A March 2005 trip
to Hong Kong by MichaelJM
Quote: This trip was highly recommended by my son and his fiancee, and as they were living in Hong Kong, who were we to dispute their advice? We were not disappointed.
But tourists love to eat on this quiet island. If you like seafood, this is the place to be. You will be spoilt for choice, and although there are not hundreds of restaurants to choose from, the ones that are there all seem to have their own charm and attraction. We settled for the Sampan Seafood restaurant (see separate entry), but you could have loads of fun just making your choice. Here the restaurateurs seem to accept that people are "checking out" their options. They will gently encourage you to look at the menu, check out the livestock, and consider their attractive seaview. But they don’t approach you with the competitive edge that you’d expect from a small community so dependent on the tourists for their livelihood.
You can arrange a walk to suit your level of fitness, the level of energy you want to release and the time you have available. We were a bit short on time (a mistake, I feel) but still managed an interesting walk. I’m sure the ideal plan is to arrive at Yung Shue Wan, explore that area, have lunch, and then head south over the hills to Sok Kwu Wan. It’s a good afternoon’s walk, and then you can choose another restaurant before picking up the ferry from Sok Kwu Wan back to Hong Kong.
I’m sure that a day on Lamma will not disappoint and will give you an insight into the peaceful life of an un-hassled community.
Give yourself plenty of time here so you can stroll the island, take in the atmosphere, and most of all, enjoy a couple of wonderful meals.
Accommodation on the island seemed cheap (from our glance in the estate agent’s window), and it is clear that short lets or stays in guesthouses are an option. I’d ensure a booking beforehand, because there is not an abundance of accommodation and it is so much cheaper than the rest of the islands.
Be warned many of the island’s restaurants are closed on Mondays.
A map on the ferry jetty will help you orientate yourself, although there are numerous signposts around the island.
Soon it became evident that we would not be encountering the traffic problems of Hong Kong Island, as other than bikes, the only other form of transport on the island is a strange-looking single-person dumper truck-type vehicle clearly used for transporting heavy items around the island. Interestingly, the use of this motorised vehicle is not allowed near the pier within 15 minutes of the ferry’s arrival or departure.
The only other way to get around the island is on foot, and from what we saw, this is the preferred method for both tourists and residents. You don’t need to be a mountain goat, but, to be very clear, you will need to be fit and agile to manage the walk across the island.
Now, I don’t want to pretend that this is a classy restaurant laid out with extravagant furnishings, but it feels much better than the seaside café it presents itself as being. White plastic garden furniture serves as the dining tables, although they are covered by crisp red-and-white checked tablecloths. We sat under a giant parasol adorned with Chinese lanterns, well away from Lama’s main street.
We started off with a pot of Chinese tea (with a never-ending tea supply throughout the meal) and then poured over the menu. What to have? It all sounded superb. As usual, we wanted a good selection and opted for spring rolls, baked crab with ginger green onion, fried prawns with scallops and cashew nuts, Garoupa cutlet with sweet corn, and fried rice in fook chowstyle. We chose a local beer and sat back enjoying the view and the endless supply of tea.
First to arrive were the spring rolls – I have to say that these were not the best I’d tasted in Hong Kong, but there was a very spicy chili sauce available as a dip. They needed this to pep them up a bit, as the "innards" were somewhat bland. But, if this was the low spot of the meal, everything else made up for this shortfall. The Garoupa was so well cooked that it virtually melted in the mouth, and the sweet corn sauce beautifully enhanced the delicate flavours of this freshly caught fish. Next on the table arrived the crab – sensationally presented but somewhat difficult to eat, as we were determined to pick every available morsel from the carcass. My only advice is to resist eating all the ginger, as it is particularly strong in flavour. Our waiter was not insensitive to our messiness (a sign of our appreciation of the meal, our son insisted) and brought a finger bowl and additional serviettes to the table. With a polite smile, he said, "finger bowl" – perhaps he thought we’d consume it with the rest of the meal!
The fried prawns came next (the tender meat exquisitely complimented by a delightful sauce and copious cashews) and then the rice. The rice was a massive portion and crammed with scallops, prawns, mushrooms, and pakchow – a meal in itself
The four of us struggled to eat everything, but with time on our hands, we paused, chatted, and then returned to the feast that lay before us. A cracking meal for little cost, we’d certainly recommend it to you.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 12, 2005
Sampan Seafood Restaurant
16 Main St.
Attraction | "The Ferry Trip to Lamma"
Leaving the busy Hong Kong Terminal behind us, we were soon to enjoy a multiplicity of sights. On our left were the high-rise buildings of modern banking Hong Kong, and the livelier Kowloon quarter was on the right, but keep a close eye on the changing landscape of Hong Kong Island as the ferry powers its way towards Lamma. Buildings hug the shoreline, and the swish, ultra-modern landscape is replaced by less impressive high-rise buildings, and then older multi-storey apartments. Soon we were observing the more tired buildings of Hong Kong Island, then apartment blocks that would be dwarfed by the mighty buildings of Central Hong Kong. But hang onto the final glimpse of the island, as it is there that we spotted a few individual low-level residences clinging precariously to the craggy extremities of the island (expensive, I’m sure, but an amazing contrast to the rest of this side of the island).
At about this time, we spot the dominating towers on Lamma Island – the source of Hong Kong’s power. But there’s still a great deal of interest as the ferry makes its way to the second-largest of the outlying islands. The waterway is full of activity: ferries, fishing vessels, offshore container storage vessels (said to be Hong Kong’s way of protecting its buildings for any cargoes that may be the remotest of fire risks), barges, speedboats, and small private boats. Not a minute passed without a significant change to the waterway. To the rear of the ferry, I’m transfixed by the wake our vessel is creating – strange what can fascinate a traveller!
We take a sharp right, then the whole of Lamma comes into view. Surprisingly, the electricity towers seem to give an air of mystery and majesty to the island, and it soon becomes evident that the island, despite its industrialisation, is a stark contrast to the bustle of Kowllon and Hong Kong. The waterway becomes less busy, and we are now seeing many more small boats – local fishermen, we presume – as we approach Lamma’s jetty. To the left are small stilted wooden houses; to the right, Lamma’s main street and two-storey buildings; and on the top of the hill, across a small bay, Lamma’s power-creation towers. What a difference from the busy harbour we left behind 40 minutes ago!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 12, 2005
Hong Kong and Kowloon
+852 2367 7065
Attraction | "The shops & temples of Lamma"
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.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 14, 2005
+852 2807 6543 (HK T
Attraction | "A Walk Around Lamma"
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.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 15, 2005