a whirlwind tour of the windy city

when the winds blow through chicago, located on the south western tip of lake michigan, there’s little to obstruct their assault on your skin as the gusts flow uninterrupted in between the skyscrapers that line up along a neat grid system. many thus agree with its popular nickname, windy city, although that moniker actually has more political than meteorological connotations – windy being a metaphor for the talkative and boastful rhetoric of early local politicians, who were known for their long-windedness.

these days, this third most populous american city is better known as the adopted hometown of president obama, the former base of talk show queen oprah winfrey and for its o’hare international airport, which regained its position as the busiest air hub in the world this year with more than 500,000 flights taking off in the first seven months of 2014. if you’re among the 15,000 travellers who land at its international terminal on average each day, here are 10 spots around the city that you should not miss.

 

lakeshore drive

known as the most beautiful urban parkway in america, the 24km-long shoreline is flanked by lake michigan on its east and the city on its west, where commercial buildings and luxurious residential projects are dotted with parklands. the drive itself is home to several attractions, including the lakefront trail where city folks converge on weekends to jog, brisk walk, skate, spend quality time with their children or pets, or simply sit back and enjoy their time off.

at the museum of science and industry, you can explore a coal mine and german sub or watch dolphins and whales put on a fine show at shedd aquarium, part of the museum campus that sits on a manmade island on the lake. in the evenings (from april to mid-october), feast on the coloured lights and water dance of the buckingham fountain, then dine at popular restaurants at navy pier or lincoln park, which is also home to a 1,200-acre zoo.

 

the bean

from navy pier, it’s a five-minute drive to millennium park, where british artist anish kapoor’s cloud gate has become a beloved icon since 2006. more than 160 stainless steel plates were welded to create this legume-shaped sculpture with a seamless, shiny surface that projects mirror images of the surrounding buildings. affectionately called the bean, it can, with a stretch of the imagination and childhood wonder, symbolise a modern-day urban incarnation of jack and the beanstalk. the same reflective skin wraps around the underneath of the bean, which visitors can access by walking through its 3.7m-high arch and stand surrounded by refractive images, not unlike being inside a kaleidoscope tube.

 

pritzker pavilion

adjacent to the bean is the frank gehry-designed pritzker pavilion, a music venue that can seat up to 11,000 and plays host to events like the grant park music festival – the only free outdoor classical music series in america. the pavilion is equipped with a sophisticated sound system of acoustic design that mimics the audio quality and sensorial experience of an indoor concert hall. fitted across a trellis network that fronts the stage area that’s crowned by gehry’s proprietary brushed stainless steel headdress, the pavilion is really more a work of art than mere concert venue.

 

the magnificent mile

across millenium park is a 13-block avenue known as magnificent mile, the pulse of the city with over 400 boutiques, some 60 hotels, more than 250 restaurants, a good number of art galleries, theatres and watering holes housed in majestic buildings that boast of classic architectural styles. among the most recognisable icons are the tribune tower, where a portion of its facade contains stones from more than 150 global landmarks, including the great wall of china, taj mahal and the berlin wall. at the northern end of the mile, the drake hotel’s cape cod has consistently ranked high for its fresh seafood offerings and famous for its wooden bar, where famous guests like marilyn monroe and joe dimaggio carved their initials.

 

the loop

you would have seen enough of chicago’s towering skyline from the ground by now. for a change of pace and scenery, view the iconic buildings from a closer perspective – from on board an l train, the city’s elevated rapid transit system. complete the loop circuit, which covers nine stations around an elevated quadrangular loop in chicago’s downtown and whizzes you past some of the city’s most iconic buildings several storeys off the ground.

 

john hancock lounge 875 north michigan avenue, chicago www.360chicago.com and www.signatureroom.com

for even loftier views, head to the john hancock center and be prepared to hear your eardrums pop as you take to escalator to the 94th and 95th floors of the 100-storey tower, home to 360 chicago and the signature room, respectively. the former delivers on its name, affording 360-degree views of the city – there’s also an open-air skywalk – from 1,000ft above ground level. for after-dinner drinks, the latter offers an extensive list of cocktails and classics while you take in the sparkling panorama and see for yourself why it served as part inspiration for batman’s gotham city. the upcoming batman vs superman: dawn of justice, is currently filming in chicago’s uptown area.

 

uno pizzeria & grill 619 north wabash avenue www.unos.com

for all the fine dining, world-class restaurants that chicago offers, sometimes nothing beats the culinary comforts of a pizza – especially when it’s a deep dish pizza, invented by ike sewell in 1943 at his restaurant, uno. now a global empire of more than 140 outlets, it was at this outlet at the corner of ohio and wabash that he served the first numero uno, with its nearly two inch-tall buttery crust holding a generous amount of sausage, pepperoni, onion, pepper and mushroom swimming in a chunky tomato sauce topped with mozzarella and romano cheeses. the menu and options expanded as its fame grew; you can now choose between a traditional or nine-grain crust, and even customise your toppings. if you can’t get a table at the original uno, head across the road to its sister outlet, pizza due.

 

super dawgs 6363 north milwaukee avenue opens 11am-1am, sunday-thursday; 11am-2am, friday-saturday www.superdawg.com

five years after pizza uno first delighted chicago with its indulgent italian concoction, a more american comfort food took roots when then-newlyweds maurie and flaurie berman set up a hotdog cart they called superdawg, inspired by the comic superheroes of the 1940s. aside from a secret recipe, the bermans planted a pair of 12-foot hot dog icons – a male and a female, representing the couple themselves – on top of their stall, complete with flirtatious winking and blinking eyes to attract customers.

from a summer-only endeavour, superdawg grew into a profitable business that fed their family of five and from a simple stall to a drive-in restaurant, developing into a much-loved chicago icon. besides superb hotdogs, their other bestseller is the fantastic crinkle-cut superfries, the result of a precise four-step cooking process to ensure every potato stick is golden and crispy. in 2009, a second superdawg opened in milwaukee, modelled after the original.

 

 

the blue man group 3133 north halsted www.blueman.com/chicago/

they deliver cheesy slapstick routines, make music out of pvc pipes and they’re blue. the blue man group was an instant hit when the show debuted in 1987, its three bald founders performing an unspoken repertoire while covered in striking body paint. besides chicago, the production is a mainstay in new york and boston, and has also presented in las vegas, orlando, berlin, tokyo and on board the norwegian cruise line. if you like 80s-style comedy, this is pure mindless entertainment that may involve you getting soaked.

 

harpo studios 1058 west washington boulevard

countless famous faces and respected personalities walked through its doors while fans gathered outside hoping to catch a glimpse of the celebrities or shop for merchandise at the oprah store. the talk show queen and her harpo studios were based in chicago from 1990 till 2011, when she decided to move her company and show to los angeles. her popularity and the prominence of harpo helped gentrify the once-gritty area where it’s located, leading to former mayor richard daley to declare the street outside the studio as oprah winfrey way. the studio is still in operation although the shows are no longer filmed there, and die-hard fans still turn up for a look.

 

 

australia to germany in 30 minutes

hahndorf street
ye older creamery
hahn pretzel
hahnorf walkabout
hahn horse carriage

the distance between australia and germany spans thousands of miles over sea and land, with air travel taking up nearly a full day. but when you’re in the south australian capital of adelaide, germany is a mere 30-minute drive away along the southern eastern freeway and towards the green lung that is adelaide hills. amidst refreshing highland air and the rich colours of nature, a slice of bucolic charm presents itself in the form of hahndorf, the country’s oldest surviving german settlements that is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year.

popular among locals seeking a weekend getaway and tourists curious about this european gem on the other side of the hemisphere, hahndorf attracts close to 1 million visitors each year. the town’s key attractions are concentrated along main street, where century-old elm and plane trees stand side-by-side with fachwerk buildings, one of the oldest architectural styles in central europe that was widespread in west germany.

these timber-framed buildings were once the private residences and small farmsteads of hahndorf’s first settlers, german lutherans who arrived here in 1838 on board a ship called zebra that was captained by dirk hahn. captain hahn helped the immigrants settle into their new lives and they, in turn, honoured him by naming the town hahndorf (hahn’s village).

the buildings have been carefully preserved and now house a variety of small businesses, eateries and pubs including many that uphold the town’s heritage by selling german specialties (birkenstocks sandals included) and cuisine. here’s a guide to soaking in the old-world charm of 19th-century europe in this living time capsule.

hahn academy
hahn old irons
hahn old postbox
...rooms modelled after typical homes back in the day and are faithful to the last vintage detail

hahndorf academy 68 main street opens 10am-5pm daily; closed on christmas day and good friday http://hahndorfacademy.org.au

built as a school and taking on many incarnations later, including that of a maternity hospital, betting shop and dentist’s clinic, it was in 1960 that it was transformed into an art gallery and museum. while keeping to its original name, the academy is today a regional centre for arts and heritage. the art gallery is south australia’s largest and houses, among many masterpieces and temporary exhibitions, sketches of hahndorf by sir hans heysen. the famous landscape artist moved here with his wife in 1908 and produced a great number of drawings over a 14-year period, a selection of which he donated to the academy and now forms part of the permanent display. the german migration museum under the same roof re-enacts the lives of the town’s pioneering families, with rooms modelled after typical homes back in the day and are faithful to the last vintage detail.

 

st michael’s lutheran church corner of church street and balhannah road www.stmichaels.com.au

australia’s oldest surviving lutheran congregation was established under an old gum tree and worshipped there for a year until they built their first church, a mud-walled building with wooden shingles, in this very spot. as the congregation grew while the building became worn by time and the elements, a new building was erected in its place in 1859, where it still stands and serves. extensions were added over the years and some necessary changes put in place, but what has not changed is the church’s tradition of tolling the bell at noon for each year of a recently deceased member’s life on earth.

 

beerenberg farm mount barker road opens (shop) 9am-5pm daily; closed on christmas day

the paech were among the pioneering families of hahndorf, who built their farm on the eastern end of the town and grew traditional crops such as strawberries, corn and vegetables. over the years, beerenberg farm’s reputation for quality food produce has grown beyond hahndorf and even australia, and their brand is now widely available in various parts of the world. on their bestselling list are a variety of fruit jams, pickles, chutneys, honey and sauces. from october to april or may, you can pick your own strawberries fresh off the vines at their farm or breathe in the sweet scent at their rose gardens – the flowers are harvested for their rose petal jam.

 

misty hollow fantasy cave 56 main street

stuffed animals, magic tricks, streamers and twirlers that place the rainbow right at your fingertips are the delights that you greet you upon stepping into this mysterious-sounding store. no more than a toy shop at first look, the real attraction lies behind the store, in a fantasy world built over a stream. modelled after the village in wind in the willows, an audio reading of the well-loved book plays in the background to accompany your exploration of the colourful dioramas.

 

german village shop
hahn otto bakery
IMG_6069.PNG
hahn sausages

the german village shop 50 main street opens 9.30am-5.30pm daily

www.thegermanvillageshop.com.au

there’s no fantasy here but a good dose of traditional german artistry in the form of hand-carved cuckoo and grandfather clocks that are made in black forest. you’ll be mesmerised by the intricate wooden beauties that come with 12-year warranty each. an assortment of other german gift items makes up the rest of the store’s offerings, including hansel & gretel figurines, and local mementos that range from kitschy to tacky.

 

otto’s bakery 9 main street opens 7am-5.30pm, mon-fri; 8am-5.30pm, sat; 9am-5.30pm, sun

friendly service and a spacious dining area – you can also choose to sit on the verandah – makes this family-style cafe and bakery a popular stop for a light meal. german breads, rolls and biscuits are made fresh daily along with savoury pastries such as pies and quiches. but regulars will tell you that it’s their german cakes that are worth a road trip from the city. their vanilla slice constantly gets the thumbs up, with some even going as far as to hail it australia’s best. coming in a close second is the bienenstich, a melt-in-the-mouth concoction of almonds, honey and cream custard, while their oversized doughnuts grab your attention first and then your taste buds.

 

taste in hahndorf 35b main street opens 9am-6pm daily

sample and shop the finest local gourmet produce at this premium food store. get your fill of cheeses, fruit jams, honey, dried fruits and olive oils sourced from all over south australia that make great souvenirs for food-loving friends back home. make sure to leave room in your luggage for german sausages, a huge variety of which is available here, including jerky, salami and the mighty popular spicy mettwurst.

 

udder delights 91 a main street opens 9am-5pm daily www.udderdelights.com.au

opened in 1999, its funny – and punny – moniker belies just how seriously they take their cheese here. the factory is located a distance away in the town of lobethal and is not open to visitors, but their cheese cellar here welcomes dairy aficionados with a range of handmade goat’s and cow’s milk creations as well as a hot food menu featuring their most popular items, with suggested wine or beer pairings. they also serve high tea in their underground cellar.

flowers hahn
hahn misty cave
udder delights
IMG_6059.PNG

chocolate @ no 5 5 mt barker road opens 10am-4pm, mon & thu; 9am-5pm, fri-sun & public holidays; closed tue-wed

it may not have the vaunted history or german lineage as most of its neighbours, but this chocolate lounge that’s housed in a rustic stone cottage didn’t take long to find its place among food enthusiasts visiting hahndorf. chocolatier sarina waterman draws inspirations from european chocolate artisans along with a variety of sources – including movies and books – to create her delicate cocoa delights using the finest and freshest butter, fruit purees and cream. their belgian waffles are a must-try, best paired with a mug of their velvety hot chocolate.

