Throwback Thursday – Lamma Island

Lamma Island in Hong Kong is one of my absolute favorite spots that I’ve visited on my travels. I know that it seems like I say that about every place I been, but if you asked me right now where I’d want to retire and lounge for the rest of my days, it’d be a difficult choice between Lamma Island and Kuta on Lombok.

The harbor of Yung Shue Wan
The harbor of Yung Shue Wan

A bare half-hour ferry ride away from the hustling, bustling chaos that is the main metropolis of Hong Kong, Lamma is a tiny little island where a far simpler way of life reigns supreme. Aside from a few ATVs that are used to haul around supplies, there are absolutely no motorized vehicles. In addition, none of the buildings are allowed to have more than seven hundred square feet per floor. To put it lightly, the people of Lamma aren’t yearning for the city life.

People head to the mainland every morning for school and work.
People head to the mainland every morning for school and work.

Westerners are a dime a dozen in Hong Kong in general, but Lamma has become sort of an expat haven for those looking for an alternative lifestyle. Case in point: I was there on May 1st, and the expat community came together to have a May Day celebration, complete with a maypole bedecked with ribbons, on one of the beaches. Not sure you’d find that anywhere else in SE Asia…

May Day celebrations on  Hung Shing Ye beach...which is slightly marred by the power plant in the background.
May Day celebrations on Hung Shing Ye beach…which is slightly marred by the power plant in the background.
Along the path connecting Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan.
Along the path connecting Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan.

My time on Lamma Island was meant to be a “getaway’s getaway” during my trip to Hong Kong in May of 2012. It’s true that quiet corners can be found in Hong Kong, but on Lamma, that’s the norm, rather than the exception. The days I was there were spent eating my fill, lounging on the balcony of my hotel room in my bikini with a glass of wine in one hand and a book in the other, hiking along secluded mountain paths, and reclining on the beach. In short, some time on Lamma is the perfect way to lower your blood pressure.

There are two main towns on Lamma Island: Yung Shue Wan, where most of the accommodation and “night life” (what little there is, at least) can be found, and Sok Kwu Wan, which is basically a stretch of seafood restaurants.

You can pick the fish you want to eat from the tanks...but I'm pretty sure only a giant could've finished off this guy.
You can pick the fish you want to eat from the tanks…but I’m pretty sure only a giant could’ve finished off this guy.
We ate at the well-known Rainbow Restaurant in Sok Kwu Wan, and got this massive spread for three people for about eight dollars each.
We ate at the well-known Rainbow Restaurant in Sok Kwu Wan, and got this massive spread for three people for about eight dollars each.

Both have their own ferry harbors, so you can catch a boat between the two, but I found it far better to take an hour or so and hike between the two towns. (However, it probably wasn’t the best move to wait until sunset to hike back to Yung Shue Wan from Sok Kwu Wan, where I’d eaten dinner with friends who took the ferry back to Hong Kong. My nerves are pretty strong, but hiking alone on a path in the dark isn’t really my idea of fun. This will also be the first my dad, worrywart extraordinaire, has heard of this. Sorry, Dad.)

On the path above Sok Kwu Wan. Much of the village actually floats on the waters of the harbor.
On the path above Sok Kwu Wan. Much of the village actually floats on the waters of the harbor.

On the surface, it might seem like Lamma doesn’t have much to offer tourists, but I found that there were plenty of little gems to make it worth your while. For example, one of its beaches, Sham Wan, is the only site in Hong Kong where green sea turtles lay their nests of eggs. So ecologically important is this that the beach has restricted access from June through October to ensure that the turtles can breed undisturbed. And then there are the “kamikaze grottos” near Sok Kwu Wan. These are a series of caves used by Japanese soldiers during the war; some claim that there were used to hide kamikaze boats, but it’s more likely that supplies were stored there.

One of my favorite pictures of myself that I've ever taken. It was pretty serene...but I was also thinking to myself, "Don't extend dancer pose to far, because if you fall off of this rock, you will break your neck."
One of my favorite pictures of myself that I’ve ever taken. It was pretty serene…but I was also thinking to myself, “Don’t extend dancer pose too far, because if you fall off of this rock, you will break your neck.”

If you’re a nature lover, Lamma will probably be heaven. With beautiful coastlines, secluded beaches, and rugged mountains, it offers all the natural beauty could you want. My second day there, I decided to set off the main trail and just go where my feet led me. After an hour or two, I ended up on the other side of the island with an entire beach, complete with crystal clear water and powdery, white sand to myself.

Hiking through the misty peaks.
Hiking through the misty peaks.
I worked up quite a sweat in the Hong Kong humidity, but having a beach to myself made it all worth it.
I worked up quite a sweat in the Hong Kong humidity, but having a beach to myself made it all worth it.

Usually I have a  “go, go, go!” mentality while on vacation, but Lamma Island was a placed that almost forced you to slow down and take in everything that surrounded you. It was hard to believe that only a few kilometers away, thousands of people were rushing through the Central metro station and hurrying through the streets of Mongkok. For a few days, I was completely content to leave the frenetic energy of the city behind and sink into an island lifestyle.

Complete with coconut.
Complete with a coconut.

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