March 31: 'HK's Fuzziest & Warmest Community'?
Well, Phil Whelan of RTHK's Radio 3 really does have a great sense of humour! He just saw my made-up story about him playing an early April Fool joke on me yesterday. He described it as "actually very funny". He STILL wanted to interview me, instead of never ever talking to me again! Whew! So we finally got the radio interview done this morning at 11:45am, after some seemingly crossed phone wires yesterday - even though it was a wireless mobile on my end. You can listen to the entire 7-minute interview by clicking here (Thanks, Alan!).
Phil announced the interview by saying on air that we'll be talking about this website for 'HK's Fuzziest & Warmest Community'. Fuzzy & Warm? Us? The "Tough & Cool" among us would strongly object to this description! Not me, though, having been part of the "Tough and Cool" crowd only in my dreams.
So what did we miss in this very short interview? As I've been well-prepared, let me list the topics we didn't have enough time for, but for which I had prepared well in advance. This also serves as the beginnings of a permanent FAQ list (Frequently Answered Questions):
Mission of this website?
The website consists of the non-commercial English and Chinese forums, the ad-supported Blog, the Photo & Art Galleries, tourist & ferry info, free classifieds, a Lamma Events Calendar, Lamma Links, Bar & Restaurant news and customer reviews and ratings, plus the Bilingual Yellow Pages.
As the only local medium on Lamma Island, this website has become a kind of de facto daily Lamma newspaper for many people. The island's population is far too small to support a printed or electronic medium. An Internet medium like this website, with low creation and production costs and no costs at all for printing and distribution, is ideal for Lamma's quite computer-literate population with Broadband in probably most households.
The website is directly targeted at local residents, who are able to read English and/or Chinese, plus ex-Lammaites, tourists, media and people interested in Lamma for whatever reason, logging on from currently 87 countries. It attracts over 1,700 visitors per day and over 2.2 million hits this month.
We help people find flats on Lamma, publish Lamma-related news, photos and stories, give advice to current and future residents, and forum members like to gossip, of course. In our bilingual, free-speech forums people can chat about anything and won't be censored or deleted. But personal attacks go into a members-only, uncensored Fight Club, where people can slag each other off freely and swear at each other. They can even attack Lamma-Gung freely, which has happened occasionally, but rarely.
How did it get started?
It started 3.5 years ago as a pure hobby of a local Chinese guy, webdog, who set up a standard discussion board, a so-called forum, where people could post messages. I joined in 2 weeks later as a co-administrator/moderator and we started the Lamma-zine together as a newsletter to promote the forums and get the mandatory critical mass of people to post messages and keep it running.
Webdog emigrated about two years ago. I took over and expanded the site, adding photo and art galleries, events calendar, yellow pages and restaurant & bar reviews, finally reshaping the formerly monthly Lamma-zine into the daily Lamma-zine Blog 1.5 years ago.
Who pays for the website?
For the first 1.5 years the site was totally non-commercial. But it grew so successful and website traffic increased so much that it became a viable advertising medium. Nowadays, the site is supported by mostly local sponsors and banner advertisers: a moving company, local restaurants, bars and shops, a bakery, HK Electric, etc. They pay the not insignificant bills to produce and publish this site, making it fully self-supporting. But nobody will ever get rich from this website, which is still mainly just a little labour of love.
Who's behind this website?
Lamma-Gung does the site administration, moderates most forums, does all design, programming and technical webmaster stuff, most of the photo shooting for all sections except the forums and much of the reporting, writing and all editing and proofreading for the daily blog. Almost a full-time job, in fact.
I publish 365 days/year, every single day, the self-pressure is welcome on such a relaxed island and some loyal readers keep me motivated. Basically, I work every day on my little labour of love that's grown into a major website and almost a full-time job. I'm only making less than 10% of my former salary these days, but I'm even happier than before, being grateful for escaping the rat race, the office politics, the back-stabbing, the eternal fights for staff and budgets, the working-late 6 days a week.
There are about a dozen forum moderators, several so-called Laudable Lamma Luminaries, some Lamma Celebrities, a few Court Officials, environmental and political activists, plus special-issue correspondents, local politicians, the police, HK Electric and other businesses, plus numerous regular and occasional unpaid blog contributors who submit or help to create text, photos and videos for the entire website. Everything is handled completely digitally, of course, from writing, emailing to taking/uploading pictures, publishing and administration, all handled on a single iron-age, last-millennium PC. (Hardware donations most welcome!)
What is the Lamma-zine Blog:
I, Lamma-Gung, write, edit, photograph and publish the daily Lamma-zine Blog, about anything related to Lamma and Lammaites. I welcome news, stories, pictures and videos from anybody. This is not just my own soapbox, but a community platform where everybody is welcome to contribute. I edit, format and publish it all as is, without censoring or commenting. But most of the Lamma-zine is still my own stuff, of course. Never too serious, often quite ironic, rarely sarcastic, NO GOSSIP, promoting Lamma as a fun place to visit, live and retire on.
I avoid gossip and extremely contentious issue. Basically, I'm reporting on almost exclusively local affairs, take pictures every day and create a story a day, often with the help of volunteer correspondents and collaborators. Promoting the site via printed handouts, flyers and posters, Cyber PR, selling advertising, creating ads and advertiser web pages is also part of the job.
What does "Lamma-Gung" mean?
Ah-Gung is Cantonese for "grandfather" on the mother's side. As a step-grandfather to the 2 grandchildren of my HK-Chinese wife, "Lamma-Por" (grandmother), I'm their "Lamma Ah-Gung", Lamma-Gung for short.
What is Lamma-Gung's background?
I've studied computer science in Europe, worked in IBM (in a small research lab that won the physics Nobel prize two years in a row while I worked there). I met my future HK-Chinese wife on the Internet over 20 years ago and moved to HK 18 years ago. I worked as a Regional IT Manager in an advertising agency and as Regional MIS/Telecom Manager for Reebok, then ran my own computerisation consultancy. I got into the Internet in 1995 full-time and launched and ran numerous websites, including the huge worldwide HK Tourism Board website in 14 languages, winning major, international web awards.
I was headhunted by a Tom.com subsidiary to launch a major full-service online travel agency, building it with my web team and a web agency in 4 months in 4 Asian languages. But Hutchison shut us down at the end of the dotcom boom and I joined the legions of dotcom dropouts. Going from being chased by several headhunters with $1.5 million confirmed pay offers (turning them down) to become almost unemployable within a few months took some serious down-shifting.
When my golden parachute from Hutchison ran out 1 year later and I was still unemployed, I had to move to cheaper accommodation and chose Lamma Island. A Lamma Dragonboat lady was one of my staff before and she told me great things about Lamma (Thanks, Lennie!)
What makes Lamma such a special place?
Mainly, it's the "live and let live" attitude. Nobody really cares how you dress and behave as long as you don't bother other people. There's no pressure, no high expectations, no need to show off, no pressure to look rich or important, no shame in being poor, old and ugly (like myself).
It's a car-free, green island just 25 minutes from Central HK, a major tourist attraction with beaches, forests, miles of scenic hikes and lots of international restaurants. A relaxed, safe, green place with still acceptable air quality, suitable for young people, families with children & pets, and retirees alike. There's an easy-going, friendly, fun-loving atmosphere and a helpful attitude of most people, plus an amazingly multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic community unique in HK. Low rents and low living costs top off the attraction of Lamma Island to local Chinese, other Asians and expats alike.
All nationalities, religions and races are welcome!
March 30: Early April Fool: Lamma-Gung!
It seems that RTHK's (in)famous Phil Whelan (left) can't wait for April Fool's Day to arrive. He played a good joke on me today, two days early. The producer of his daily "Morning Brew" show sent me a surprising, unexpected email a few days ago: "...if you would be interested in a phone interview with us. It would be about your website and life on Lamma. What makes it such a special place, etc, etc."
This blog is usually produced in the mornings while I'm listening to Phil's great and entertaining Morning Brew program from 9:30am to 1pm on weekdays. His photo on the left is courtesy of the RTHK website and this is his Personal Profile. So I was obviously pretty happy to do the phone interview. The producer called me and a time was arranged for today around 11:45am. I prepared well, not having done any TV and newspaper interviews for several years. I was sitting by the phone nervously all morning, while Phil announced the upcoming interview with "Lamma-Gung about his nifty website" on-air at least twice this morning.
Well, 11:45am came and went... The program ended at 1pm, no phone call, no email...
Well, the joke's definitely on me. Good one, guys! As it's 2 days before April 1st today, I never saw the joke coming! Clever! You must be rolling on the floor splitting your sides with laughter, eh, guys!? There's a real art to a really well-executed April Fool's joke, having the victim guessing up to the last minute, maintaining the suspense. I congratulate and salute you, guys, you're true masters of the practical joke! You're even better than "Pete & Steve"! But as it's still March today, shouldn't this be called a March Fool's joke?
Well, another great but lost opportunity for me to promote our Lamma Island community and its fascinating inhabitants on the radio. But life goes on. I got at least this blog story out of it, for the sheer amusement of my readers, about how I've been tricked so cleverly. Yes, Lamma-Gung is RTHK's April Fool of the Day! Actually, I consider it as kind of an honour! Can I get a physical badge of honour, or at least a little April Fool logo for this website, please?
From all the notes I had prepared for the interview I can assemble a nice blog story later on. Thanks for the inspiration, guys! But let me focus on the question that they asked for specifically, about what makes Lamma such a special place. TV Channel NewsAsia also just contacted me yesterday. There'll be TV interviews in early May on Lamma for their feature series "Funky Neighbourhood", so my thoughts might come in handy by then as I'll be assisting the show's producer and crew.
In the meantime, NewsAsia is looking for input from Lammaites! They'd like very much to find out more about the evolution of Lamma – some background on how Lamma Island became what it is today? What do we like most about the place? Who are the people attracted here and why do people stay on? (old and new residents). They want to know who to film and who to interview in early May. Click on this link to give us YOUR opinions! This is NOT an April Fool's joke!
March 29: Fashion Star Enamoured with Lamma Island
Fashion model Elyse Sewell (left and below) looks so very happy and overjoyed to receive the "Dog-Gone Cat Case" novel from fellow author and Lammaite Jay Scott Kanes (right).
Well, I couldn't resist reading Elyse's Blog and it's quite a fascinating read. Here's a non-fashion-related excerpt:
"Overall, it was not worth it to sell my soul to the devil in exchange for supernatural powers with the camera self-timer. Now I've been beset with plagues. The most rheumatic old ladies weaving in front of me down the sidewalk making me miss the bus. The most tubercular man next to me on the trolley, saving up, waiting to cough up his moistest Petri-dish lung funk until the moment I was inhaling deeply. The most syphilitic insistently flirtatious Italian skulking around my table in the coffee shop. And whatever disease it is that makes hairdressers give me "The British Choirboy" haircut instead of "The Mia Farrow.""
She gets HUNDREDS of comments on every single blog entry! I'm glowing and pulsating in the brightest green with envy... Well, spring has just started and Bright-Green is being hyped as ultra- fashionable once again, darlings!
