One of the main draws of coming to Hong Kong was to see my friend Esther, who I met on another trip a few years back. She however had a busy Saturday teaching and then kayaking on Sunday. I was invited along but I need experience, and since I’ve been in a kayak approximately one time and it ended in disaster figured it would be a good idea to skip it. Instead we decided to meet in the evening, and she recommended that I go see one of the smaller islands near Hong Kong, and after looking at them online, decided to head to Lamma Island.
Lesson the first about Hong Kong. The underground is not a cheap option. I assumed it would be similar to China in price and could get about fairly easily. Wrong, its actually very pricy to get from certain points. Unfortunately the map I’d grabbed from the bin of my leaving roommate wasn’t very good, and most of the harbour was just shaded out, so I couldn’t see how to walk there, and was forced to use it. Got as far as Central on Hong Kong Island, then had to use dubiously posted signs (seriously, they had me going in circles at one point) to get to the harbour.
An Octopus card is something that’s really big in Hong Kong. I’m assuming its similar to an Oyster card, but because of this, nearly everything transport related wanted you to pay with one. When I got to the boat heading for Lamma Island, I found I needed to pay with that, or get exact coin change. Thankfully there’s a coin exchange just round the corner. Less thankfully my boat was leaving in 5 minutes and the one cashier was busy talking with someone with a cart outside the booth. Despite this, managed to get on before it set sail. The trip takes about 40 minutes, and gives you a pretty great look at the Hong Kong skyline. I can see why its so famous – it is very much what I expect, and kind of what I assume New York will look like should I ever get there.
There are 2 obvious walks you can do on the island – according to the map, one would take you 2 hours, while the other about 90 minutes. I decided to do the shorter one and see how much time I had left – as it happens I took a wrong turning and ended up on the longer trip, but by the time I realised it I was halfway along and enjoying the route so continued onward.
Within 20 minutes its clear I’ve dressed too warmly – the sun is high and there’s next to no wind. Thankfully this is why I’ve brought zip off trousers, though there’s not much I can do about the hiking boots (to be fair, considering the steepness of some of the slopes, don’t think I would have wanted to test my other shoes here anyway), and the linen jacket is round the waist while I wish I’d worn a vest top.
Lamma Island is a beautiful place to walk around – there are no cars on the island so its a very quiet and peaceful place. Although its definitely not a place for those that dislike uphill. The paths had some very steep inclines and the steps were cracked or just very deep, so you had to watch your step. Every now and then you’d come across a few houses, or a few holiday homes but it was mostly just foliage. Did come across some ruins from the original settlers of the island too. There’s also a pretty fantastic beach with these huge boulders going into the ocean. I ended up clambering up on one far as I could go and just taking a nap in the sun – only left because I knew how much time I had left. Also got to pick some star fruit straight from a tree.
Got to say the 2 hour approximation was ridiculous though – there are so many places you can detour and wander round that by the time I’d been walking 2 hours I still had a good quarter to go, and I wasn’t stopping everywhere.
By the time I do get down, I’m tired, and more than a little bit hot. However at the end of this route is the restaurant area, which is full of seafood options. Clearly designed for families and tour groups though – they had the huge rotating tables and set meals for multiple people. I pick one mostly at random and select fried noodles with seafood as its within my budget.Considering how nice the food I’m seeing around me looks, it was pretty disappointing. The fried noodles were far too crunchy, and although the seafood was nice, it was seeped in a thick jelly-like sauce that wasn’t appealing in the slightest. As such only ate about half, and washed the taste away with an ice cream.
Would have been nice to do the other walk too, but looking at my time and the ferry schedule I would never make it back to meet Esther in time, so hop on the ferry back to the mainland. Decide to try and navigate without a map and walk back to my hostel since it really doesn’t look that far away on the map. Naturally I get biblically lost and after a good 40 minutes accept defeat and head home via the first available underground station.
Have to get back to Ashoka for a shower before I meet Esther. I’m hot, sweaty, and as I’ve unfortunately discovered, covered in mosquito bites. Repellent completely slipped my mind, and I made the mistake of scratching one before realising what it was, so I’m not in good shape. Quick detour to the local pharmacy to fix the repellent problem, and then shower. Though sadly this (and me getting the meeting place wrong) means I’m a little late meeting up.
No matter, cause meet up we do. I haven’t seen Esther in 2 years, when we were both on the same coach trip of Europe. At her recommendation, we headed towards Hong Kongs night markets, including the Woman’s market and the Flower market.
Supposedly there’s normally a lot of food stands at the markets, but we couldn’t find any when we went. Did find an awful lot of interesting stands though – far better than the market in Guilin when it came to variety and quality. Could have quite easily spent a lot of money in the market if my budget hadn’t been holding me back.
Its also quieter than I expected. There’s still crowds, but its not teeming with life to the point you can’t move, which is prefereable. And think you can get just about anything you could want from the market – clothes, watches, jewellery, travel accessories – except for food.
To counter this, Esther took me to her favourite takeaway stand, and ordered up some fish square things that she couldn’t explain and I can’t describe – but were very nice. Followed by steamed rice sheets, which were an awful lot like pasta with a sweet and sour sauce. Both of us shared the pots, and walked away after only spending 10 dollars on dinner.
Afterwards, mostly since we were in the area, Esther took me to the animal street – which is almost nothing but pet shops. Considering some of the horrible treatment I’ve seen of animals being sold for pets in China, I was a little apprehensive of what the ‘legal’ equivalent was.
Most of the shops sell fish or reptiles. And the fish are hideously cruel – most of them are just bagged up and hung on a door for someone to take. Can’t believe they don’t have a high death rate from the stress that must cause. At least the tortoises and lizards usually got cages.
When you hit the centre though, you start to come across shops selling puppies and kittens. Adorable bundles of fur ranging from sleepy to bouncing-off-the-walls. And just about every breed you can list I found up for sale, usually in cages far too small for them, but at least with enough room to move. There was this really gorgeous malamute puppy in a shop window that had a pink towel wrapped around its neck, and he got quite the crowd with his antics to get it off.
The highlight however, was ‘The Tortoise Woman’. The lady had a pet tortoise, and was taking it around the pet shops introducing the ‘friend mew mew’ and friend ‘bark bark’ to her little buddy. Some of the staff members would get in on it too, but mostly they were looking in as much bemusement as we were.
Decide to call it a night after that, and after looking at our schedules and realising this is probably the only time we’ll be able to meet, have a teary goodbye before I try to walk home. Esther insists it’ll be a 10 minute walk.
20 minutes later and I’m still waltzing down the same stupid path. Least I’m getting to see Hong Kong – and I know where I’m going. When I do get back, I have to befriend a new roommate, and get talking with the other – whose from Japan of all places. Shared some holiday snaps before nodding off.
Definitely think I’ll do Ocean’s Park tomorrow.