6 Things People Don’t Understand About Living On Lamma Island

As part of a new series, All That Junk highlights Hong Kong’s upcoming neighborhoods. We continue our exploration on one of Hong Kong’s many outlying Islands, one of great character and umm infamy…


By Steve Karlsberg

1) We Know How Awful We Sound When We Talk About Lamma

If you don’t live on Lamma Island, and you make the mistake of asking someone who does where they live, you’ll probably be forced to listen to at least five minutes of conversation about how lovely Lamma is, how it’s so nice to have a place away from the noise and pollution of the city, and yet only be a 25 minute boat ride away from Central, about how we’re all constantly BBQing and paddleboarding and having late night sing-songs around a campfire down on the beach. I get it. It’s incredibly obnoxious to have to listen to, and it makes Lamma Island sound like some shitty hippie commune blissfully unaware of the fact that it’s just another part of one of the most brutally capitalist cities ever built. But we can’t help ourselves. I hate hippies just as much as the next contributing member of society, but if you’ve found a nice place to live, it’s hard to talk about it without sounding like a dick.

2) Lamma People Are Often Really Fucking Grumpy

Despite often claiming to live in paradise, there’s nothing Lammafolk enjoy more than a good grumble. This might be because there’s quite a few British people here, and British people love to complain, or it might be because there’s actually shitloads to complain about. Whether it’s illegal waste dumping, constant construction work, the pointlessness of the new bike park or the timeless classic “I’m shocked and appalled that this island isn’t exactly the same as it was when I first moved here”, we Lamma folk sure know how to moan. That last complaint is definitely the most frequently aired; there’s a Facebook group for Lamma residents that can be particularly bitchy, but that’s mostly because it’s filled with old people who don’t know how to behave on the internet (I’m mostly referring to one notorious racist old fossil). But despite how grumpy things can get online, it’s a very bad idea to make enemies on Lamma. Not because Lamma Island is run by gangs of shady triads (although many people have told me that it is), but because you kinda have to get along with people you see all the time. This enforces a level of vague politeness that keeps things under control.

3) We Don’t All Know Each Other, Except We Sorta Do

The way relationships work on Lamma is mildly odd. There’s obviously a higher proportion of gweilos and expats than in other parts of Hong Kong, so outside of your friendship groups you get to know a lot of people by face, just because you see them around the village or on the ferry. Maybe you assign a nickname to them. There are at least three people on Lamma who are generally referred to as “the guy who looks like the dude from Breaking Bad”. The fat white kid who’s always screaming at his helper? “Dudley Dursely”. So after a while, you begin to think that you can recognise most people on the island by face, and then you meet someone you’ve never met before, and it turns out they’ve lived here three times as long as you have. Or you take a ferry at a different time to usual and you don’t recognise anyone. The only person EVERYONE knows is Nick the Bookman (the guy with the big white beard who sells books on Lamma Main Street. Having a 45 minute long chat with Nick about the secret societies that really run the world is a crucial part of your initiation once you move to Lamma Island.

4) The Power Station Is Our Friend And Protector

The most obviously non-utopian thing about Lamma Island is the power-station. How could it not be? It’s an enormous, three chimneyed, coal-burning monstrosity carefully positioned so it can be seen from almost every nice beach on the island. It’s utterly dystopian, impossible to avoid looking at, and without it we’d be doomed. Why? Because the power-station is what makes Lamma the way it is. It was built back in 1982, and if you want to imagine what Lamma would be without it, have a look at Ap Lei Chau. That’s where the facility that provided power to all of Hong Kong Island used to be, before they moved it to Lamma. And now Ap Lei Chau is covered in so many identical blocks of flats that it’s literally the second most densely populated island on earth. If Lamma didn’t have the giant industrial turd of the power-station fucking up our feng-shui, we’d look like Ap Lei Chau. Or worse, we’d be Discovery Bay, and that is a fate worse than death. The power-station keeps our rent down, keeps the beach right next to it open for dogs, bonfires and ceremonial effigy-burnings, and that’s the way we like it.

