Monday, November 05, 2007

Escape from Hong Kong Island, Chapter XXVII: Lamma Island

As part of my ongoing campaign to preserve my general sanity and my California soul, I recruited a classmate and made another island excursion this week, this time to Lamma Island. In spite of being the third-largest island in Hong Kong (behind Hong Kong and Lantau Islands) and less than 30 minutes away from the main island by ferry, it is a relatively undeveloped oasis. Buildings are capped at three stories in height, and cars are nominally banned from the island. In their place, though, are hordes of little flatbed carts used to truck around supplies and construction materials. These actually bear a remarkable resemblance to the goofy little carts that the dreaded campus security at my high school (the "yellowjackets," so named for their outlandishly bright windbreakers) drove around to chase us when we left campus for lunch.

Side-note: one of my friends, caught repeatedly over the course of two years without a valid sticker on his student ID that would authorize him to leave campus for lunch, gave his name to the guards as "Robert Paulson" every time. There were never any consequences for this. Hooray, public school.

Side-note #2: Sadly, as I stepped off the road to dodge the third such cart in as many minutes, I thought back to the first day of law school, and the first hypothetical my classmates and I ever faced. It was a law school classic: "A sign is posted in a park that says, 'No vehicles in the park.' Interpret it." Of course cars can't enter. But what about bicycles? Or baby strollers? Or goofy little flat-bed carts? Leave it to me to take the comparative peacefulness of Lamma Island and introduce the vagaries of statutory interpretation into the situation.

As far as recreation goes, Lamma Island is essentially a larger version of Cheung Chau. Where Cheung Chau had one fishing village and strip of seafood restaurants, with a hike through the hills on the periphery, Lamma Island has two such villages and restaurant strips, with a hike through the hills in between (the southern village is depicted here). As a result, it's charming in more or less the same exact way, although because the charm is more dispersed, it's somewhat less effective. Also, there is no quote-unquote "pirate cave" with a refreshingly honest explanatory sign, so I did feel somewhat deprived.

One of Lamma's more unique features is a massive coal-burning power plant that generates most of the electricity for neighboring Hong Kong Island. Nestled on a lagoon on the western edge of the island, from afar, its smokestacks rise through the forest canopy, casting their smoky industrial shadow over the landscape (well, more figuratively than literally). They seemed to appear out of nowhere as we curved around a hill, and as they emerged in the otherwise picturesque scene, it was as though the island was telling us, "Enjoy yourselves, but don't get too comfortable. Remember where you are."

Like Cheung Chau, Lamma Island featured a number of public beaches, though far more sparsely occupied than those I'd encountered on the former. As we wandered aimlessly through one of the beach areas, I came across an advertisement for a local brand that has long captured my imagination:

Somebody please bring me the marketing genius who walked into a board room and said, "Guys! I've got the perfect name for our new brand of bottled water: Pocari Sweat!" Every time I see a marketing or business choice as obviously asinine as this, I stop to contemplate how many layers of decision-making it had to pass through, how many people had to look at the sample bottle and say to themselves, yes, yes, I think we can make this work. The number of signatures it must have taken to bring Pocari Sweat to a store near me is probably staggering. And maybe they're quietly geniuses, and making me think about this and talk about this was their master plan all along.

But I doubt it.

There's little else to relate in terms of storytelling. We hiked, we talked, we ate delicious seafood at firesale prices. There is no better way to feel assured of the freshness of your fish than, upon ordering it, watching a chef select a fish from a tank and kill it on the spot. As I took my first bite, I honestly thought to myself, you were alive so very recently, little friend. As I took my second bite though, I mostly just thought, yum.

I'll leave you with one more photo from the beach, reflecting what has now become an outright obsession for me. Ever since snapping that first awesome picture of myself jumping in the air at Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, I've taken my photographic jumping stylings on the road, going airborne at Angkor Wat in Cambodia and at the Great Wall of China. Latest stop? Lamma Island, baby. Rocked the place.


Candide said...

Pocari Sweat is actually a decent tasting drink... =)

And jumping like that will sprain your ankle.

Malcolm said...

goofy little flat-bed carts? Leave it to me to take the comparative peacefulness of Lamma Island and introduce the vagaries of statutory interpretation into the situation.

Those goofy little carts are a classic "vagary of statutory interpretation" If you check the licence plates they're all VV1234. VV stands for "village vehicle". The classification VV was introduced specifically to get round a law banning "motor vehicles" from the islands. Motor vehicles = cars, lorries (we're using British terminology.. :) motorcycles etc. as defined in some statute somewhere. As no classification VV was defined - they are not covered by the ban... A little creative thinking 40 years ago saved someone a lot of work amending an existing law....

And Pocari Sweat is Japanese. But it has nothing on the German Pschitt! cola.