 

hahndorf sweets 54a main street opens 9.30am-5pm daily www.hahndorfsweets.com.au

step into this old-fashioned sweet store for a saccharine-filled blast from the past. occupying one of the oldest buildings in town (the quaint cottage was built in 1853) this is a treasure chest of sugary childhood memories. from colourful, patterned boiled candies to chocolate frogs and delectable homemade fudge, there is something to satiate every sweet tooth.

this article first appeared in crave/themalaymailonline on 9 nov 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hidden shanghai

up till about seven years ago, tian ze fang (tzf) was still largely a hidden gem known mostly to shanghai’s artistic and expat community, its entrance from taikang lu barely noticeable. “look for a sign that says lane 210,” was the typical directions given to those on the hunt. the sign was a small white plaque with red lettering tacked onto the peeling wall of the row of shoplots that fronted tzf and hosted a motley selection of local businesses – from tiny mom-and-pop eateries to hardware shops and other trades that the regular visitor to china’s most progressive city would barely pay attention to.

step in and you would first have to walk through a maze-like labyrinth (nongtang in shanghainese) of shikumen, traditional homes with walls of stones and exposed bricks that still housed many local families. its palette was a muted grey, punctuated by patches of exposed bricks. bamboo sticks hung between windows bearing colourful laundry. bicycles and motorcycles were parked along the walls, children play in the narrow alleys in between homes, watched by doting grandparents.

depending on the time of day, you might hear the raucous cheers coming from a circle of men gathered around a game of chinese chess. further along the semi open-air walkway, a seamstress might have parked her sewing machine and be working on orders, while customers stand around and chat. hang around and you could see more everyday scenes of local residents going about their daily lives.

 

then when you turned a corner, more shikumen come into sight but in place of homely scenarios, you would be greeted by workers and customers moving about among shops, cafes, boutiques and bars. there was a decidedly european feel about the place, from the goods and services offered to the visiting clientele. art galleries, photographers’ studios, fashion boutiques featuring upscale local labels, specialty stores of artisanal crafts and souvenirs fill up the other converted shikumen.

at kommune, a tzf stalwart that was one of the first to open there, english-speaking wait staff took orders from tourists who read off a menu of wholesome western dishes. guests would sit under the shade of large umbrellas in the courtyard, surrounded by shops such as shirt flag, a local cult label that’s loved for its edgy t-shirts bearing propaganda-inspired motifs and is particularly popular for its hi panda series. shirt flag has since moved out and was replaced, very quickly, by other trendy boutiques.

kommune is one of the pioneers that have remained, along with photographer deke erh’s art centre that showcases his stunning snapshots of shanghai as well as books about the city that he authored or co-authored. at lane 248, you would find cafe dan by following your nostrils; in the mornings, owner taka niuya, a former engineer from japan, was often at his coffee roaster churning out batches of imported raw beans. the aroma would waft through the open window and permeate the surroundings, drawing caffeine lovers to step inside his three-storey cafe. taka has sinced moved his roaster to another unit but the cafe continues to serve fine coffee along with a menu of japanese eats and desserts.

if you had visited on a weekday, you would practically have had the whole place to yourself to enjoy a solitude that’s rare in this populous city of 26 million. you certainly wouldn’t have thought that behind the unassuming shoplots and past the bucolic scenes of local lives, was a bohemian paradise and a sanctuary from the city’s well-documented mad bustle.

that was then. it didn’t take long for tzf to build up a following. fuelled by mentions in independent guidebooks and travel blogs, the crowds began making their presence felt, even on weekdays. more of the residential shikumen began to make way for retail and dining outlets. in fact, each time one visits, it feels bigger in size and variety. the main entrance, once a non-descript stone arch, has been made more prominent with a humpty dumpty-like statue greeting visitors.

on weekends, the narrow lanes feel even tighter as the city and its tourists flock here for a slice of the hype

today’s tian ze fang is more of a sightseeing and shopping spot than a bohemian haven, where shops peddle mass-produced souvenirs that are designed to be whimsical over cultural and where every tourist wants to visit but are not quite sure why they should except that everyone they know has been or told them to. there are some gems among the warren of generic shops: specialty stores of artisanal goods through which the original spirit of the place lives on.

on weekends, the narrow lanes feel even tighter as the city and its tourists flock here for a slice of the hype; be prepared to be pushed, jostled or have to walk with your back against the worn walls. in other words, it’s an authentically shanghai experience. its atmospheric serenity may be a thing of the past as it is a hidden gem no more, but it is a vibrant section of the city that continuously feeds new interests. as the popular sobriquet yeh shanghai denotes, this is a city that never sleeps.

getting there tian ze fang is at 210 taikang road near sinan road in the french concession area, the parallel street is jianguo road near ruijin road. the city’s taxi drivers know the place well. if you prefer to take the metro, get off at dabuqiao (dabu bridge) station and tian ze fang is about five minutes’ walk away.


