Some hotels do breakfast well, others don’t. The Hotel Icon in Hong Kong got a 5 out of 5 from me.
The food was deliciously fresh, the variety incredible and the service exceptional, as it was throughout the hotel. It was great knowing we could head off on our adventures on a full stomach, thoroughly satisfied – as it was when we travelled to the island of Lamma, one of the 200+ islands that make up Hong Kong.
The journey was eventful, taking in the famous Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. We drank in the amazing views of the harbour and the giant Two IFC building from the deck of one of the venerable vessels, and then caught a separate ferry to Lamma itself, chugging through busy shipping lines before arriving at the main village of Yung Shue Wan.
We stepped ashore into a settlement that, like so much of Hong Kong, was friendly, full of character and colourful – although not exactly attractive by my Western standards. Think concrete boxes, rubbish, collapsing sheds and so on.
We grabbed some fruit from a stall amid the many seafood restaurants and made our way out of town on the Family Trail. This hike would take us across the island through vibrant greenery and a hilly landscape notable for its sparse vegetation and giant boulders. Kites hovered above us, the sea stretched out beyond, dotted with tiny fishing boats and giant tankers. Bizarrely, this otherwise tranquil and green island, once known for being a hippy haven, is dominated by a giant coal power station that often gets in the way of a good photo. A sole wind turbine fought to redress the eco balance.
We trekked away from the power station, climbing slopes and sweating in the heat. Butterflies danced around us and we occasionally glimpsed a tiny beach, way down the hill below. There was little in the way of development.
We originally planned to walk all the way to remote Tung O and its beach but our trusty Lonely Planet suggested that Lo Shing Beach was the best on the island so we diverted off the main path, through bushes and marshes. And when we arrived we discovered we were the only people there, apart from a few staff manning a first aid post.
It was a charming spot, a small cove with a sandy beach backed by trees and bushes, the only sound the sea lapping onto the sand and the distant sound of the lifeguards chatting. We found some shade and spent a few hours reading, relaxing and taking a dip. A few other people eventually turned up to share the beach with us, while a couple of fishing boats (think rowing boats) arrived with several divers who went below to find goodies amid the rocks.
After several lovely hours relaxing we walked on to the famous fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan, which sits in a sheltered bay marred by a small cement works and a couple of beaches covered in litter. The village is notable for having a string of seafood restaurants built on struts over the water, which photograph really well, but doesn’t offer much else to amuse the tourist.
Again, neither the village or the restaurants would win awards in my book for design but it was definitely an unusual sight. The restaurants displayed their wares in tanks, crammed tight with shrimp and fish, crabs and lobsters of all shapes and sizes. The concept of animal welfare was notable by its absence.
We opted, on the recommendation of our hotel concierge, for the Rainbow restaurant and were more than pleased that we did. The service was great, the food exceptional – especially my salt and pepper prawns and scallops with garlic.
But being a Monday, the village was rather empty and lacked the atmosphere that comes with a restaurant buzzing with lively crowds. In hindsight, a weekend visit would’ve been better.
The Rainbow provided a free ferry service back to Kowloon, which we took advantage of. The choppy seas got us back in time to enjoy a few beers at the Cafe de Fontaine near the hotel.