March 28: 18 Restaurants Reviewed in a Single Sentence
Our Official Court Glutton is traveling so frequently, testing other country's cuisines, he's hardly got time for Lamma food anymore, it seems. While he's away again, 2 new restaurant signs went up. Y2K, eh, Ricks Bar got renamed once again and everybody is wondering about who's the Jade Chief and is there a bar in this Chin. tea restaurant? Former My Cafe, eh, Offtime Cafe, eh, Kiwi Cafe will reopen soon under new ownership as "BEST Kebab". That's quite a big promise... let's wait and see if it'll come true...
Proving how rewarding it can be to write a food review for this blog, Life Cafe's cook Carlos saw the recent restaurant reviews by bbChris and Angela and liked them so much that he invited both of them for a free dinner, taking me along! As both ladies were invited by me to Life for free lunch already, this is the SECOND free meal they receive in this pretty expensive Soho restaurant! We need more blog advertisers giving out freebies!
Meanwhile, in the Chinese forum:
Samson: “Dining out on Lamma” is all about dining out on Lamma! It began in May 2005 as the curious mo wondered which are the popular food outlets amongst our Chinese forum members. This highly popular topic has since become a melting pot for news, views and reviews on local restaurants, cha chang tangs, bars, bakeries and other eateries! Definitely recommended for anyone who eats! It's in this Chinese forum that the following sentence first appeared."
Even though Junky didn't like New Holiday Mood, I don't agree with him and you can make up your own mind, eating there for half price. Yes, it's another new promo, following their recent Valentine's Day and Women's Day half-price promotion: Wed, Mar 29, tomorrow, Men's Day, half-price for all guys eating there, except seafood!
Learn more about all the restaurants reviewed above in our Bars & Restaurants Index with reviews and ratings and let us all know your own frank & honest opinions!
March 27: Who's the Most Famous Lammaite?
Is it Nick the Bookman? Lammadonna? bbChris? Samson? Fung Loi? Jackson? The guy who has his own long-time stalker? Chow Yun-fat? He's by far the most famous EX-Lammaite, but he lives in Sai Kung nowadays. Who else could it be?
Andy who? A few days ago, only his friends knew him, now locals turn their heads on Main Street, instantly recognising him and grinning! But why has he become such an overnight instant celebrity, even being stalked by paparazzi?
It all started when the WWF, where Andy works, organised an ecological awareness hike recently and one of the many people coming along on the hike was Gigi Leung. She's a local Cantopop starlet/actress who's been in the news a lot since splitting up with Cantopop himbo (male bimbo) Ekin Cheng. As a guide, Andy answered questions from the eco-hikers, including Gigi.
The paparazzi shot a lot of photos and NEXT Magazine found it "important" enough to make it their cover story, inventing a blossoming romance between the two. Because Andy isn't rich and famous and isn't Chinese, but is handsome and has a PhD, it's BIG NEWS! Bang! Kaboom! Instant HK-wide celebrity for Andy!
NEXT Magazine even stooped so low to doctor a photo of Dr. Andy, cutting him out of one photo and superimposing it on a photo of Gigi, making it look like they're actually touching hands. The Photoshop experts will easily recognise the cutting artefacts around Andy's hand (left in the picture below). What's next, NEXT, fake bedroom photos?
Andy's real girlfriend won't be too happy about his cover story. Quite likely, we'll see crowds of obnoxious paparazzi from various gossip rags on Lamma soon, staking out Andy's home and whereabouts. Poor guy! The "news" is already all over the Chinese gossip web pages as well. I couldn't reach Andy in time for comments. Be nice to him when you see him on Lamma and please refrain from wolf whistles and shouting "Hey, Andy, Gigi's really hot! Wow, you're the man!"
March 26: Official Court Monthly Ferry Ticket Reminderer
March 25: Congratulations to Cardinal Zen
Bishop Joseph Zen, a regular Lamma visitor, has just been appointed Cardinal by the pope in a consistent "consistory" ceremony two days ago. Congratulations for this high honour, one of only 120 cardinals worldwide who'll be electing the next pope. He hopes to use his new role as the only Chinese cardinal to re-establish diplomatic ties between the Vatican and Beijing, a feat he admits will not be easy.
Bishop Zen is a regular visitor to Lamma, at least once a year to hold mass on Holy St. Clare's birthday in Aug, the patron saint of our small group of jolly nuns living in the Portiuncula Monastery just above the Catholic Kindergarten (see right).
Meeting Zen in person twice - very friendly, personable and modest, but outspoken on democracy, human rights and politics - and taking all these photos has been a great pleasure for me personally. Here are my two stories and photos of Zen's Lamma visits:
But did you know that "Cardinal Zen" is also a music group and a "downtempo and chillout project. The music is all about childhood dreams, ambitions, frustrations, and discovering the inner-self through music"? Yes, I'm a Googloholic...
Here's a great site that proves that even Catholics can have a sense of humour, in a forum on Cardinal Zen's appointment.:
"A blog that presents my hopefully humorous and sometimes serious take on things religious, political, and whatever else crosses my mind."
March 24: Making a Big Fuss about Garoupa Gary's Last Gig
This email from lead singer Alex just arrived in Lamma-zine International Headquarters: "Would be very grateful if you could make a fuss of this - Gary's last gig in HK and all!"
Making a fuss? Moi? Be careful what you wish for, Alex, as I LOVE making a fuss about Lamma bands! But much more importantly, what's this about Gary's last gig in HK? What's going on here? I don't believe the official cover story for 1 second:
"The gig at The Fringe will be Gary's last gig with Garoupa in Hong Kong before he leaves for even sunnier climes. This will be your last chance to catch fresh Gary!"
What's the REAL STORY here? Let's start a few rumours & conspiracy stories about Gary's departure! All of us loyal and devoted Garoupies deserve and demand to be told the real story behind our beloved Gary's shock departure!
