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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Lamma Island & Cheung Chau Island

Day 05- 25th Dec 2014 (I Continue from here...Kowloon, Hong Kong)


Looking at the cloudy weather forecast for this day, I had decided to leave the main city and head towards the island. I was advised by Sushant to carry umbrellas while traveling to HK. "It might rain anytime and umbrellas are very expensive there", he had told. 

My plan for this day was very optimistic. I wanted to cover two islands in a day; Lamma and Cheung Chau. Considering Lamma to be a bigger island than the later, I choose to do that first. We started very early, at around 8 AM. There is only one way to reach this island- take a ferry; either from Central or from Aberdeen. For us, the easiest was to head to central pier station. Pier number 4 runs ferry to Lamma island. The fares are slightly expensive on Sunday’s and on public holidays. In spite of HK$17 it was HK$23 on this day of christmas. 

Lama island has two moderately populated villages - Yung Shue and Sok Kwu. Both are not he opposite sides. You could travel to one side and then trek to other on a 4km long family trail. The ferries run to and from this island from 6AM to Midnight. The frequency to Yung Shue is more than that to the later. Found a ferry ready to leave at that time to Yung Shue, so we boarded that. 30 minute ferry ride that followed was amazing. As the ferry sailed away from he land, in the harbour in between HK island and Kowloon peninsula, the two pieces of land seemed to come closer and then merge together and then finally disappear from sight behind the misty weather. 


It started to drizzle as soon as we got off the ferry in Yung Shue. It was surprising to see rains in this time of winter. The family trail begins almost from the ferry station. A lot of bicycles where tied to the side bars along the path to the station pointing towards the number of people from he village who might have traveled to the business district that day. You can also rent a bicycle and ride the narrow streets of this village. However, doing the entire trek might be challenging at some areas where there is a steep climb. However, there are no steps along the family trail and they are designed for bicycles. 


The trail leads you to several restaurants and shops in the village. Signboards are there in every bend to guide you appropriately. A small detour will take you to the Tin Hau Temple. At the temple, an old lady asked me to light some incense sticks. After having done as she instructed, she demanded HK$10 from me reminding me of India. I got into my indian mode too and gave her only HK$5.

At one of the restaurants we bought a hot piece of cake that had just come out of the oven. 


It is surprising to notice that this island has no wide roads and thus has no vehicles at all. Narrow paved roads at most can support a two wheeler. After passing by several souvenir shops and houses on this crowded but neat village, we got further on the trail which seemed to go deeper into the woods. 

Being a weekday, the trail was almost empty except for few trekkers. That made the experience a lot of fun. There where many stretches where we were alone. But nothing to worry. There are signboards everywhere and emergency phone booths to call for help, all along the path. 

As you begin the 4km trail to Sok Kwu Wan, you see an ugly power station on your right that seems to spoil the serenity of this place. Bt its only for a while until you cross the side. The trail passes very close to Hung Shing Yeh beach.


The walk is moderately difficult with some steep climbs. But otherwise its mostly easy.  Along the paths after steep climbs, some of the locals thankfully setup a small outlets targeting the tired trekkers. We tried some tender coconut at one such store. It was extremely sweet unlike the one’s I have had in India.


Just before you get to Sok Kwu Wan you shall see the Kamikaze caves believed to be built by Japanese during World war 2. 

The trail ends at Sok Kwu Wan near another Tin Hau Temple. There is avery interesting thing in this temple. A rare fish is in display inside the temple for public viewing. A local chef had found this and had donated it to the temple for public viewing. At first, I thought this was weird to display dead animals in a temple but then I remembered some of the temples in India that i had visited that sacrificed animals as an offering. In Kamakya temple of Guhwati, goats heads where neatly decorated beneath the idol of goddess Kali. That recollection made this sight less weird. 


This 4km trek was a short one. It had taken us only 1.5 hours. I planned to go on another trail that takes you to Tung O and then back to Sok Kwu. On the way, i hoped to take a detour to Sham Wan beach where the endangered green turtles are to be found. This trail starts where your family trail ended from Yung Shue Wan. It heads right uphill. The path was very deserted and the hill was filled with tombs for the dead. The tombs were very interesting. Some were paved and tiled. Some had pictures of the deceased. 



Before reaching Tung O, there are two houses. The only two you can find in the entire stretch thus far. An old lady pointed to us towards the trail leading to Sham Wan. But after reaching there we found out that the beach is closed for visitors. One has to have special pemision from Agricultural department to visit this beach as this is the breeding site for the endangered green turtles. There were boards everywhere that only one in hundred eggs of the green turtles hatch. Disappointed we walked back to Tung O. A few houses and some farm is all that this village comprises of. The farms are very neat and they grow Banana and vegetables here. The village seems self sustained. 


