Ryan and I decided to venture a little further out today with our Galaxy Camera, away from the hustle and bustle. We headed to the ferry terminal and went to Lamma Island (南丫島), the Pulau Ubin of Hong Kong. Ok, maybe somewhere between Pulau Ubin and Sentosa.
It is a laid back kind of place, an island shaped like a Y (hence the the Chinese character 丫 in its name) or a tree branch, filled with hills and nature. It also has a beach, which I am told is very popular during summer.
We got off the ferry at Yung Shue Wan (Banyan Bay) and started to walk along the main street and then the hike began. Nothing too strenuous, just occasional hills. We stuck to the paths and it was very easy to do, especially in 20°C weather.
Halfway in our walk, we decided that we would head for Sok Kwu Wan, and depart from the ferry point there.
The main form of transport on the island seems to be bicycles. We saw very few cars and the occasional motorised mini-trailer used to haul goods and construction material. The lack of cars did make the island very pleasant to wander through. It was a stark contrast to the busyness of Hong Kong and Kowloon.
We finally reached Sok Kwu Wan, and along the way, saw some "Kamikaze grottos" that were supposedly used by the Japanese to store boats that were meant to the used on suicide attacks on Allied ships passing by the island. But the story goes that the war ended just as this plan was hatched so the grottos never saw Kamikaze action.
We had a late lunch in one of the eateries at Sok Kwu Wan after our day of walking. It was a smaller snack house, and we had wanton mee pok with ham and eggs on the side. We avoided the big seafood restaurants because we were wary of their Newton Hawker Centre vibe.
We found out there was a ferry service operating from Sok Kwu Wan that goes to Aberdeen so we decided to try that instead.
It wasn't anything fancy, this ferry service, mind you. Just an old but sturdy vessel. But even as we got aboard, we noticed the ubiquitous Octopus card reader. Octopus is the Hong Kong equivalent of our ez-link card, but way better. It is accepted in more establishments than ours, and it is found on all kinds of public transport, like MTR, buses, minibuses and ferries, including, it seems, old ones like this.
Why can't we integrate our public transport cashless systems better instead of all the competing technologies like ez-link and NETS Flashpay? Why can't we learn from the Hong Kong Octopus or Japanese Pasmo cards?
We also have additional cashless payment systems like CashCard, MasterCard PayPass and Visa payWave (seen in more movie theater ads than in real shops in Singapore, it seems to me), which confuses me even more. My POSB ATM card now has logos for PayPass, FlashPay and ez-link. What happened to keeping it simple?
I love ferry rides. Maybe it's the kid in me. The sea breeze caressing my face, the sight of seagulls flying and hanging out together, the seasickness when the waters are choppy… ok, maybe not that last part. But our ride was smooth this time anyway.
When we reached Aberdeen, we saw the jumbo floating restaurant there but headed instead for our next destination, Happy Valley Racecourse, for dinner. Here is a last bit of food porn, our dinner of fish balls with noodles made of fish meat, with a side of wantons, in hot and spicy soup.
Our evening was spent at Happy Valley Racecourse, their turf club. It is a classy place, at least to me, and had both the hardcore punters and the ang moh socializers.
We stayed for a few races, soaking in the atmosphere. It didn't feel dodgy at all, and felt very festive. Although you have to get used to punters shouting at their horses, and talking to you, a total stranger, about their thoughts and tips. They even had a DJ spinning. I don't think the punters paid the fella any heed.
We stood on the fence by the track, and at one race, was even at the starting point. It was quite fun to be that close to the action.
I have to say that the horses here, besides the funny names, have really muscular legs. Maybe I should exercise more.