 

 

a bucolic side of hong kong

i dragged my luggage over the sloped walkway, its four rotating wheels that usually serve me so well rendered useless by the hard, bumpy surface that’s clearly not designed for any big or heavy piece of travel gear. after all, the ferry that’s waiting at the end of pier 4 is intended for lamma, a small outlying island of hong kong – at just over 13 square kilometres, it’s second largest after lantau – located about 3km off its south west coast that’s visited by few tourists.

it’s a world away from the main hong kong island, where shiny steel towers crowd the skyline while a cacophony of cars and people form an incessant congestion on the ground. there’s a lot to take in but little space to breathe. lamma is on the other extreme; with a population of just several thousand and mostly concentrated in the fishing villages where few bother to lock their front doors, it is quiet and bucolic. its narrow winding roads are meant to be traversed only by foot, bicycles and small motorised carts nicknamed vv for village vehicle. lamma’s most famous son is actor chow yuen fatt, who grew up in the village of tung o and still visits from time to time.

that peace and quiet is what draws locals to make a day trip of it, or rent a holiday apartment for the night. my travel buddy and i had decided on a private apartment instead, the occasional weekend home of an expatriate couple. lamma has always been popular among hong kong’s expatriate community, who either own or have long-term lease on properties here. some prefer to make this island their home, commuting to the city only when necessary.

this is hong kong, i had to remind myself, even though it felt like anywhere but

the owner met us at the pier in yung shue wan village, one of two docking points for ferries from hong kong and from where it’s supposed to be a 10-minute stroll to the apartment.  except it took us twice as long, with a lot of huffing and puffing along the way, as we navigated the weekend crowd along the one main road in the village where low buildings – nothing over three storeys is allowed – house seafront restaurants, cafes, pubs, grocery shops and specialty stores offering souvenirs, dried seafood and gourmet produce. a lively, almost festive atmosphere hung in the air; it was noon and day trippers were milling about, deciding on where to lunch or waiting in line at the more popular restaurants. reflecting its residential make up, a variety of western cuisines is as readily available as seafood restaurants dishing up the freshest catches, cantonese-style, and the ubiquitous char chan teng.

just as we were about to melt into a puddle from the noon heat, we arrived at the apartment, housed in a block of walk-up nestled on a quiet lane off the main road. i caught my breath from the balcony, which looked out to flowering shrubs in the garden below and beyond the road we had walked in from, a sliver of the sea.

this is hong kong, i had to remind myself, even though it felt like anywhere but. to begin with, the two-bedroom apartment cost just a little more than a standard hotel room in say central, but offered what would be a rarity there: space. with more than enough for two and homey to boot, it’s almost surreal. altogether, it’s a refreshing departure from the hong kong i had previously encountered. i wanted to see more, and to find out how lamma fares on the food front compared to the culinary heaven that is the main island.

we headed back to the hub of shops we had passed earlier, the walk a lot more enjoyable this time and began to notice more of yung shue wan’s charms. makeshift stalls lined the way, with vendors selling everything from artistic jewellery to homemade pastries, kitschy souvenirs to traditional sticky cakes. it was like a large open-air flea market that only takes place on weekends. ancient banyan trees that gave the village its name stand imposingly, their aerial roots dripping onto thick trunks and their canopies spreading out to cast wide shady areas underneath.

underneath one such tree, we spied a food stall with a sign hanging above that says ‘thai thai food’ offering spicy delights like tom yam soup and minced pork with basil. with the sweat on our back and the sun still beating down on us, the thought of eating chilli was a bit daunting so we decided on something to cool down with instead: green mangoes, which the proprietor told us were imported from thailand.