Come to the Garrulous Garoupas Gig-a-thon tonight and find out! Don't leave without an answer that is fully satisfying for your gossip-hungry mind!
And who will be Gary's successor? These are mighty big shoes to fill for any successor and he might forever stand in the shadow of the Lamma legend that was Gary! Be prepared for a shock announcement at tonight's gig!
March 23: FOUND: Bob da Robber!
As reported in this blog on Mar 21, Bob da Robber got lost and his "bestist friend" was so desperate that he couldn't sleep well for 3 days. He was found last night in Diesel's and a happy reunion was celebrated! The parents stopped by for a takeaway of their fantastic Sunday Roast and left Bob behind! Euan did not comment to this blog if he could ever forgive his parents for this dire deed. But he seemed so happy to be reunited with his "bestist friend" and was gnawing away on his ever-patient companion! It reminded me of losing my own beloved Teddy bear on a weekend car trip as a toddler. I was utterly inconsolable for weeks...
Bob da Robber had been waiting patiently behind Diesel's well-stocked bar, sitting on a beer tap. The charming lady, a family friend, who found Bob got her $88 finder's fee in drinks. She had seen the LOST appeal in this blog and recognised Bob right away. Drinks and cheers all around! I just love happy endings!
Not having been inside Diesel's bar room for a little while, I admired their very impressive chalk graffiti on the blackboard. It looks like one of Lucy's artworks, I think? Isn't this the nicest-looking, artsiest menu in all of Yung Shue Wan?
March 22: Dogs, Dogs, Dogs...
Being woken up at 6am by the incessant yapping of a puppy dog in my neighbourhood. His hind legs got bitten badly by a large dog a few weeks ago. The formerly cheerful, exuberant bundle of pitch black fur is dragging his body around on his front legs now and he'll probably be disabled for life (photo from happier times).
I went for a walk before 7am, a most unusual time for a work-at-home, semi-retired freelancer. 99% humidity, phew! On a whim, I ventured up to Ko Long Village, up on the hill between YSW and the Power Station. Exploring the chaotic maze of old stone village houses, almost randomly poured concrete everywhere, wooden huts, debris, grown-over vegetation, it's almost picturesque...
Finding my way into Cable Road, following it all the way to the top, it ends at a spiked barb wire fence gate and a huge sign. It's an unusual sight on Lamma where you can walk to/through almost everywhere. Few Lammaites seem to have ever been inside the Power Station. It's still a mysterious place for most people who have only the vaguest of ideas of what's going on in there. It's bigger than all of YSW, but a totally separate, self-contained world with all its own services, facilities and utilities. I've still got a big folder of inside photos from my media tour on my hard disk, but I never got permission to publish them, despite repeatedly asking for it. Valuing my good relationship with their friendly and professional PR people and having given my promise, I won't. But it's frustrating, as it would make such an interesting story...grumble, grumble...
Walking back down from the padlocked gate, I encountered the mangiest dog I've ever seen on Lamma. Grimy, pieces of loose fur hanging down, but shy and obviously wary of people it returned into Ko Long Village before I could take a better photo. He looked quite well-fed, but just totally neglected by his local owner.
Further along down on Cable Road, packs of well-behaved dogs of many breeds taking their owners or domestic helpers for a morning walk, pulling them along, eager to get to Power Station beach. I encountered Nick the Bookman's playful but territorial pack of small and big dogs sniffing around my feet. I greeted topless and bearded Nick with a cheerful "So many hairy creatures out this morning!".
Many dog walkers strolled by, greeting us and each other, many of them friends or part of LAWC or LAP ("Working to improve the quality of life for all living on Lamma."). Some of the members of these competing charity groups of true pet lovers know the names of each other's pets but often not each other's names! Checking out their websites today, I found a new blog and a newsgroup from LAWC, all about dogs...and cats, of course (photo left by LAWC):
"We have set up a newsgroup and a Blog. Please invite friends, adopters, foster homes and anyone who is interested in animal welfare to sign onto our newsgroup. We will try to keep the group bi-lingual as much as possible.
"You are welcome to join our
"And read our Chinese Blog: http://hk.myblog.yahoo.com/ehuanghk/"
On the Democracy Wall you can see the latest pets for fostering and adoption from LAP and LAWC. By the way, here's the very informative LAWC brochure, picked up from the ferry pier (click to enlarge). End of free charity commercial...
March 21: LOST: Bob da Robber
March 20: 'No Animal Flesh is Eaten Here'
Vegetable Tart of the Day, Life Cafe
Life Cafe in Soho did not renew their just expired one-year advertising in this blog. They have stopped all advertising activities because of their huge success. No need to pay for advertising when you're booked out almost every day! This is a little farewell story for a great blog supporter and a good example of all the good things that started on Lamma, growing into bigger, even better and very successful incarnations HK-wide, for example: Positive News HK, Fit! HK, HolisticHongKong.com.
It started out modestly, but with so much idealism around 12 years ago, when the Bookworm Cafe was founded by a group of Lamma hippies. Showing the founding spirit very nicely is this historic Bookworm poster below and this ancient Bookworm dish pictured on the right:
Click on poster for full Bookworm menu.
Almost 2 years ago (April 2004), Bobsy & co. opened Life Cafe in trendy Soho in Central on HK Island. So much in there reminds customers of Lamma's Bookworm Cafe, but everything's on a much bigger, big-league scale. Read more:
How's it been doing so far? I've asked two frequent customers, illustrating their reviews with photos of the dishes that 4 of us enjoyed there yesterday (Asian Stir Fry, Big Breakfast, Lasagna, Mexican Nut Stew):
March 19: Queuing up to Get into Prison
Tying in well with the very recent conviction of a Lammaite Phisherman (HSBC Internet banking case) and the recent release from prison of a Lammaite drug dealer, I shot this picture today: a queue snaking all along Hollywood Road in Central, from the Tin Hau temple to the police station, then up to Victoria Prison, a record queue of almost 1 km, I'd estimate, with a waiting time of several hours!
Only in Hong Kong, people would queue up for hours to get into prison...
What did they hand out in there for free to attract such a record crowd? Usually, HK's very law-abiding citizens try hard to stay away from any prison, especially the ones involved in illegal activities. So why the queue?
Something of very limited availability, of course! Victoria Prison has just closed down and the public can have an inside look, for a few days only, at this unique and notorious piece of HK history. Just looking at such a long and exhausting queue made us hungry and we (Samson & I & our "Significant Others") went to brunch in Life Cafe instead (see tomorrow).
March 18: Best of the Year...so Far
March 17: Welcome, New Advertisers!
A new advertiser is joining this website today: the famous Deli Lamma, the location of many a happy dining experience for Lamma-Por and myself. Owner, manager & chef Prafull signed on for a full year, so I've built him a free all-new website for the Deli. Prafull's comment when seeing it for the very first time: "very cool!". I love happy customers!
It's got the full English and Chinese menus, photo galleries of the restaurant and the most popular dishes and links to all Deli stories & photos ever published in the Lamma-zine and this blog, quite a few pages! Check it out at Lamma.com.hk/deli.
"Bread heaven" Village Bakery and Lamma's reliable stalwart Bookworm Cafe have also quite recently signed up as new long-time advertisers. Their ads can be seen in the upper left corner of all the top levels pages on this site. You'll hear a lot more from them pretty soon in this blog.
Balancing out this recent successes, two advertisers are signing off today from this home page: Life Cafe (stopped all their advertising in all media as they're full every day) and HeliAdventures (recently stopped their heli flights over Lamma and HK temporarily). Farewell to these great advertisers, someday you might return, hopefully. Yes, it's the cycle of life and the cycle of business.
If YOUR new or old business wants to become much better known on Lamma and attract new customers, check out the advertising rate card. Free photo shoots & ad design, up to 50% discount and all-free websites for longtime advertisers! 1st month free!
33% commission for anybody bringing in a new advertiser! Easy money!
March 16: Your Opinion about Ferry Service Quality?
The Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre and LegCo member Leung Yiu Chung are organising a questionnaire at the ferry pier, asking a lot of questions how happy (or not) the passengers are about the ferry service. You can also phone (2410 0360) or email your opinions to the NWSC's Andrew Wan, or email LegCo's Leung Yiu Chung directly.
This is just one of the ways of getting your voice heard. The best way is still a hardcopy letter to the Transport Dept., cc HKKF, or at least an email. Here's a sample of a letter that Gisela has sent already. You're welcome to use it as an inspiration for your own, but please change it, personalise it and add your own thoughts. The Transport Dept., who has the power to approve or lower the fare increase, has to reply to these letters and can't ignore them as easily as HKKF. Chinese version of this letter is available here (Word format).
March 15: Ferry Pontoon Adventure Walk
To appease some of their customers upset over planned fare increases of up to 18%, HKKF has added a new amusement park-like attraction to the ferry pier in Yung Shue Wan. Last Saturday, one day after the announcement of the planned fare increase, a double-decker pontoon has been opened unceremoniously to the confused and flabbergasted ferry commuters.
What may look like just a temporary pontoon - set up during repair of the timber fenders around the ferry pier - is in reality a fancy, brand-new, Disneyland-style tourist attraction, the so-called "Ferry Pontoon Adventure Walk"! Note the happy, cheerful colours of the Walk, but don't they look suspiciously like the corporate colours of HKKF's main competitor First Ferry?
All arriving and departing passengers have to navigate this new "obstacle course" before being granted access to the ferry or the arrival hall. Slippery-wet floors, shaky bridges, wind-swept, vibrating gangways, cattle-herding-like railings, water hazards, birds swooping overhead the confusing multi-level design, steep slopes, it takes the average commuter quite some time to navigate their way between ferry and terminal, while having fun and being frightened in equal measures, hopefully! For commuters with prams or luggage the Walk is a major challenge!
The timing of the pontoon opening is surely no coincidence! Now we know what the $2 fare increase will be used for. In fact, compared to Disneyland prices, this is an amazingly low-cost tourist attraction! For the time being, it's still free as an introductory offer, showcasing that HKKF cares not just about your safety and comfort during the ferry trip itself, but also tries to entertain and amuse (and frighten) you before and after your trip when walking the elaborate steel maze of the "Ferry Pontoon Adventure Walk".
As a service to the readers of this blog, many of them regular ferry commuters, here's a series of photos, taken on the opening day of this new Lamma tourist attraction, showing the path and directions you need to take to traverse this steel maze of platforms, gangways and railings, from ferry to terminal. Good luck!
Quoting from this blog, where the "Ferry Pontoon Adventure Walk" has been pre-announced on Jan 17, 2006:
"The timber fenders around the YSW ferry pier need to be
replaced. The repair work is scheduled from Feb-April this year.
"A temporary pontoon will be docked at the end of the ferry pier and the ferries will be docking there.
"Passengers will have to go to the end of the ferry pier, through a temporary door onto the pontoon, then onto the ferry."
After enjoying the Walk, don't forget to sign your name for the signature campaign organised by Lammadonna's District Office in front of our "City Hall" (opposite HSBC). Running all day today, but ONLY today!
Afterwards, show your support by posting a message in our extremely active forum topic: $2 Increase in Ferry Fares?
