>Vertical and Horizontal Layers of Place

>I went with a friend on Saturday, to ride on the tram whose route extends most of the length of the Hong Kong Island, east to west, on the harbor side. It is the only double-decker tram in the world, so the publicity says. I had always wanted to do this and found out that this friend had wanted to do it also. Both of us had proposed such an outing to our respective family members with similar responses–“And why would I want to do this?” Alas, some people have no sense of adventure!

We made sure we were on the top level and had a great view of the urban streetscape as we slowly went along. It took more than an hour each way, and the slow pace allowed us to actually observe the changes in areas of the city as we went, building my mental map of this part of Hong Kong island. Up to this point my mental map was primarily of regions around individual subway stops–points rather than a line.

I was struck how Hong Kong is a city that is layered in both the horizontal and vertical directions. Horizontal lines–the underground subway, streets, walkways, and entrances to buildings at different elevations–form the horizontal lines of the city. Vertical lines–buildings of different heights–make up the vertical structures. Yet these vertical structures are horizontally layered as the base of buildings rise from different elevations. Often it is not enough to know the address of a building, or where it is. You also have to know how to approach the building–what level and from which direction, in order to find your way.

I share views of the streetscape and this horizontal and vertical layering along the tram route. The images are “typical” images of the street–Wellcome grocery stores, 7-11 stores, Chinese medicine shops, etc. What is missing? We saw very few gas stations.

Horizontal and Vertical layering

Wellcome has a monopoly on grocery store business


The layers of the city

Dispensary’s are everywhere. I’m not sure what they dispense
The symbol for the MTR (the subway and train system–never far away
Gambling around horse-racing

Everywhere, clothes hang outside widows to dry

Cardboard recycling

Small household shops that are packed, leaving only a small isle
Bamboo structures for constructionMarkets
Chinese medicine shops
This looked like a sewing machine repair shop

Single purpose shops–this one was for mental doors and shades

Light buses go between points that are relatively close

Small local grocery stores

Small restaurants
A park crowded into the urban setting
7-11 is ubiquitous to Hong Kong–used to recharge your octopus card
for transportation, to pay bills, etc.

Sounds of construction–always
Church in a commercial space
Attempts at “green”
Watsons and Mannings are the pharmacies that are everywhere!


Occasional Green Space

The harbor side of HK Island backs onto mountains

Lady shoes?

Busy market streets in Wan Chai

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