Sunday, April 13, 2008

Long Lamma

I have long wanted to try a different approach to Lamma Island, one of our favorite outlying islands and the one closest to us on the south side of Hong Kong Island. Typically, we approach Lamma via the Aberdeen ferry boat (or a sampan ride, a ride on a small private boat) and then do a short hike into Sok Kwu Wan, a main village. Most people go a different route into and across Lamma. We have called it “Long Lamma” and this name, though accurate, has not excited the kids. With Grandma in town, we had a reason to try it.

On our Long Lamma day trip, we took a taxi into Central and caught one of the main ferries departing for Yung Shue Wan, a town on northern Lamma. On the jam packed ferry boat, I talked to a few other day trippers. All were planning to eat at seafood restaurants. None were planning to hike across the island. One of Lamma’s most famous residents is the actor Chow Yun-Fat, whose family still operates a popular seafood/pigeon restaurant in Yung Shue Wan. While we did not eat there, we were pleasantly surprised to find ice cream shops in town and definitely devoured a few mint chocolate chip ice cream cones.

Lamma Island is the third largest of Hong Kong’s outlying island, covering about 14 square kilometers, roughly in the letter “y” shape. Lamma has a population of 6,000, including a significant number of Westerners. As the island has no roads, no cars and no buildings over 3 stories tall, the population has a bit of a liberal reputation for denying themselves these things. It was surprising to see all sorts of little shops, clothing boutiques, and restaurants in Yung Shue Wan. The ATM was the most shocking, though its purpose was somewhat diluted. All the ferries now run only on local debit cards, not cash.

From Yung Shue Wan, we started out on our hike across the island to Sok Kwu Wan. The path was narrow and crowded, though a number of fellow walkers stopped off at the first beach we came upon. We kept going, upwards, straight up Mount Stenhouse. The hike was hot, all sun and no shade. The kids quickly stripped off their shirts and trudged slowly upward. Near the top, Tori said in all seriousness, “I have always wondered what it would be like to hike up a mountain on a sweltering hot day.” Everyone seemed to take heart in the fact that they were experiencing something akin to Egypt, one of their favorite places to read about.

Somehow, we reached the top and managed to get down the backside, which had some shade. Sok Kwu Wan came into view and pulled us forward. This village is known for its seafood restaurants and is the largest fish farm in Hong Kong. The allure for us is the beloved Fisher Folk Museum, where a small boat takes us out to the museum, which is a number of floating rafts tied together. There the kids look at and pet fish, wander around a family fishing boat and wonder how anyone can possibly eat a fish.

Once on our return ferry to the Aberdeen marina, the day tripping adults could start to relax. A day trip to Lamma is fun but life on Lamma seems hard, almost impossible. But if getting three little kids across long Lamma is possible, maybe Lamma is just deceptively hard. It looks hard to keep all of us away from their quiet very un-Hong Kong lifestyle.

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