Every once in a while when I’m on the road, I have a sudden moment of clarity where I find myself at peace with the universe in a way that otherwise escapes and baffles me.
Lamma Island is one of those places where I quickly found myself comfortably strolling the small crowded streets passing shops, restaurants and piers to make my way through the village for Power Station beach. I moved slowly in no hurry to head back to Hong Kong Island’s overcrowded futuristic central district where I had spent most of the past two weeks.
At Lamma I found myself smiling and strolling, my camera forgotten in my bag as I breathed in the ocean. I stopped at a near-empty restaurant for a beer and noodles. Quickly I ate the serviceable albeit boring meal under the watchful eye of the owner, the server and the cook. Together we would glance nervously at each other sharing shy smiles, then flick our eyes back to the TV and local coverage of the American presidential debate. Thankfully language and cultural barriers kept us from having any sort of meaningful conversation as I carried out most of my ordering by pointing at numbers on the bi-lingual menu and strained to hear the English in the pidgin the locals muttered at me.
Into the dusk, I continued my stroll through the winding, concrete streets of the village. Street signs placed every 50 feet or so let me know I was headed toward a beach of some kind. The thick forest around me buzzed with the sounds of insects, a giant grey snake slithered across the path. At the sight of the reptile, I stood still barely daring to breathe trying to figure how I would even know if the thing was poisonous and willed it not to bite me.
The snake never even glanced my way in its sinuous slide across the road.
Breathing deeply once more of air thick with heat and humidity, I moved on. A young Asian woman approached me, “Excuse me, do you know how far it is to the beach?”
“I’m not sure.” I answered. “A sign said 20 minutes back there.” I pointed over my shoulder to a sign only five feet or so away.
“Oh, but it’s getting dark.” She pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and smiled at me anxiously.
“Yeah,” I smiled. “But that’s okay.”
She walked beside me for a few more steps, then quickened her pace. “I’m sorry,” she said looking at me again. “But I don’t want to miss it.”
I couldn’t think what it she possible meant. With 24 hours ferry service, and nowhere to go but the seaside I was in no hurry despite the creeping darkening of the cloudy sky.
I watched her run ahead of me hoping to make it the beach before the last streaks of daylight disappeared.
A few minutes later she came running by in the opposite direction.
“It’s too late!” She shouted still smiling at me, holding her hat firmly in place in a rush I assume to catch one of the ferries back to Hong Kong.
I waved and meandered on.
Eventually I made my way to the now completely dark beach. The power station was brilliantly lit lending itself to the glow of the lamps along the pathway. A resort restaurant shimmered in the background holiday lights twinkling softly in the stillness. The ocean pushed slowly through the shark nets swaying up to the beach. A couple quietly held hands and chattered in French on a bench near the pathway.
I took off my shoes, then made my way to the swirling water. In the dark pulsing waves I made my way to the far side of the beach. The sand wet and sucking between my toes. All the while the power station stood guard like some futuristic robot.
I breathed the salt in and looked around me. For the first time in what felt like forever, but was only a matter of days. I saw no one else. The restaurant loomed empty in the distance. The French couple had abandoned the bench for a more reclusive getaway. On the hill-side illuminated houses looked out over the small sandy beach. In the darkness, the sounds of night birds, bats and small children playing rang out oddly close in the unknowable distance. The cold water lapped gently over my feet.