15 07 2017

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Across the Lamma straits

15 07 2017

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A day on Lamma

15 07 2017

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We spent a day on the summery island of Lamma, leaving from the busy working harbour at Aberdeen, alive with sampans and bright flags atop fishing vessels moored in the harbour, across the busy straits where huge cargo ships powered by, and up to the green forested shores of the island, under a clear, piercingly hot blue sky. The idea was to some village houses in tangled green fields and groves of banana trees, before walking into the main settlement of Yung Shue Wan. Here we stopped for a much-needed cool pitstop in a boho-hipster cafe, drinking good coffee book and reading books off the shelf, before heading off again. This time we followed the busy walking track out of town to “Power station beach”, where the famous “tofu fa” sweet tofu dessert woman has set up her stall under the spreading branches of an old, shady banyan tree.

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Slipping the beach, with its swarms of mainlanders and rather offputting view of the coal-burning power station chimneys, we pressed on, soon soaked in sweat, over blazing hillsides and shady valleys to one of the island’s quieter beaches, to sit and look up at the jungly canopy or swim with swarms of flying fish in the sea. After a few hours, with rain suddenly threatening, we hot-footed it on to the island’s second settlement, with the boyfriend limping from a wound to his foot (having stepped on submerged rocks at the beach) and me sheltering from the rain under a fallen banana leaf, to the seafood strip of Sok Kwu Wan, to eat before the journey home.

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Under the Lamma moon

15 07 2017

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As the sun set, we boarded the ferry back to Hong Kong island and a blue, breezy evening fell over the Lamma strait. Motoring over choppy seas towards the glimmering lights of the city, we looked up to see an astonishing, enormous orange moon. It was a moment of pure romance.

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Island life

18 07 2016

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Since I was staying in Hong Kong for the summer I decided to take a little “staycation” and explore a (very) different side of the city. I hopped on a ferry and relocated for a few days to the neighbouring island of Lamma. Lamma moves to a much (much!) slower pace than the “city”. There are no cars for one thing, and just two main “villages” with a handful of hamlets in between, dotted around green hillsides and scenic beaches and linked together by walking tracks.

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Its an intriguing mix of cultures, played out on a small scale: locals descended from fisherfolk, with their ancestral shrines and little shops selling salted seafood, HK and mainland daytrippers, wealthy (often quite hippyish) expats and a strong contingent of their Filipino, Indonesian and Sri Lankan helpers who often lent the island a Southeast Asian air.

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The charming main port of Yung Shue Wan has a narrow main road (alley, really) lined with Western cafes and seafood restaurants for the weekend crowd, organic groceries and a resident sitar player.  Its an appealing mix of cosmopolitan and hyper-local: low rise, low key and exuberantly tropical. Walking slowly into town, birds twittered in the palm trees and charcoal smoke blew on the breeze. Hong Kong island suddenly felt a long way away.

I fantasised about joining the expats on the island, many of whom commute into their offices during the week, to return to their roomier bungalows in the evening, where they can listen to the waves lapping on the rocks and the frogs croaking in marshy fields. In fact, the trip had been planned as a reconnaissance mission; what would it really be like to be a  Lamma local?

I was staying in the heart of town on a small hill near the pier, with the friendly Taiwanese male couple who run the island’s only gay Air B’n’B, and spent my days – well, not doing much really.

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I had leisurely breakfasts, one in a cafe playing Vietnamese pop music and selling jars of tamarind sauce and shrimp paste, and the other at a place where hearty English fry-ups were served at a glacial pace by a pair of “island time” Filipinas . I walked along the shady pathway to the “next” village of Pak Kok, under banana trees and past overgrown fields, through hamlets where elderly men in their underwear sat on the porch listening to jazz music and past million dollar beach homes. I hiked up to the island’s “wind farm”, a single giant turbine, along a winding forest path lined with lianas and jungle flowers. I swam at the pretty (and popular) beach by the island’s other – much bigger, coal burning – power plant, past the famous “tofu grandma” selling soy desserts under a flowering tree and tables set up by the footpath from local shops shops selling Indonesian crafts and plastic toys and pork belly satays on sticks. At night frogs hopped around outside the apartment and a gecko scuttled up the wall.

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After three days my wind was whirring with the possibilities. I was feeling rested and re-energised by the island lifestyle, and yet the city with all its comforts and conveniences was only twenty minutes away on a ferry. I wondered if a return to my old Kyneton country/city lifestyle might be on the cards…





Out of season: grey day on Lamma Island

13 03 2016

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Giants and monsters

28 10 2013

Hong Kong has been abuzz the last few weeks with the filming of the latest Transformers movie, in locations around town including the slummy 1960s tenements of Sham Shui Po, the government complex at TAMAR and North Point, right near my old ‘hood.
Mark Wahlberg sightings and glimpses of strange and exotic cars and machines have been Facebook fodder for a couple of weeks now.
But as well as Hollywood heavyweights and gargantuan robots, another giant slipped quietly into Hong Kong this week, almost unnoticed. While knocking back pineapple beers with a marine biologist on the pier at Sai Ying Pun, he told me that a whaleshark had been confirmed off Lamma island this week, feasting in the murky and nutrient-rich seas fed by the Pearl River delta.
The biggest fish in the world, and one of its most majestic creatures, swam right by the megacity almost unseen.
Magical!