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Weeks 15,16+17 - Lamma

15th-17th week of my year in HK. Peaceful three weeks going to the zoo, wetlands and Lamma Island.

sunny 28 °C

Posted on 22nd November 2020

Huge thanks to Dr and Mrs Holliday for awarding me the Nick Holliday Travel Scholarship, in memory of their son Nick who was a geography teacher at KES. He was an avid traveller, explorer and climber, and died tragically in a climbing accident doing what he loved. The Scholarship helps fund the travels of KES students who aspire to travel, which I am sure Nick would be very proud of.

Very chilled out three weeks to talk about. Tonsillitis came back which restricted me to lots of bedrest and relaxed trips on the weekends, as opposed to exploring the city. Did what I could without tiring myself out too much; Hong Kong Zoo on the first week, 10,000 Buddhas the second and went to Lamma Island yesterday, a very hippy place with lots of bars and a party atmosphere. I'm in HK for 48 weeks, so having passed the 16-week mark I'm now over a third of the way through my gap year. Scary thought, especially given how quickly it's flown by. I'll be back on the Bristol Road before I know it at this rate. One thing I'll definitely miss when I'm back in the UK is the weather. Last week was between 25 and 28 degrees everyday; definitely beats UK Novembers.

Just a brief paragraph about healthcare here. In the UK, private hospitals have set prices for operations, and you can find prices on their websites (e.g.) tonsillectomy is around £3000. In HK, they won't tell you prices unless you book a surgeon consultation appointment (which alone costs £55 without insurance). The surgeon I saw said a tonsillectomy would be £7000. I asked if that was the hospital's set price. He said no, £7000 was his personal rate, and if I wanted to know other surgeons' fees I'd need to book consultations with them. Essentially, I was paying £55 to find out if the operation was affordable or not. Rather than prioritising patient care hospitals prioritise making money. Other people I've spoken to have the same thoughts. If you have a blood test to test for an illness, they refuse to tell you the results over the phone. You have to go in for a follow-up appointment, in which they might just tell you that you're negative, and still charge you the appointment fee. Didn't realise how good UK healthcare is in terms of transparency and quality of treatment; this hospital gave me four antibiotics courses, two of which were ineffective. Spent over £200 on medical fees in the past month, and tonsillitis isn't that complicated an issue to treat.
Medical fees in HK, not quite as bad as USA but still very expensive

Week 15 (2-8th Nov)

Went to an outdoor cinema on the Friday; big screen by the AIA wheel, and on the grass lawn in front of it were chairs in groups of 4 (Covid rules). Very relaxed atmosphere, with the skyscrapers of Central to the left and the waterfront to the right. Film was Top Gun. Definitely not my type of film - way too cheesy - but a good night.
Outdoor cinema, Central

HK zoo was the Saturday trip. Mammals section was closed unfortunately so no monkeys or chimpanzees, but still saw cool birds like huge macaws, cranes - about 1.5m tall - and a blue bird with red eyes. Had a very summery vibe with a huge waterfall in the centre of the zoo and little ice cream stands. Felt very lethargic due to antibiotics, so went home around at 4/5pm and watched Goal and Goal 2.
HK Zoo, Central

Ended the relaxed weekend with a trip to HK Wetland Park, a very unique experience. A very popular tourist day trip, it opened in 2006 as a manmade conservation park to compensate for wildlife lost during rapid urban development in the 80s and 90s. It preserves HK's biodiversity - there is a vast wetland ecosystem in HK - and also educates people on why conservation is important. An alligator lives there, and also things called 'mudfish' that look like large tadpoles and live in wet clay/marshland environments. The place would be a fantastic school trip; there's a section with little games that spread awareness of plastic pollution, sea creatures used to make products etc. Surprising to find a place like this in HK because they don't seem concerned at all with eco-friendliness; the pollution levels here are awful. Speaking of, the smog actually does make for very nice sunsets because the light gets caught in the dirty air particles. Pros and cons.
HK Wetlands, a mudfish (centre of the photo going horizontally) and a sunset only possible due to smog

