ome at 65 Pak Kok Gau
December 11, 1999 - January 30, 2000
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We rented an apartment on Lamma Island for seven weeks, from December 11, 199 through January 30, 2000. When we were contemplating the rental, it was something of a shock to use "2000" as a date! The address is 65 Pak Kok Gau Tsuen Gr/F, Lamma Island, Hong Kong. The owners of the apartment, Moyreen and Brian Tilbrook, are friends of friends. They often spend winters in England, renting in their absence. If you would like to rent from them in HK or to rent their English house email them at email@example.com.
The apartment is in a small community in largely un-populated Lamma Island. It is half way up a hill, at about 60 meters above sea level, but there are no higher houses. The apartment is on the ground floor of a three-storey block built in 1981, which was our first year in Hong Kong. It has a small garden at front and at either side with frangipani, bougainvillea etc. Outside the front door is a statue of Buddha about 4 feet high that greeted us on our arrival. There is a great feeling of space all around and the views extend across the waters to other islands.
The place has about 60 square meters consisting of a large living room (6 x 5m), a bed room used as a bed room and one used as a utility/artist's room (each about 3 x 4 m), a bath, and a tiny kitchen.
From the front window we can see Hong Kong Island about a mile to our east; it's comparable in distance to looking across the Hudson. At night all the apartment buildings in Hong Kong light up and are pretty.
Gerry felt at home right away; that must be because we have changed hotels rooms so often that it only takes an hour for him to do it. Jan, on the other hand, is was tentative: she is more concerned than Gerry about invading the Tilbrooks' space. It's funny how perspectives change. Compared to our New Jersey houses it is tiny. But after six weeks in hotels with just a single room it seemed a great amount of space. It's nice to have two rooms so that we can each do something without disturbing the other.
Getting to Number 65 from the ferry
Access to Lamma and thus our temporary home is via ferry. It takes 5 minutes to walk down to the ferry pier which we can see from the garden; it takes a bit longer to walk up, especially when dragging suitcases or a heavy load of groceries. The operators are friendly; if they see you coming down the hill in a rush they will hold the boat.
The ferry boats make quite a bit of noise as they churn the water and even more when they race their engines as they do to hold themselves in place at the pier. In the morning and evening ferries leave about once an hour; midday it is about every two hours. If it's really late you can pay for a private ferry — really just a sampan from Aberdeen. We haven't tried that yet. One way on the public ferry is HK$12 (US$1.50) on the private boats it is HK$100 for up to four people.
Getting to Number 65 on Foot
The rough thing is that the last ferry arrives at 8 p.m.; if you want to get home later than that you take a late ferry to the neighboring village Yung Shue Wan, which has service until after midnight, and then walk 20 minutes. The walk takes you along the north west "corner" of the island. To be precise, from the Yung Shue Wan ferry (sea level) one goes uphill about 50 meters and through part of Yung Shue Wan village and then down hill to almost sea level; that's about 500 m and one is then "out of town" at a little bay with no houses; in the moon light it is very nice. From there it is up hill again, about 70 meters over 2/3 km, passing a small "farm house" and then a bamboo grove and then after the crest it is down hill 400 m to our place. All of this walk is on a 2-3 m wide concrete path.
We got quite familiar with this walk, making it relatively late at night several times. Shortly after we arrived was the occassion of the brightest full moon for a long time. As luck would have it, we did see the full moon and the near-full moon under excellent conditions on Wednesday and Thursday nights (12/22 and 12/23). Actually, rather than luck, we at first thought it was unfortunate necessity. Both days we were in central Hong Kong and took a late ferry to get back to Lamma Island. The latest ferry to stop at Pak Kok Gau Tsuen is at 7:50 p.m. When we take that ferry it's a five minute walk up hill to where we live. But we came back on Wednesday on the 9:30 p.m. ferry and on Thusday on the 10:30 p.m. ferry. Both of them stop only at Yung Shue Wan. On both walks the nights were very clear and we could see the moon high in the sky, not quite overhead. Because of the motion of the moon and the fact we were on the path 10:30 p.m. the first night and 9:30 p.m.the second, the moon appeared in the same place. It was so bright that between street lights we had very distinct moon shadows and even under the street light we could see faint shadows. We had walked the same route 1:00 a.m.Sunday and there was no moon. Then we needed flashlights.
Bringing Home the Bacon
As noted many times above, there aren't any supermarkets in Pak Kok Gau or on Lamma. So we, like everyone else (or their maid) did our shopping in town at the supermarkets. During our first two weeks we would not let a trip into town slip by without ending it at a supermarket. In Central, the closest supermarket to the ferry is a ten-minute walk. In Aberdeen there is a market a bit closer. But because of these distances and the five minute walk up hill in Pak Kok Gau it was impractical to fill our larder at one, or even a few goes. But eventually we had enough stock that we began to skip some chances to shop.
After shopping at the above store once, we loaded it up and sent it off to Lamma Island using a local water taxi: