A Day Trip to Lamma Island

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.


A Day Trip to Lamma Island

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by MichaelJM on April 12, 2005

The only things to do on Lamma are to eat, walk, and take in the sights, but that really is no bad thing. It’s hard to give a true flavour to this third biggest island because it is such a remarkable contrast to the likes of Kowloon and Hong Kong. Here there are no high-rise flats and the pace of life is verging on the horizontal. There’s a bohemian/hippy-like ethos to the place, and it seemed as if everyone had time to chat about the inconsequential things of life. We enjoyed taking in this hassle-free environment and soon found ourselves sauntering the narrow streets, enjoying the ambience of this Hong Kong contradiction.

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. ${QuickSuggestions} Lamma really is a place to chill out. We were a little unsure when we read that it was a "haven for expats," expecting a heavily Westernised community. How wrong could we be! You won’t be hassled here with people thrusting unwanted leaflets in your hand. There’s an "advertising" wall en route from the ferry terminal, and we noticed that there are a variety of musical events that take place on Lamma. I expect that’s something to do with the Bohemian nature of its inhabitants.

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. ${BestWay} As we disembarked at Lamma, we saw the main means of transport on the island. There were loads of bikes attached to the pier’s structure – many looked as if they were part of the fixture and fittings. We saw no evidence that you could hire bikes on the island – I’m not sure it’s necessary or indeed desirable.

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.


Sampan Seafood Restaurant

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by MichaelJM on April 12, 2005

We ate here on the recommendation of my son who had dined there several times and "never suffered any aftereffects". The tanks of fresh crabs, lobsters, prawns, and fish displayed the freshness of their "raw material," and having watched the antics of the freshly caught seafood, we chose a table overlooking the waterfront. You just can’t beat eating to the sound of the waves lapping on the seashore!

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.

Sampan Seafood Restaurant
16 Main St.
Hong Kong

The Ferry Trip to Lamma

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by MichaelJM on April 12, 2005

Lamma is an interesting 40-minute ferry journey from Hong Kong Island, and I would recommend that you use your Octopus Card to make the journey. On our outward journey, the ferry seats were, to be polite, utilitarian and the trip was less than comfortable. The return was far more luxurious, and plusher seats made for a relaxed journey. We were also entertained by a large church group, out for a day, who were singing and distributing sweets to their group. We must have looked longingly when they passed by our seats, as they included us in their distribution!

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!

Star Ferry
Victoria Harbour
Hong Kong and Kowloon
+852 2367 7065

The shops & temples of Lamma

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by MichaelJM on April 14, 2005

Run the gauntlet of Lamma’s main thoroughfare, making sure you give plenty of space for the peculiar motorised vehicles that manoeuvre their way through the narrow streets, flanked with a range of restaurants and shops. It’s worth checking them out as you go.

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.

Lamma
Lamma Island
Hong Kong
+852 2807 6543 (HK T

A Walk Around Lamma

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MichaelJM on April 15, 2005

We were short on time, an error in our planning, but we still managed a stroll around Yung Shue Wan. To get from the ferry, you have a choice (water or tarmac). We went for the latter and were soon wandering through Lamma’s main street. Lamma’s commercialisation is short-lived, and we were soon into the residential streets. I use the term "streets" advisedly, because, very rapidly, we were on tracks and it was not hard to understand why Lamma does not need traffic lights – there is simply no traffic!

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.

Lamma
Lamma Island
Hong Kong
+852 2807 6543 (HK T

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