March 14: Lamma's Legendary Leathermen
9 degrees Celsius again today, in spring! As soon as temperatures drop below the official HK freezing point (20 degrees ABOVE zero), people & pets don their warmest deep-winter attire: Pullovers, fur coats, woolen shawls, ear muffs, gloves, fur hats... and leather jackets for the tough *real* men!
The photos below were taken in the Island Bar by Mr DickStock on another cool day some months ago. Does this have something to do with Mr DickStock living just above the former leather tannery (home of the future Lammarina luxury development)? Are all these Lamma hunks in some kind of secret society of rugged macho men or maybe vintage airplane nuts or leather jacket promotion boys (similar to scantily-clad beer promo girls)?
But don't all these well-known Lamma Legends look oh-so-fashionable and cuddly-cute in their fancy leather jackets? Click to enlarge and check if you know ALL of them by name! First answer with all names correct wins the grey fur hat in 2 of the pictures below (subject to availability which is totally unknown at this time)!
P.S. After seeing those Leathermen, a regular reader from frigid Canada wrote:
"Yesterday, while shoveling my truck out of a Canadian Snow bank, I envied those Leather Men of Lamma for their wonderful warm weather. Poor guys, they looked so frigid!
"I only hope that the women of Lamma are not as frigid as their opposite sex!"
March 13: Best of Chinese Forum - Jan/Feb
March 12: Sunday Morning on High Street...
Scene: Yung Shue Wan Main Street, Lung Wah restaurant, window seat, Dim Sum brunch, sun filtering through the leaves of the Banyan Tree besides the Policebox, loads of Sunday papers being sold outside, relaxed and peaceful atmosphere.
Spontaneously, I decided to jot down into my Post magazine (see below) who's walking by, a true slice of Lamma village life on a sunny Sunday morning:
March 11: Scrappy & the Garrulous Garoupies
The Garoupies will be out in force tonight at Amnesia, cheering on their beloved idols, Lamma Superband Garoupa. Once, a long time ago (Feb 2), they've been belittled and ridiculed as just another "bunch of Lamma hippies", they've attracted an enormous and growing fan club, the amazingly loyal and devoted "Garoupies". Underground HK wrote:
"Honestly, if you haven't seen this band, you really should. They're bloody good, mate. Alex, the lead singer, well, he's got these crazy things he does with his face. Mental. Kinda like Mick Jagger crossed with Steven Tyler (or is that Stephen Hawking?) Crikey, that's a bit un-PC. Sorry.
He can sing with the best of them though, and he writes some tasty numbers. If you're after some good, honest, hearty rock, with chunky guitars, funky bass, punky drumming and a monkey vocalist, you can't go wrong with Garoupa.
Basically, what I'm trying to say is that these lads have been churning out some of the finest original music Hong Kong has seen in, oh, ages. Check them out. You won't be disappointed."
Their latest poster for their gig tonight shows the cute character above. I was asking a Garoupa insider Red Snapper if this is their new mascot Scrappy and if he'd be sitting on lead singer Alex's shoulders during the performance, maybe feeding Alex the occasional peanut and enhancing the overall cuteness factor of Garoupa (if that's even possible). To my utter amazement, I learnt that "He's actually Alex's pimp. All the Garoupies must register with Scrappy for a shot at the legendary Mr Sommerville." Wow! Alex's got his own pimp mascot now! Ain't he truly cool, man!
To join the new "Garoupies Forever!" fan club, contact Scrappy during the live gig by Garoupa tonight in Amnesia! You can also try to bribe Scrappy to let you go back-stage and get a soon-to-become-extremely-valuable autograph from the soon-to-become-extremely-legendary Mr Sommerville!
But if you still haven't become a Garoupie yourself yet, there's another Lamma band choice tonight! Yes, Lamma bands are getting busy again for the spring season! The Rockin's Shockin' Donkeys are leaving their stables and will be hee-hawing and stomping through Chinatown tonight, like a donkey in a China shop:
P.S. In case you wonder what "Garrulous" means... I have no idea either, it just alliterates so nicely with Garoupies... But wouldn't "Scrappy & the Garrulous Garoupies" be a great new name for Garoupa? Well, maybe not...
March 10: 'Strongly Object HKKF Ltd. By a wide range of raising fare.'
Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Ltd. has announced that they're going to apply soon to the Transport Dept. to increase their fares by $2 per ride on each of their routes to Lamma Island!
That's an 18% increase (from $11 for the slow ferry to/from Yung Shue Wan), just 1 year after the last 10% increase. Like last time, no improvements of any kind in service quality or frequency (late ferries!) have been announced.
The monthly ticket will rise from $495 to $540, which amounts to about 10% of the total net income of many Lammaites working in town full-time.
It's now up to the Transport Dept. to approve or reduce this increase, they're unlikely to simply refuse it. HKKF has been incapable of making a profit despite their monopoly situation and captive customers who have absolutely no other transport choice besides swimming to HK Island or using private, illegal sampans.
A firestorm is going on in our forums already and HKKF is in for a serious licking by the majority of their frustrated and upset Lamma Island customers. We have put up for years with HKKF's utter lack of responding to any customer feedback or complaints, not improving their service quality over the years. If they'd make at least even small but substantial service improvements occasionally, fewer people would complain about an occasional small fare increase. But the service quality seems to be deteriorating instead and the fares going up between 10 to 18% every year, an untenable situation!
Is it time to get rid of HKKF? Would First Ferry be a better choice, or not? They've also just increased their fares to Lantau Island, but as a much larger, more professional company they have economies of scale. They also seem to listen to customers occasionally, realising that it makes great business sense, helping their bottom line.
In the picture on the right, taken today, is this a HKKF customer stranded in YSW harbour?
Re: the "Strongly Object..." banner above, photographed from the "VV Parking Lot" fence vis-à-vis the Deli Lamma:
This banner appeared within HOURS of the fare increase announcement! Whoever said that village politics move only in slow and pondering ways? This looks like a new Lamma record in jumping on a popular bandwagon... or did the District Office have advance warning, being such good friends with HKKF? I find myself in the awkward, rare and unusual position of agreeing in this case with the DAB party who paid for this banner...
Well, anyway, who's up for a peaceful protest at the Lamma ferry pier in Central? Lantau Island organised a fare increase protest a few weeks ago, how can Lamma stay behind! Complaints and opinions about the fare increase and HKKF's service quality (or lack thereof) should be directed straight at the Transport Dept. (Citizen's Easylink No. is 1823, other contact info here).
March 9: 'I read your Blog on a minute-by-minute basis and think it is the best thing I have ever read.'
To my big astonishment, I've received the above one-line email from Mr Fortune Chan recently. He's a senior and long-time but also very cynical and sometimes controversial member of our forums (registered interests: "Drinking, spitting, fighting"). As I rarely get spontaneous blog feedback of any kind, I'll happily accept ANY compliment at face value. But I couldn't rid myself of the faint, nagging suspicion that Fortune might not have been 100% serious in his over-the-top praise? Nah! I replied to him:
Amazingly, Fortune came back with "I will try to write something for the Blog but make no promises... Take care and keep up the good work!"
Wow, at last a vague, but honest compliment! I'll be following up with him, of course, similar to the many other people who said that they will "write something" but haven't done so yet. Yes, you guys out there know who you are! You'll hear from me soon again, pestering you into sticking to your volunteer promise to "write something". In some cases, it took years of (friendly & infrequent) pestering, but I finally got a story...
Over 100 contributors have submitted stories and photos to this public island community website so far and it has been greatly appreciated by the readers and myself. Anybody can submit a story to this blog for publication, Lammaite or not, any ethnicity or nationality, any profession and you do NOT need to be a professional writer at all. This is not a contest for "Best Story", but an opportunity to get read by several thousand people every week, even get some feedback via our forums, if you like.
Writing quickly and honestly, from the heart; funny or angry, silly or serious stories about anything vaguely Lamma or Lammaite-related is much more important than spelling, punctuation and grammar. I'll get your writings cleaned up and make them (and you) look good on the home page of this site!
Full credits and email/website links will be provided for all contributors, but you can remain fully anonymous, if you prefer. Barter deals can be negotiated, if necessary, for example free promotion/advertising of your products/services on this website. Pictures (even non-digital ones which I'll scan in for you) are always most welcome, but not mandatory, of course.
I'm still looking for stories on these (or any other Lamma-related) topics:
Contact me anytime for a free coffee/drink and a chat about these and any other story ideas you might have! (Almost) anything goes!
2 photos, submitted by Senior Inspector WU,
showing Hung Shing Yeh police station in 1966.
P.S. After reading the story above, Chinese reader Amy emailed
March 8: Ronnie Norton's Irish Wake
Click above for Bob Davis' photo gallery
March 7: Underground Panties
March 6: Fountain Head Graffiti Makeover
How many times have you walked past the Fountain Head Bar and admired the occasionally changing graffiti paintings on its outside shutter and indoor walls? Did you ever wonder who the artist behind these impressive artworks is?
A crack team of HK's best graffiti artists completed these paintings recently. They've done graffiti professionally for clubs, bars, restaurants, shops, warehouses, even a pool hall. They can paint logos, ads, etc. in graffiti style.
The shutter gate graffiti above seems to show a sleazy bar patron trying to pick up a pretty Lamma Lady? Actually, they are two funky French people, painted by Obsek & Peste, the French couple in the graffiti team. The team was only paid expenses this time, plus all the booze they could drink during the painting.
They got the Fountain Head gig through Lammaites Eva and Comy. Dofi, their "team leader", noticed a simple blue graffiti on the Fountain Head's gate the very first time he visited Lamma. He asked them to do a "paint job" and they agreed. Barman Ah-Gin was happy and the team was also satisfied with their first Lamma job.
However, after coming to the island a few more times and seeing their work every time, they got tired of it and asked to update it. This has been happening quite a few times now and they've been to the bar to paint around 15 times already!
It's all good since they're also the official distributor for the graffiti paints in HK and have a little shop in Mongkok that sells Tribal street-wear, spray paints, caps and accessories, but also offers tattoos and piercing. Email the graffiti team! All photos were shot by the team, except the first, big one by L-G.
The current members of the
Obsek & Peste are a French
couple now resident in HK. Both are graphic and product designers.
Last but not least: Dofi has a German passport, but is shy about revealing his country of origin. No wonder, in these days of cartoon backlash...
He's been painting for about 18 years, since 1988. Much more of his amazing graffiti artworks will appear soon in this blog - a future Lamma-zine Artist of the Month!
P.S. After reading the story above, Taipengshan wrote:
"That was a truly super piece: the Graffiti artists have done a fantastic, eye-catching job. What mural-site will be next -- a logo for the Democracy Wall adjoining the Post Office or the bare Yung Shue Wan Ferry Pier Concourse with the blessings of HKKF? Better still would be Bookworm Cafe.
"Any more inspired suggestions? Please post it here soon!"
March 5: Replies to 2,526 Emails
About once a month, I'm sending out a simple, text-only email to all subscribers of this website (mostly registered forum members & Lammaites). This promotional email is inviting people to have another look at this website, informing them of what's new in the forums and this blog, listing headlines and major Lamma news.
