by Joanne
just experience | just sights | just blah | just write
all photos, travelogues and journals are made available for non-commercial use only. © 2000 JSL
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HONG KONG - PEARL OF THE ORIENT
Lamma Island | Lantau Island | New Territories | Sai Kung Peninsula | Victoria Harbor | Cheung Chau Island
Map of Hong Kong

 

HONG KONG - LAMMA ISLAND

I first stepped foot onto Lamma island in the 80s as a tourist, right at the bustling era where tourism was cashing in its revenue within this British colony. Back then, who doesn't like Hong Kong? Shopping was abundant and the trendiest, eateries were of astonishing varieties and its people - the hippest Stepping into Hong Kong is like stepping onto a world stage full of spotlights.

Some 15 years later, I was relocated to Hong Kong. What was once a prestige place to be, soon loses its charm after its center stage of handover in 1997. Still there are many charms outside of the city itself. Lamma is perhaps the loveliest of Hong Kong's scattered islands. In places sinuous and softly contoured, elsewhere precipitous and rugged, Lamma is full of scenic charm. It has some substantial village communities, but most of the island remains uninhabited - and in places it is remote and wild.

Hong Kong's third largest island, seen from above, it appears like an orchid - although only the black-eared kites that soar above the island ever see the full complexity of its shape. Peninsulas radiate out, enclosing deep bays that face this way and that. The landscape is mostly steep, with a few sheltered, fertile valleys. And almost always, off in the distance, the impressive profile of Mount Stenhouse (353 metres) rises up.

Despite Lamma's size and grandeur, none of the island is protected as a Country Park. However, a small part of southern Lamma is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Sham Wan, the southernmost bay is an archaeological site and an important marine site, where green turtles still come to nest. Studies are now proceeding to examine the potential for establishing a Country Park on the southern half of Lamma, and also creating a Marine Park around Sham Wan. Those who love Lamma's special beauty, and know its marine and archaeological value, hope that these proposals will soon become reality. However, still few learn about this island.

I raveled in Lamma's wild beauty, but for the island's villagers the terrain often brought hardship and toil. The lack of vacant valley land led many to build rice terraces and houses in the most inhospitable of places. Today, across the island, one finds their decaying cottages, old terraces, and long-forgotten burial urns. Natural vegetation is gradually growing back, smothering them all. On Lamma these are doubly enticing, because they exist on an island that has not a single car. (Villagers use motorized carts for transporting goods).

Yung Shue Wan, with its Cantonese villagers and numerous Westerners, has a unique favor - a quaint blend of the South China coast, a Greek island, and "alternative" England. There are dimly lit village shophouses and chic al fresco restaurants. Across the island, at Sok Kwu Wan, the favor is fundamentally Chinese. Along from the Tin Hau temple, numerous open-air restaurants serve seafood dishes. On weekends villagers and visitors cluster around the mahjong tables.

I once hiked across the sheer cliffs and boulder hillsides, to catch a glimpse of the sea inlets and secluded coves - all combine wonderfully. Yet not that adventurous as to challenge myself clambering up the Mount Stenhouse. Occasionally whenever someone visit Hong Kong, I still like to get over to the outskirts over the weekend. There are still lots of coastal seafood restaurants at unbeatable prices, without the hassling and buzzing of the city chaos.