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February 9, 2006
Lamma Island is a good place to get away from bustling central Hong Kong, yet is merely a short ferry ride away from it. Although Lamma and Cheung Chau are in ways two of a kind as ideal day trips, Lamma’s larger size makes it preferable to arrive early to have more time for that aggressive hike on the island. Give yourself a bit more time and you will probably appreciate Lamma’s subtle pleasures more than on a rush through here.
The main town on Lamma is Yung Shue Wan along the northwest coast of the island. A natural thing to do is to hike from Yung Shue Wan to the other main town of Sok Kwu Wan along the eastern coast, or vice-versa. You will pass by beaches, such as the popular Hung Shing Yeh Beach. Locals tend to casually hang out at the beach, but they do not bask in the sun like Westerners. The locals will keep their clothes on for the most part, so in a way, their collective modesty saves themselves from getting skin cancer from the strong Hong Kong sun.
For the most part, Lamma is like one big nature preserve, so you will enjoy lots of different flora and fauna on your hike but encounter very few landmarks. The distances from point to point are not that short and the terrain is moderately hilly, so keep that in mind once you set forth on your hiking path. It was marvelous to spot giant clusters of bananas and the occasional butterfly in this moderately tropical environment. You may also notice many kinds of fresh sea creatures served at Lamma’s highly regarded collection of seafood restaurants. The sheer number of little fishing boats in the harbors should be a dead giveaway that fishing is a big industry here. If you do not want a full meal at a sit-down establishment, there are plenty of shops and stands for takeaway snacks like fish balls on a stick.
The ferries come and go from several ports on Lamma, though the busiest one is at Yung Shue Wan. I rode aboard a ferry coming from Aberdeen (along the southern shore of Hong Kong Island), and it made a brief stop at the northern outpost of Pak Kok Tsuen before ending at Yung Shue Wan. On my departure leg I hopped on a ferry at Yung Shue Wan that took me back to the neon-embellished northern shore of central Hong Kong.
From journal Bill in China - HONG KONG (Outlying Areas)
April 15, 2005
There are several notable features of our walk. First, it was very tranquil, and we were able to enjoy the sounds and sights of Lamma’s birdlife. The birdcalls were constant, although often it was difficult to spot where the calls were coming from. Second, we were able to enjoy the plant life. There was a huge variety, including small banana plantations and some amazingly fragile-looking creeping plants that had, over the years, attached to hanging cables and presented itself as an amazingly delicate curtain gently blowing in the breeze. There were bright-red bristle flowers (looking almost artificial) and twisting petals of a bright yellow flower – this trip has inspired me to learn a little more about the plants I saw.
As we walked up the steepish slope, we saw the smallest of temples. Worship was in progress, so I didn’t intrude – a shame, really, as I would have liked to compare this temple with the one on the main street. We clambered to the top, passing a variety of homes clinging to the hillside, and found ourselves in someone’s garden. They saw us and waved (perhaps they’re used to tourists taking the wrong track), and we made our way down. This time, we saw the industrial towers of Lamma’s electricity generation plant poking over the top of the hill.
We saw a signpost and followed in the direction of Sok Kwu Wan – again, there was some interesting vegetation and views of the waterways and the rest of the island. But… we were faced with an unsigned choice and took the right fork - yet another dead end in someone’s garden. This place is a maze of tracks, and if we’d have had more time, we’d have asked for directions (the locals seem very friendly, and most speak good English). But time was not on our side, so we made our way back to the main town.
The big shame about the island is that they don’t seem to know what to do with their garbage. Dumped household items could easily distract you from the inherent beauty, and I was just left wondering why any community would want to look out onto rusting bedsteads, mouldy carpets, and abandoned white-goods.
My son told us, too late, that if we’d made it to the summit, we’d have had superb views of the whole area and a walk back down the hill would have given us a great beach and place to swim.
From journal A Day Trip to Lamma Island
April 14, 2005
Most restaurants have small aquariums, some integrated into the shop frontage, but others with tanks on the pathway. Set aside the morbidity that all the creatures happily swimming in the water will become some-one’s food by the end of the day, and enjoy the antics of the fish as they flip around the tanks.
Lamma’s fruit and vegetable stores were great advertisements for fresh and colourful products. The range and variety on the stalls was a privilege to see and I reckon it’s far fresher than anything we see in England. I’ve never seen such vibrant colours and not a wilting leaf in sight! Local fishermen crouched over small containers of giant prawns and I have to say business seemed brisk – guess they were the main suppliers for the local restaurateurs as well as Lamma’s residents.
Tourist shops prevail, but we aren’t talking cheap, tacky goods – these shops sell in keeping with the bohemian environment of Lamma. Some quality shops sell hippy-type clothing befitting the '60s, well-carved woods, incense, wall plaques, teapots and bowls, ceramic-ware, and jewellery. Here you can buy all manner of locally made art and crafts, and most shops are just crammed with goods (backpackers beware as you swing those rucksacks around!). If you’re still peckish, I saw some interesting local delicacies that could have been worth trying. The great thing about Lamma is that no one is out to sell you cheap watches or entice you away for a suit fitting! Shopping is civilised and pressure-free.
At the end of main street’s shops, we saw a small, less than ostentatious temple. The smell of burning incense oozed out of the entrance, and I could not resist a quick look. This compact working temple was stacked with religious icons and once my eyes became accustomed to the dingy lighting I was struck by the obvious care and devotion that was afforded this temple. It was spotless – shame the store cupboard door was open and the cleaning goods on display. Fresh fruit and vases of flowers adorned the small room, and numerous lanterns hung from the ceiling.
To the left of the door was a strange-looking Buddha sporting a bizarre smile, but take time and look into those eyes. They have a caring and kindly look about them and will follow you round the temple. Brightly coloured pennants flank this idol, and the reds, yellows, and greens are complimented by similar hues in two embroidered triangles of flowers. Above hangs a single unlit red bulb, but quite what that’s about is anyone’s guess. I have to say that this temple did not command the reverence that most do, not helped by its uncared for exterior.
Brighton, United Kingdom
December 4, 2001
From journal Hong Kong
July 2, 2001
If you start out in Yung Shue Wan like I did you'll pass by a steep incline that leads to the back entrance of an enormous power plant. Though the pine tree lined road looks inviting, there is no scenic payoff at the top. Continue on to the nearby beaches, which all unfortunately feature views of said power plant. They also seem to be popular with sharks, which make you wonder why people would choose to visit these locations for swimming and sunbathing. Hung Shing Yeh Beach does offer shark netting and lifeguards on duty, and I imagine that the residents of Lamma are happy not to have to ferry to another island for a day on the water.
After leaving the Hung Shing Yeh area the hiking path begins a steep ascent. Make sure to bring along good shoes for this paved yet taxing walk. Near the pinnacle of the path's journey is a pagoda, which makes for a nice resting stop with wonderful views of the crashing surf below. This part of the hike runs entirely along the water's edge, with dramatic sights every few steps.
Heading down the hillside towards Sok Kwu Wan you'll pass Kamikaze Cave, a very dark entrance that I didn't venture too far in by myself. Supposedly the site was where many rebellious Chinese natives were slaughtered by the occupying Japanese forces of World War II. Another five minutes and you'll come around the harbor to wind up in the sleepy fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan. It might be a better idea to reverse the course as the ferries depart Yung Shue Wan much more frequently, meaning you won't have to time your arrival and hurry the pace of this pleasurable walk.
From journal China: Hong Kong - Lamma