5) Sometimes, Lamma Is Trying To Kill You

Ok, so this one might not be a surprise to you, but we share our island with quite a lot of hostile creatures that would quite like us to fuck off, and I’m not just talking about the fat old drunks that shout abuse at people coming off the ferry. I’m talking about nature. We’ve got poisonous snakes, giant spiders, feral pigs, and centipedes so big they could bite your thumbs off. And in addition to that, there’s the dogs. After the previously mentioned conspiracy theories chat with Nick the Bookman, getting chased by wild dogs is the next most important experience to have when you first move here. Seriously, wander too far away from some of the main footpaths, and there’s a decent chance you’ll find yourself being followed by a large group of dogs, anxious to defend their turf. Lamma is easily the best place to live in Hong Kong if you’re a dog owner, but unfortunately it’s also the best place to live in Hong Kong if you’re a really shitty dog owner, and Lamma has plenty of those. If you do find yourself being menaced by a mean-looking mutt, usually shouting at it in an aggressive tone of voice will work, unless it’s that really scary dog that lives down near Luk Chau. If you see that mangy, dreadlocked beast coming at you, run as fast as you fucking can.

6) It’s An Actual Neighbourhood

One of the best things about Lamma Island is that for all it’s problems, it genuinely feels like a bit of a community. When you need some new furniture or want to get rid of something, you usually try to buy or sell to someone else on Lamma. Need help moving a washing machine up to your rooftop? Go ask Nick, he’ll lend a hand for a small fee. Someone’s dog/phone/child goes missing? Check the Facebook group, it’ll probably turn up. If you were lucky enough to grow up in a place that had a proper sense of community, none of this sounds impressive, but so much modern living is designed so everyone can move around in their own little bubble that it’s churlish not to appreciate the nice things when you find them. We got beaches, we got mountains, and everyone has to have a 25 minute sit down before they get here. Lamma is certainly it’s own bubble, but most of the time it’s one I’m very proud to call home. Which brings us right back to point number 1.

7) BONUS TIP

If you really want to annoy someone who lives on Lamma Island, just refer to it as a suburb.

 

Discover more articles on life in Hong Kong in the All That Blog newsletter! Signing-up this month for the newsletter might mean a free t-shirt for you…

Is Romance Waiting Just Around the Corner?

Editor’s Note: All month All That Junk has explored, analyzed and discussed dating in the chaotic romantic climate of Hong Kong but we don’t want to leave you down beat. In this bubbling metropolis, there is still hope and our great writer Fabienne Lang points out the happiness still to be found.

By Fabienne Lang

As a single girl in Hong Kong, the question is not whether or not a man will or will not buy me a certain type of flower on this particularly consumerist day. No, I’m not at all the bitter type <cough>. The question is, will I every find love living in Hong Kong?

This vibrant and magnetic city certainly allows for budding romances to occur. Us singletons could easily meet our next Romeo or Juliet dancing away on the next big night out, screaming support at the Rugby Sevens, struggling up one of the Twin hills, or God forbid, at one of the abundant networking events Hong Kong seems to spout out of everywhere.

However, Shakespeare is sadly long gone, and if none of these social scenes is your cup of tea, don’t despair! All you need do is swipe right, or it’s equivalent, on the next innovative online dating app. After all, we have to keep up with the modern world over here in the Orient.

Now what?

Once you have found your match, how do you keep the romance alive in between all the exhaustive, yet fun, socialising? Just one more drink with your mates at Staunton’s? I don’t see why not! And what happens when you come home day after day from work well past dinner time, shattered?

Coupled up Hong Kongers learn how to handle work, life and love faster than a minibus screeches to a halt. It’s quite an art juggling romance and all that HK has to offer, and I salute those that master it. If they can do it, so can we!

Discover more articles on life in Hong Kong in the All That Blog newsletter! Signing-up this month for the newsletter might mean a free t-shirt for you…

MTR Nightmares

MTR Nightmares

 

By Lauren Codling

Editor’s Note: Recently, I watched a viral video where there’s a super annoying passenger on a train in China who’s eating seeds and spewing those seeds all over the floor. Other passengers complain. They plead. Everyone wants this guy to stop ruining their 20 minutes of commuting and playing Candy Crush. BUT then this other guy swoops in. This guy dressed in a homemade superhero costume takes out a hammer and beats annoying passenger bloody. Now I don’t condone violence but haven’t we all been wanting to be a little Kickass sometime on the MTR? In Hong Kong, the MTR is blazing reliable and swift. It is clean and conveniently located. Yet, there are those times when there’s that someone who watches their videos out loud because they haven’t heard that headphones have been invented or someone who literally bumps you out of the way to get the last open seat. Oh yes and then there’s Admiralty… I’ll let our writer, Lauren Codling, discuss more MTR nightmares with you.

