and destruction (photos 21-26)
You can see the book's first photo here on the website, then find the last two photos, numbers 25 & 26, in the free PDF book sample. To see the rest of the book, please order a copy here on Gwulo - we deliver worldwide.
Also a reminder it's last call for the pre-launch special offers on the new book - they end tomorrow, Wednesday the 28th of November.
(The books were delivered from the printer today, and I'm very happy with how they've turned out. We managed to get the first 100 or so orders to the post office today, and the remaining pre-launch orders will all be mailed out by the end of the week. I'm crossing my fingers you enjoy the choice of photos and stories in Volume 2.)