Header photo: lunch at PermaclubAll photos by James Waters and Katherine Schulties
For those of us who haven’t travelled outside Hong Kong since COVID hit in January 2020, it’s been tough keeping up the gumption to “add oil” while living the daily HK hustle, with zero upcoming trips to look forward to. Most days seem like a sprint to the finishing line, and they all wind up blending together.
But that was last year! Don’t let yourself get caught up in the contagious six-days-a-week, workaholic-partyholic lifestyle. Taking time outs for personal care, rest, reflection, exploration and getting in touch with nature is essential for a healthy, balanced quality of life.
Stopping and thinking about what you consume every day is equally as important. It’s been high time, for a long time, that every individual proactively considers his or her carbon footprint and how to reduce it.
Meet Permaclub and its owners, Sacha Van Damme and Pam Dabdoub – two of the most genuine, down-to-earth people in Hong Kong. Together, they show compassion towards the earth and humans, unsurpassed by anyone I have ever before encountered.
EDIT: Now in SoHo! Visit the newly opened Freida Club at 1 Leung I Fong in Sai Ying Pun.
Pam Dabdoub and Sacha Van Damme
Coming to this precious treasure on a Saturday afternoon provides a much-needed escape from the Hong Kong rat race and promotes a productive distraction from the city. After all, we’ve been in dire need of a proper holiday for far too long now. So in lieu of travel, why not get back to Mother Nature, take the time to connect with your own surroundings and educate yourself on the essentials of horticulture, the permaculture way?
When you first arrive at the entirely off-the-grid hidden oasis of Permaclub Hong Kong, you might be just as awestruck as I was. First you must find the path, between the trees, right near the intersection of Hang Hau Wing Lung Road and Little Palm Beach in Clearwater Bay.
Once you find the secret path, be careful as you descend, and when the path forks, take a right. You’ll see the Permaclub sign with an arrow. Going right, you’ll get to the large fenced gate. Enter, Permaclub!
Keep going down a few more stairs, and just beyond, as the descent gets easier, you’ll arrive at the campfire circle. The garden can be seen beyond the porch and outdoor kitchen, beaming in rays of sunlight in the dewy daylight.
This is the spot where the melodious, meticulous, magical assortment of natural beauty, community and utility join together in a successful blend. The ethos at Permaclub is to let the plants be, observe what they do and learn from them.
Moreover, on a planet already too deep into climate change, social change is top priority. Spreading awareness about sustainability, enacting green legislation and encouraging or enforcing every individual to take the initiative to act responsibly are all essential steps to saving our planet.
Sacha explains, “[Permaculture is] really about living harmoniously with nature. We have this notion as people that we’re beyond nature and greater than nature and take absolutely everything for granted, from food, to water, to electricity, to shelter and whatnot.”
Essentially, the ideal end goal is for the human race to shift gears from convenient to responsible, lazy to proactive and processed to natural. The best way to start is by caring about where the food you’re buying and consuming comes from.
Sacha continues, “By being out here, by learning how to grow food, learning how to manage our water systems and energy systems, natural buildings, building soil and much more, we can multiply this and revolutionise the world.”
“And teach people how to do it while we’re at it!” interjects Pam, Sacha’s equally green partner. “There’s so much environmental and social injustice out there. The world’s biggest problems are actually so simple to fix. We have all the solutions. The issues we’re up against are politics, commerce and meeting the status quo, to name a few.”
Turmeric at Permaclub
For instance, in Hong Kong, we have a massive consumer market, as opposed to a producers’ market. When it comes to sustainability in an environment like this, the most effective way of creating change and igniting the transition is to change consumers’ mindsets.
Permaclub Hong Kong was started by Sacha in 2012 as an experimental kitchen garden, with facilities and ample outdoor space in which to create different planting zones, experiment and conduct hands-on workshops to engage the community.
“In terms of techniques, we’re very different from conventional farming... we practice horticulture, which is the management of plants,” explains Sacha.
Permaculture farms are much different from agricultural farms, the latter of which entails the management of the land. Also unlike agricultural farms, permaculture gardens don’t employ the planting of one single crop, with all their primary consideration placed on yield and surplus. The permaculture approach also goes against tilling the land, a common practice on agricultural farms, as it breaks down and weakens the nutrients in the soil.
Permaclub’s naturally enclosed garden is filled with everything from vegetables, herbs and edible flowers to plum and cherry trees. In this zone-specific garden, which, as implied by its namesake, adheres to the permaculture ethos, an amazing abundance of flora flourishes. This garden includes a plethora of all sorts of greenery, including anything and everything that can thrive in this environment, from weeds to trees. Yes, that’s correct, even weeds are allowed to grow alongside planted crops and flowers. In permaculture, every plant is considered naturally significant and an equal contributor to the enrichment of the soil and garden.
Everyone is welcome to come to Permaclub. The only catch? You have to be willing to get your hands dirty. In collaboration with Pam’s private business Freida Club, Permaclub offers a wide variety of experiences like farm takeovers, succulent-arrangement workshops and soil-to-table cooking classes. And the best part is that lunch is always included!
Lunch is always included at Permaclub
So if you’re looking to get away from the daily grind of the city and reconnect with nature in order to cleanse your mind, body and soul, check out Permaclub’s upcoming open workshops. It will be absolutely worth it!
Permaclub, 42 Hang Hau Wing Lung Road, Clearwater Bay, 2342 0200
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