Everyone who has ridden upon the Hong Kong MTR should surely know some of these stressful and sometimes downright painful moments that every commuter has come across on their daily journey:

  • Have you ever felt pressured to do something you knew was stupid and pointless, but you did it anyway just because everyone else was doing it too? No? Well, I dare you to change trains at Admiralty and not have an insane desire to run like a crazy person across to the adjacent train that will take you cross to Kowloon. That takes real willpower.
  • Believe me, you’ve never known stress until you are past your high score on Temple Run and the MTR pulls into your station. “SHIT, I’M IN MONG KOK. DO I PAUSE IT? DO I RISK LOSING MY GREATEST TRIUMPH IN LIFE? … Ah, fuck it. I’ll get off at Prince Edward instead.”
  • There is nothing more frustrating than being late, running full force at the ticket barrier…to slam straight into it BECAUSE YOUR CREDIT ON YOUR OCTOPUS CARD HAS RAN OUT. And then knowing the guilty reasoning behind the lack of money; you used the card to buy various delicious snacks at 7/11. Heavy sigh.
  • As helpful as they are, sometimes your specific point of interest is NOT on the exit signs located around each MTR station. And looks can be deceiving; exit A and B don’t sound like they’re too far apart, but trying to get from one to the other on the street after discovering you’ve taken the wrong exit is like trying to lead the blind with a deaf and dumb guide dog; it takes a really, REALLY, long time.

But throughout it all, the MTR remains loyal and regular. So for this, THE PEOPLE OF HONG KONG SALUTE YOU! Just please stop telling me to not look at my phone on the escalator. It really does distract me from playing Temple Run.

 

Is there life after Hong Kong? Why you just have to leave sometimes.

Is there life after Hong Kong? Why you just have to leave sometimes.

By Fabienne Lang

Here it comes again, you told yourself you wouldn’t allow yourself to feel this way today, that today was the day you would conquer this unreasonable emotion. Alas, the prayers were in vain, it has happened once more, you have allowed that bubbling surge of irritation and frustration take you over as you walk down the pavement to work trapped behind a meandering and unpredictable fellow pedestrian.

It is times like these, caught behind these zigzagging amblers (most of which are glued to their mobile contraptions) that I tell myself I am most definitely leaving Hong Kong. Tomorrow. Ok, maybe next month, once I figure out where I would in fact move to. The one thing I know, it will be somewhere with wider pavements.

Pavements aside, why would anyone ever want to leave this metropolis of fun and frolicking? There is a constant stream of newcomers, frothing at the mouth with excitement to meet new people and experience all that Hong Kong has to offer. There is something for everybody here. Anything from lazy beach or junk days, to a solid workout from the many hikes available, or trying out the new hot and exotic bars and restaurants popping up around the city on an almost weekly basis.

The list goes on. If you learn to balance work and fun, then why would you ever leave Hong Kong?

I should perhaps be the last person to point out the reasons to leave the city, given I was born and raised on the island. As a long-timer I was one of the kids who welcomed, and then inevitably wished farewell to the many transitory students who only passed through HK.

The same happens in adulthood, working here means saying goodbye to some of your closest friends, time and time again. This becomes tiring emotionally, especially as you then have to go through the same motions of meeting new people. Friendships aside, let’s now focus on flat sizes. Who cares that I’m in my late twenties and have gone back to sleeping in a single bed, and that my rent is almost half of my salary, that’s acceptable here, right?

Unless you work in finance, law or real estate, your paycheque will not be an appropriate representation of the amount of hours you work. The constant exhaustion of 10 to 12 hour workdays coupled with an active social life will leave your mind and health depleted, and your wallet empty.

For a breath of fresh unpolluted air into your lungs, a decently sized flat, your poor liver, your heart’s incapacity to say goodbye to someone special yearly, and because your blood pressure just can’t take one more pedestrian walking at the speed of a snail. I ask you: where to next?

Discover more articles on life in Hong Kong in the All That Blog newsletter! Signing-up this month for the newsletter might mean a free t-shirt for you…

 

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)