Living in Lamma
If you’re the type of person that yearns for peace privacy and serenity at the closing of the day, after a tough day at the office, it’s less likely that you will find it in the notoriously busy streets of Hong Kong. However, if you can get your head around catching a ferry each day in and out, for very little time (and actually, what a way to start and end the day with a 20 minutes boat ride), then you really ought to take a look at Lamma.
Here is an island famous for it’s ability to attract bohemian, creative, multi cultural and free spirited people, looking to have a substantial life away from the hustle and bustle of big cities. Leave your pretentious objectives behind, as there is no place for these here, and if you’re looking to dwell amongst friendly, interesting ex pats, families and locals, this is the place for you. Lamma has been attracting hippies for years, but these days, it’s the lifestyle hippies that are more commonplace. That is, those who have done well in their professional life or are on the way, run successful businesses and agencies, love living in Asia, and who try to find a balance between everything going on in their lives, needing more relaxation time and most definitely needing a beach!
Living in Yung Shu Wan
This carless island retreat of 13 square kilometres is home to just 6,000 residents, most of whom live in Yung Shu Wan village and the surrounding O Tsai, Sha Po, Tai Ping and Lung Shu Long neighbourhoods. Alight from the ferry and you are met with a thousand bicycles and barrows, this being the mode de transport and frankly the best way to get about. You get used to the sound of the bicycle bell which rings out loud enough to give you time to move out of the way or to the side of the path.
Once you step onto the main pier at Yung Shu Wan, you will quickly arrive at a long stretch of seafood restaurants. Lining the waterfront with outdoor dining on balconies overlooking the harbour, all brightly displaying rows of fish tanks filled with live seafood from fish, prawns, crayfish and shellfish.
amous for being able to select your fish and have it cooked to order for you. This is a popular weekend place and favoured by tourists and Hong Kong locals alike, enjoying both the ferry ride over and the deliciously fresh seafood.
Continue on through the maze of paths that make up this village, to find shops selling everything from alternative medicines and herbs to funky t-shirts and bags. A rabbit warren of organic, natural, unusual, special, handmade, fragrant and collectable things along with groceries, fruit shops, phones and electronics, beauty and healthcare, and all the regular supplies. For those who are not seafoodies, there are a further number of non seafood restaurants and a healthy splash of low key bars where a pint will cost you a lot less than those in Central or Kowloon.
Living in Sok Kwu Wan
On the other side of the island is the fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan which is home to the famous Rainbow Seafood Restaurant, so famous they have their own ferry which you can book to pick you up and deliver you back to Central. The marina itself has a large number of fishing vessels and boats moored at the harbour entrance on the way in and out, supplying the restaurants throughout the Island. Sok Kwu Wan is a much smaller village with little shopping outside of the handful of restaurants along the waterfront. The shops that are there are mostly selling local supplies and food stuffs so as an expat, you might decide to shop elsewhere for food supplies to cook, before heading home.
Sok Kwu Wan, like most of Lamma is covered in a thick blanket of jungle, with the odd temple and village house scattered along walking paths (or again the bicycle brigade paths). Some of these small villages may only have two or three houses, so ideal for privacy and wide open space. There has been very little development in this part of Lamma over the years, with typical village houses being the standard dwelling, however a number of these have been snapped up by savvy buyers, taking advantage of lower prices and wonderful locations.
From Sok Kwu Wan you will find a walking path to Lo So Shing beach which takes you past WWII-era Kamikaze Caves to what has to be one of the best beaches you can find in Hong Kong. Set in a small cove and surrounded by a thick bank of jungle foliage, it feels like a hidden slice of paradise when you arrive. Fine golden sand and a few shading trees, the water is very clear and perfect for swimming or paddle boarding. There are very few amenities on the beach so its definitely a Bring Your Own picnic lunch or drinks. During weekdays, even in high summer, the beach is practically deserted, although weekends, particularly Sunday, can bring a decent although never overbearing crowd. For the locals in Sok Kwu Wan this is heaven on a stick, having this beautiful beach within 15 minutes or less walk from your doorstep.
Easy Living in Lamma Island
Lamma Island overall represents an alternative to living in large scale high-rise residential developments and complex’s. Village houses are the predominant dwellings. Building restrictions forbid any residential premises being built over three stories high, hence the traditional village house that measures 2100 square feet over the three levels. Some have been internally adjusted so as to offer single apartments per floor to rent out and most have balconies and a rooftop area.
For the majority of ex pats who live here, the appeal of Lamma is being able to live in a beachfront or waterfront location without paying the sky high prices of other Hong Kong suburbs and yet having the convenience of a regular and short ferry service to Central and Aberdeen. Perfect for families, couples and singles alike, and completely pet friendly everywhere on the Island. It’s easy to make friends here and the local expat community is very welcoming to new comers with plenty of social catch ups like rooftop barbecues. There are a number of local forums and social networks to keep you in the know about the many activities and events locally.
If you have school age children, the only school on the island is a local Cantonese learning school and for this reason, most expats living on Lamma opt to send their children to schools on Hong Kong island. With an easy commute to Central by ferry and school buses running from the piers, West Island School and Kennedy School seem to be popular choices.