Originally published at Libertines Pub
I moved from Sheung Wan to Lamma Island over the weekend. I have a love/hate relationship with Sheung Wan, Central, and the north side of HK Island in general. Sheung Wan has a great energy to it, particularly around 8pm when I get off work. And it’s nice to be so close to Central and the mid-levels. But now that I’ve escaped to Lamma, I can finally be honest with myself about the negatives in the Sheung Wan equation.
During the day, the city wears on me. The noise of the car horns and construction drive pound away at my brain all day. Walking in Sheung Wan is a constant hassle, as I have to be vigilant for both speeding cars and stagnant pedestrians. And nobody smiles unless there’s a camera pointed at their face (Filipinas are the only exception to this rule). Five months was long enough for me to figure out that this is just not the kind of environment I can spend all my time in. Nobody likes mosquitoes, but there’s something disconcerting about an place that’s so hostile to life that cockroaches are practically the only insects that can survive there.
I still work in Sheung Wan, but now I get to go on vacation everyday. On Lamma, I hear birds rather than car horns. I smell flowers instead of diesel smoke. People smile, and dance. And this is joyful dancing, not the dancing-as-status-display that you see in Lan Kwai Fong. People actually go out in public without trying desperately to look “trendy.” Maybe this has something to do with the fact that Lamma is completely free of the oppressive advertising that poisons hongkongers minds. There are packs of mixed-breed dogs and mixed-race children happily roaming the streets. It’s my kind of place.
But for all it’s bohemian charms, Lamma is still the SAR. On the surface, it appears to be the only place in HK where people have some respect for the environment. But there are random piles of garbage along the trails: old toilets and worn out couches dropped in the middle of green spaces. People still look at me like I’m an alien just because I don’t want them to give me two pieces of garbage with every purchase. The seafood restaurants, packed with hypocritical hippies, are obviously unsustainable. Those diesel powered Lamma-vehicles are annoying, and make an unreasonable amount of noise. There’s still a ridiculous amount of loud construction everywhere. (Why do roads in HK seem to require 10 times as much maintenance, at 10 times the volume, as roads in the US or Europe?) Then there are the three smokestacks, reminding everyone that this isn’t really a remote fishing village, more like a fake tourist version of one.
The biggest drawback is the fact that the last ferry for Lamma leaves at 12:30. But if it were more connected to the city, it would be more like the city. So that drawback is part of the charm. I’m just happy to be able to take my headphones off. And breathe.