Would you also like a (spam-free) monthly email reminder? You can register & subscribe here, or click the drop-down menu above right for more options. This is my most recent, text-only email sent out last Friday, March 3:
What kind of direct replies did I get from those 2,526 email recipients, you might wonder (or not)? Let me make another list (Cybergeeks love lists!):
People like to read, but few ever give any kind of feedback, unfortunately...
March 4: What's New in Lamma's Restaurants?
HK Magazine's yearly free Restaurant Guide has just been published 2 days ago. It's quite interesting to check out how Lamma is faring in the reviews this year, after some great praise in earlier years. But the 100-page Guide devotes only a single page for ALL the Outer Islands, reviewing only 3 Lamma restaurants:
Bookworm Cafe (Yung Shue Wan), Han Lok Yuen Pigeon Restaurant (above Hung Shing Yeh beach) and the Rainbow Seafood Restaurant (Sok Kwu Wan).
Review of Bookworm Cafe:
Han Lok Yuen
Pigeon Restaurant: (4 out of 5 possible stars):
There have been numerous changes in other restaurants in YSW:
Old Main Street favourite, the Deli Lamma has finally updated their menu a few months ago, adding some amazing & creative new dishes to all their former favourites. But the "Chicken Supreme" remains Lamma-Por's firm favourite and the Tiramisu my own.
The Y2K Bar has been renamed to Ricks Bar and remodeled twice in the last few weeks. It's now a traditional Chin. coffee shop, competing head-on with Man Kee, Lung Wah and similar places in the village. Good luck to them! Lowest prices and Chin. desserts might give this place an edge in the tough local competition.
Aroy Thai has been taken over from "Dan the Bastard" by Pete & Mavis last Aug, the decoration updated a bit, the popular take-out dinners re-introduced and the choices expanded with daily specials. Renaming the place to The Corner Pin is in progress, even though regulars seem to prefer the nickname "The Ginger Mullet", for obvious reasons. Their bar and breakfast regulars (-3pm) seem to have remained loyal.
Kiwi Cafe closed several months ago and nobody has taken over the place yet.
The Full Monty has been taken over by Rick, former manager of Y2K/Ricks Bar, and the menu updated and extended. His wife Luisa is cooking & serving with a big smile. Try their new menu!
Cococabana in Mo Tat Wan (the best non-Chin. restaurant on Lamma, in my humble opinion) has closed down and moved to Deep Water Bay, according to the HK Magazine's Restaurant Guide. It'll be missed, the only 5-star place on Lamma Island. I hope you'll do great in Deep Water Bay, Jean Paul, au revoir!
After reading the paragraph above, Jean Paul emailed and sent in these photos of the all-new Cococabana in Deep Water Bay:
"Actually the move was on the cards for 3 years, I had done a 3+3 years contract and after the first 3 years, the owner of the building (the landlord who's living in the restaurant) tried unsuccessfully to take back the restaurant and run it himself. He had even made offers to my staff of the day.
"Well, he failed, thanks to my 3+3 years contract. Well, the end of the contract had finally come up in 2005 and, fortunately, I got the Deep Water Bay location. It's also a very good location which I fancied running many years ago. It's doing incredibly well. Although there's nothing quite like the tranquility and nature of Lamma Island. Yes, my family and I still live in Mo Tat Wan and I guess I am torn between two beaches.
"As I understand, my former restaurant is now a Chinese-Western BBQ place catering to a more local Sunday crowd. But I have only seen them open once in the last two weeks and I've got no idea how they are doing."
Add your own opinions and reviews to our comprehensive Index of Bars & Restaurants (Reviews & Ratings)!
P.S. Only the following restaurants mentioned above are
current Lamma.com.hk advertisers:
March 3: Old Lamma Photo Exhibition
Click on individual panels above to enlarge!
There's a great exhibition on today outside YSW City Hall (opposite HSBC) and tomorrow, Sat and Sun, in the Lamma ferry pier in Central: Old Lamma photos, mostly from the 60s! These amazing photos belonged to the late Mr. Lee Sun Wing, a local resident of Lamma Island. The Chinese-only introduction panel of the exhibition, geared at tourists and locals passing by, says:
Have a look at the exhibition and pick up the Tourism Guide at the venues during and after the exhibitions:
It mentions that "The island is very peaceful and tranquil, with nice and friendly people" and our "pretty, tree-shaded village" with its "dainty restaurants, pubs, shops and grocery stores selling handicrafts and souvenirs." "It is a gourmet paradise" with "seafood at bargain prices" and "junks sailing in the boundless sea". Really? Are they really talking about Lamma?
"Travelers can witness how mysterious the force of the universe is when they go to see how rocks have been erased and shaped by waves breaking on the shore."
The mysterious force of the universe! Wowee! Do we realise and appreciate in what a truly amazing place we Lammaites live? According to this Tourism Guide, Lamma Island is the "place that expatriates like most among all the islands." This supposedly includes HK Island! Yeah, right on!
March 2: Lamma Women Making News
(C) 2006 SCMP Post Magazine; HK Magazine
March 1: Yung Shue Wan High Street?
Weekend tourist traffic in Main Street? A stampede to a free buffet or a Harry booksigning?
Don't these drawings look like typical scenes in YSW Main Street?
Browsing in a Dymock's book shop, I noticed that Lamma's Master Cartoonist, Harry Harrison, has just published an entire large-format book full of his masterpieces. A sequel to his first wonderful children's book A Dirty Story, it's called An Even Dirtier Story. Sounds like a stroke of pure creative marketing genius... I wonder how they'll call the next book?
the back cover:
Even though it's a huge hardcover book and in full colour, with poems by Sarah Brennan, it's only $128, a real bargain. Highly recommended for your children, the child in yourself and for the vast legions of eager Harry fans!
So, Harry, when do I get my book autographed, for all this free publicity above?