Week 16

Third-way point of my year. Unfortunately still fairly ill so again a quiet weekend, with a trip to the 10,000 Buddha Monastery in Sha Tin. Steep staircase winding up a mountain with life-sized golden buddhas - each with a unique face - on either side. At the top of the mountain was a monastery, comprised of multiple statues, a pagoda (multitiered tower) and a stunning temple. We weren't allowed to take photos of the inside of the temple, but it was probably around 15 metres high with a red and gold outer colour. The front wall was open to allow visitors to look in, and inside the temple the back and side walls were densely decorated with tiny golden buddhas, each one different from the other. They were about the size of rugby balls, and rested on shelves that were almost embedded in the walls. Quite impressive the way they spanned the entirety of the walls, spaced less than a metre apart from each other; apparently there are 10,000 buddhas in total, on the steps and inside the temple. The monastery had a spiritual atmosphere, being on top of a mountain with people going to pray and a thin mist resting on the surrounding vegetation. The path leading up to it was incredibly steep, which combined with it being in the midst of subtropical forest made it seem sacred and untouched. Very cool experience, with all the stones, paths, roofs and monuments being of traditional Chinese style.
10,000 Buddhas Monastery, Sha Tin

Week 17

Hong Kong is made up of more than 250 islands, and Lamma Island is one of the most highly-rated and popular ones. When I was applying for the travel scholarship and researching HK attractions, Lamma was very high up on the list. Spent the whole of Saturday there and it's been the best thing I've done in a while. Probably the second best outing I've had since I've been here, with the first still being camping on Ham Tin beach. Really cool island with an unusual mix of rural and built-up features; there were peaceful nature trails and beautiful hills, yet at the bottom of the main trail was a series of narrow streets comprised of neon-light bars and takeaways. Weird to have things so typical of the countryside and the city within such close proximity of each other; you could start on a trail in the midst of wild vegetation, walk thirty minutes and end up at a takeaway pizza place.
Lamma Island, HK

The place had a very hippy and edgy feel to it, with lots of modern bars and a vibrant party atmosphere at night. Plenty of seafood restaurants dotted around the island, with the island being known for its seafood. Restaurants display their live lobster, cuttlefish, crab etc. at the front. Had fresh cuttlefish for lunch at the Lamma Mandarin Seafood Restaurant which was delicious. One very cool experience was the Lamma Brand clothing store. It's a HK original brand and the only store on the planet is on Lamma, yet there is demand for their clothes in the USA (even though buyers there don't know what Lamma is). Store had an edgy feel with neon signs and custom Air Force 1s decorating the place, as well as some of their shirts having large cannabis leaves on the back. The brand is unique in that no plastic packaging is used whatsoever; when you buy a shirt they roll it up and package it in a paper box similar to that in which rolls of tinfoil come in. Unique feature and one I haven't seen before.
Vibrant streets of Lamma, and Lamma Brand store

It's weird how Lamma is so nice despite there being a coal and gas power station on the island. The most popular beach overlooks the station, which is absolutely huge and has three exhumation towers, each one taller than the BT Tower. It is vast and has a dense network of concrete buildings, cranes and large ramps. Despite this, there is no visible pollution about the station or on the island; no fumes, smog or anything. Additionally, the station isn't ugly at all; instead it's actually quite cool. Rather than being untidy it's neatly designed, floating on a manmade extension of the island that has a curved cobblestone border. Because HK is a natural bay, they were able to build a power station at sea level with no protective harbour and not worry about wave damage. I didn't understand why the power station was listed as a tourist attraction online, though having seen it in person I have to say it was really cool.
Lamma Island Power Station and sunset

Unfortunately the COVID situation here seems to be getting worse, having been under control for around two months (0-6 cases a day, and all cases being imported). Last week the cases jumped up - relative to HK numbers of course - with 43 cases on Friday and 68 on Saturday. The government is extremely strict and quick to react with any sign of an outbreak; they closed nurseries and receptions last week, and starting this week years 1-4 are also closed. They've clamped down on restaurant opening times and number of people allowed out in a group, falling from 6 to 4 at one table. Might seem like an overreaction given there are only 68 new cases, though this trait of quick reaction may well be the reason HK have managed the pandemic so well, with only 5 deaths before the third wave in July and less than 10 cases a day for two months. Hopefully their rapid reaction to this (relative) outbreak means that the situation doesn't escalate into a full fourth wave, though news outlets are saying that it's already begun.

Going to write every three weeks due to work commitments during the week and spending most of my time out on the weekends. Would rather ensure the quality of these uploads than rush to get one out every two weeks. Next time I post I'll be 19. Exciting. See you in three weeks.


Posted by David Zhao 07:50 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged lamma

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