ancient banyan trees that gave the village its name stand imposingly, their aerial roots dripping onto thick trunks and their canopies spreading out to cast wide shady areas underneath

delightfully crunchy and a lovely balance of sweet and sour, they put us in the mood for something fresh and green – like the vegan fare at bookworm cafe, a shrine to hippie chic. shelves of books on spirituality line one wall while parked against the other are booth seats salvaged from old bing sutt (traditional coffee shops) and given a lick of green paint. rainbow-hued cushion covers, handwritten chalk boards and a motley vintage decor items make up the rest of the cosy interiors. on the menu are organic teas and fruit drinks, and a good variety of non-meat fare. i dug into my vegan salad bowl, a generous serving of raw greens and nuts that would have been mere rabbit feed if not for the garlicky hummus.   

foregoing their homemade cakes, we skipped next door instead to hunt for some healthy sweets at justgreen organic convenience store, stocked to the brim with all manners of superfoods, nutritional supplements and freshly-baked breads. i had my eyes on the freezer of happy cow ice cream, a home-grown artisanal brand that churns their icy concoctions from coconut cream, the sugar from coconut tree flowers and other plant-based ingredients. i went for the original coconut flavour and was rewarded with a silky, milky cup of happiness that satiated my sweet cravings without being cloying.

a few doors down, lamma gourmet beckoned with chillers of cold cuts while platters of salads and vietnamese spring rolls sit alongside freshly baked loaves and house-made hummus on the shelves. their roast chicken is popular too; pick up a salad and a bottle of wine along with it and you have a complete dinner.

we walked further up, towards the pier we had arrived at. on our left, a slew of pubs and seafood restaurants make the most of their seafront location to offer meals with views.  but we were more excited by the farm harvests at the market stalls ahead: luscious tomatoes on the vine, leafy vegetables with plump stalks, sweet corn bearing fat kernels in an intense shade of yellow that were simply begging to be transformed into a gratifying meal. that was it, dinner was settled – we would cook our own. after all, we had an apartment with a fully-equipped kitchen and not just another hotel room. why not make use of it to make ourselves completely at home and pretend, even if it’s only for a few days, that we’re not just visiting lamma but living here?

a run through the small but well-stocked grocery stores in the vicinity completed our haul, while a quick stop at the dried seafood goods shop yielded a pungent salted fish preserve and dried mantis prawn snacks. we also picked up some bottles of chinese herbal teas to help beat the heat as well as a packet of earl grey cookies from shelly cake express. the latter is a tiny cafe that specialises in cheese cakes, coffees and other baked goods. the cookies were light and crumbly, with a good amount of earl grey tea infused into the batter.

we headed back toward our apartment to drop off the goods, in the same direction that visitors take if they want to go to hung shing yeh beach. at about the halfway point, most will stop and join the queue at kin hing ah por (grandma) tau foo far, a local institution that’s little more than a stall under the shade of trees and tarpaulin sheets. grandma herself, a sprightly lady with her greying hair in a tight bun, stands at the stall preparing orders. you only have to choose between hot and cold. she will scoop the smooth, airy pudding into bowls and then pour over a mildly spicy ginger syrup from a big kettle. grandma’s stall is said to have been around for over two decades now and the long queues – and newspaper clippings from over the years, displayed on a board by the stall – speak for themselves. 

the beach is also called power station beach because it overlooks hongkong electric company’s plant that generates electricity for this and the main island. located at one end of the rocky beach, the cluster of grey buildings with three tall chimneys stick out like sore thumbs from the rest of lamma’s landscape. it is, perhaps, a reminder to the city folks soaking in the sun-dappled sea and basking in the idyllic atmosphere that while lamma may be a stark contrast to the city’s madness, it’s really not far from it.

we dried off on the flat rocks on the shore while a slow evening breeze brought the temperature down a few notches and the sun began its descent into the horizon. waves wash to shore just as surely as we felt ourselves awash in a calm, peaceful state of mind. solitude and serenity in hong kong – who would have thought?

we headed back once darkness fell, a stroll of under 10 minutes that gave us plenty of time to prepare dinner before hunger hit. the corn is boiled with salt to bring out its sweetness; the tomatoes halved, seasoned with salt, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and served with fresh basil leaves. the salted fish preserve is stir-fried with steamed rice, served with a fried egg and sprinkles of spring onions.

it was a home cooked dinner enjoyed in the comforts of a home, and it set the tone for the days to come. after the weekend vacationers had departed, it felt as if we had all of lamma to ourselves – to immerse in its idyllic pace, to cool down in the shade of the yung shue (banyan tree) and watch more sunsets from the beach. this is hong kong, not the one i knew from before but one i would like to get to know more about.


this article first appeared in crave and the malay mail online on 7 sep 2014