LAMMA ISLAND IS JUST 30 MINUTES FROM BUSTLING HONG KONG, BUT ITS LAID-BACK VIBE MAKES IT FEEL LIKE IT’S A WORLD AWAY, WRITES BERNARD O’RIORDAN
At first glimpse, the sleepy fishing village of Yung Shue Wan could easily be mistaken for one of those picturesque ports dotted throughout the Meditteranean.
With its quaint little houses, golden sandy beaches, abundant sunshine and incredibly fresh seafood, Lamma Island is like an oasis in the middle of the South China Sea.
When you first arrive at Lamma, just a 30-minute ferry ride from Hong Kong, the first thing you notice are dozens of tiny fishing boats bobbing around on the turquoise waters.
Further on there are gardens full of bright hibiscus and camellia, fringed by papaya trees and banana plants, making it a popular escape from the noisy crowds of Hong Kong Island.
Lamma is also a car-free zone, epitomised by its characteristic laid-back vibe and the notable lack of high rises buildings – except for a large power station on the western side of the island (pictured above).
A cluster of seafood restaurants, bars, cafes and knick-knack shops line the beach at the village of Yung Shue Wan, just a minute’s walk from the ferry pier.
The seafood restaurants are the star attraction here for many visitors. In fact, I’ve been coming here every year for the past 10 years just to dine at one of these incredible eateries. That’s how good it is.
When I first visited back in 2006 friends took me to a place that has since become a favourite haunt. Back then it was known as Lancombe Seafood Restaurant, but in 2012 it had a change of name and ownership.
It still employs many of the same friendly faces but it’s now known as Andy’s Seafood, or Sau Kee, at 43 Main Road, Yung Shue Wan.
Nestled on the waterfront half way through the village, Andy’s is the perfect place to sit with a frosty bottle or two of Tsingtao beer on one of Hong Kong’s typically humid days. This is not the sort of place to be fussy.
It’s rough and ready Chinese food in a relaxed setting. While it’s not necessarily the cheapest (depending on what you order), it is up there as some of the best.
Whenever I visit I cannot go past the salt and pepper calamari. With a light crisp battered and delicate spice, it’s a standout dish.
The usual chicken or beef stir fry’s are also pretty good, so too is the fried rice.I think over the years I’ve tried close to half the menu here.
The scallops with vermicelli and garlic are amazing. So too the steamed snapper with ginger and spring onion.
Andy’s is the sort of place you can easily while away the hours, watching as the ferry brings a new wave of visitors to the island each hour.
I’m sure some of the other seafood restaurants along here are just as good – like the Rainbow Seafood Restaurant, which gets good reviews. It’s just that I’ve never tried them.
From my point of view, when you’re on a good thing, you stick to it.
A good way to work off a big lunch is to stroll out of the village and into Lamma’s lush hinterland.
From Yung Shue Wan pier, follow the narrow and congested path west and it will lead you to a popular sandy beach at Hung Shing Ye. It’s a 20-minute walk at most, on a paved footpath that meanders through a quiet residential area.
The beach is popular with ex-pats and families on weekends and holidays, but if you go early in the morning you can easily find a secluded spot for the day. There’s also a café, a barbecue area, changing rooms, showers and toilets.
For the more adventurous, you can keep following the trail to the other side of the island.
The path actually links the two main villages – Yung Shue Wan in the north with Sok Kwu Wan in the south – and takes just over an hour to walk.
Both have separate ports and separate dedicated ferry services to Hong Kong Island.