If a city could dream, Hong Kong would dream of Lamma.
Barely one mile off its seashore and forty five minutes away on a ferry trip across the channel, this small island’s vague outlines get blurred, inmersed in the everlasting mist dwelling the warm South China Sea. With its lethargic fishing life, wise and sober as forgetfulness, Lamma is the tranquil yin contrasting the ceaseless hustle and bustle of Hong Kong’s yang; the rest and calm of a lobulate pedestrian precinct, opposing the dizzy bedlam of rush and commotion; a natural forestry enclave against the vertical kingdom of steel and concrete; a modest, unpretentious economy antagonistic to the demanding tyranny of growth, consumption and finance.
Four ferry lines link, acoss the channel, the metropolitan area with the two small and quiet fishing ports in Lamma; and this very channel works at the same time as vague border and invisible barrier between the urgency, at one side, and the peacefulness at the other. Thus, once the passenger gets ashore, their first feeling will be the prevailing calmness here reigning, plus the relief for having left behind all urgency and haste; and if this is their first time in Lamma, very soon they’ll notice another pleasing fact: the total absence of engine vehicles: except for a few numbered and tiny delivery vans, only bicycles and pedestrians are allowed to move around the quiet, narrow streets and paths of the island. Lamma is certainly a resort, a relaxed place for rest.
Along the narrow lanes in the village there line up small shops and restaurants, besides the oft-repeated family lodgings; and though tourists abound, or even swarm at times, there being no lack of expats as well, the village has its own local life and flavour, little needing the foreigners: he who knows how to look beyond the showier stores and cafés, whose signs and prices are geared to the outsider customer, he will see a jolly and temperate permanent population of Asian citizens who chose to dwell this secluded spot, or who didn’t yield to Hong Kong’s glamour.
From Yung Shue, the main village, my favourite walk goes three miles along the undulate path of steep slopes and varied landscapes that leads to the little fishing port of Sok Kwu, on the opposite shore of the island, where a dozen or more restaurants line up, offering to the visitor their exhibition of suggestive glass tanks full of fish and seafood, or their big coolers packed with chilled, captivating beer bottles.
For pleasing the laziest customers, Sok Kwu has its owy ferry shuttles straight to and from the metropoli, so that people can just arrive, lunch and leave in a fast vini, vidi, vinci; but I definitely prefer the double walk from Yung Shue, for awakening my thirst and hunger while going, and for helping my digestion while returning. Once back, I sit at some terrace for having a tea whilst watching the passers by.
So, thus the days fly in Lamma despite the paradoxical slowness of the hours; and this dual nature of time, this magical mountan of Thomas Mann, works upon me as a narcotic, making me feel that I’m not real, but rather as if it was Hong Kong who, by dreaming this island, dreamed also myself along.