The trail then takes you to another two small villages - Yung Shue Ha and Mo Tat Wan. At times the trail gets really close to the shore. However, the beaches are not that clean and it was raining all through so I did not feel like walking to the waters. 


At Mo Tat Wan, I thought we could take a ferry to Sok Kwu Wan instead of walking another 40 minutes. But turns out that the ferry to Sok Kwu Wan was an hour from the time we arrived. But a ferry to Aberdeen was to arrive in 10 minutes. Seeing that it would be hard to hop buses from Aberdeen to Central we decided to walk to Sok Kwu Wan thus completing our trail. Though the signboard said 40 Minutes we reached Sok Kwu wan in 30 minutes. 

We had thus covered the entire island. 


It was an interesting trek and during most of the trek we were almost alone. Occasionally few other trekkers crossed us. But these treks have paved roads and gives you a feeling that nothing remains to be explored. On the other hand, in India, the treks seem more close to nature and you always feel like you are exploring something even though you know that many other trekkers have crossed the path before. I saw no animals or insects here which was strange. All we could see were sparrows and hear some birds chirping. Even though the forest looked dense and most of the trial is deserted, it isn’t scary.

By the time we reached Sok Kwu Wan it was 2:30 PM and a ferry was about to leave to Central. We boarded that and sailed away from he Lamma island. At Central pier 3 we immediately boarded the ferry to Cheung Chau. There are two types of ferry to this island. One ordinary and another fast ferry as the island is about 15 kms from central and takes you about 45 minutes on the ordinary ferry. Our time matched with that of ordinary one so we took that both ways. You might save about 10 minutes on fast ferry for some extra money. You can only get here from Central piers.

Lonely planet guide had talked so much about this island that I expected much from it. But it was rather a disappointment with crowded streets full of shops and people. There were visitors everywhere. 


We walked to the famous Pak Tai temple where the popular Bun festival happens during April-May time. I can’t imagine the crowd then, if on a non festive time it can pull such a crowd. Right in front of the temple is a basket ball court and locals where busy playing. Kids use a kind a bicycle that has a big carrier on the back. They can keep their bags in them/. It was nice to get a glimpse of some local life around there. Another temple called Pak She Tin Hau is on the other side of the road from Pak Tai temple, next to an old age home.


We then took a walk by the beach. A windsurfing water sports centre happens to be very famous here. But we saw no activity on this day may be because of the rains. I wet my feet in the beach water and tried remembering home. The water was cold and it felt different. 


We walked to the end of the road next to the beach where there are some ancient rock carvings. We got back to the main road and found an Indian restaurant called - Morocco’s Indian restaurant. We had some much needed rotis and Dum Aloo there. The servers had weird Hindi accent and they spoke a language i could not recognise making us think if they had Nepali origin. But from the name of the restaurant it was evident that they had some connection with Morocco as well. Morocco’s Indian restaurant of Hong Kong!

After food, We stopped at this small tea shop not he main street. It was amazing and has some really cool display. As soon as we entered the shop keeper, a very active young man who can speak broken English greeted us and almost immediately requested us to taste one of his popular tea brands. On a small table in the centre of the shop, he made tea and provided us. It tasted really good. I choose some green tea and chines tea. Looking at one of the tea tins, i asked its price. But he did not get me and instead offered me one for free. He told me that he could give me a tin filled with green teas packs. I was delighted. I also bought a small tea pot. The hand made tea pots are very expensive, more than HK$800 but they are fine. I choose one that is half hand made and half machine done that costed HK$300. He packed it in a nice wooden box for me considering my travel back. I just loved this tea shop. It’s such a good feeling when you chance upon a small shop that sells something creative, different and that may interest you when you have remotely expected it. 


Apart from this tea shop, I cannot tell that I liked this island much. It is heavily commercialised and filled with tourists. Lamma Island on the other hand, is a trekkers paradise in Hong Kong at least. 

Back in Central, HK was all lit. IFC building looked formidable with its peak appearing to be covered in clouds. 



We also got a glimpse of the laser light show from this end of the city. The streets of HK island was filled with young musicians performing for public and artists making caricatures. It was a festive atmosphere. 


However, everything was functioning as normal. As the receptionist at our hostel had told me the previous day when I enquired if everything would be shutdown on christmas day - "Nope all normal, it’s crazy here! it’s crazy". Yes it’s crazy here, but in a good way!

Continued Here  - New Territories, Hong Kong

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