One would think that Hong Kong is a picture of bustling metropolitan with high-rise buildings and impressive skyline or a picturesque Chinese community with temples found in every corner. That is not really false, but, the city is a multifaceted metropolis with diverse culture and influences that makes it more endearing for tourists and locals, alike. A little far away from Hong Kong city, on the island of Lantau, is a fishing village that depicts the early life of native Hong Kong and shows a different side of a rather busy cosmopolitan, and that is the Tai O Fishing Village.
The Tai O Fishing Village is popular for its stilt houses, white dolphins, and for its maritime life. The main source of income of the people living on the village is fishing. Dried fish, shrimp pastes and any other seafood products are the main commodities that are being exported to some other places across Hong Kong and China. The natural resources and products are numerous and still as rich as before, but, the population has continued to dwindle because some people choose to migrate to the city. Nevertheless, the village has attracted tourists curious to see the other side of Hong Kong and enthusiastic to learn the early ways of locals.
Eager to cross out an item on my Bucket List: Hong Kong Edition, we were resolute to go to Tai O. We’ve been to Ngong Pong a couple of times but we didn’t get around to going to Tai O, so, it was decided to finally go this time. Before going to Tai O, we detoured to eat at our favorite food chain (Jollibee) in Central and headed directly to Tung Chung to take the bus to Tai O. The bus ride had taken us to a winding road of rural facet of the city and on the way were beaches, mountains, an impressive prison, and scattered residential buildings.
Upon arrival at the place, a familiar smell of dried fish welcomed us. At the entrance of the village, there were people who invited arrival guests for a motorboat ride, but we decided to explore the place first. On our first stop, we went to Tai O Rural Committee Historic and Cultural Showroom, a museum-like showroom that features antique household equipment and traditional maritime apparatus. The showroom perfectly describes the traditional way of living of people of Tai O. Along the street were souvenir shops of handmade products, Chinese artifacts and some other work of art that embodies Chinese tradition.
And then, the Stilt Houses the village is famous for. Since the village is surrounded with water, stilt houses were built and maintained throughout the years. For years, the stilt houses were just the villagers abode, but now, their homes were the main reasons people go and visit Tai O.
The village has its own fire station, a primary school, a hotel, a hospital, and the village is in itself an enormous wet and dry market. It is evident that the community has withstood the test of time and has continued to be self-sufficient. The narrow street has plenty of stores that sell dried fishes, shrimp pastes, the popular XO sauce, herbs, even a duck egg yolk, and of course, seafood.
We followed the path on the way to the White Dolphin viewing point, and we were thinking that we will be going near the seaside, but instead, we were going up. All the way up, on top of the mountain. Oh boy, wasn’t we prepared for the hike?! The locals said that white dolphins are already endangered species that the sightings are very rare. We made the hike and once we’re on top, it was beautiful. The view was spectacular. At the very top and at the end of the trail was a temple.
On our way back we looked for a seafood restaurant, because it would have been pointless if we didn’t try fresh seafood. Oysters, clams, squid, abalone, scallops, lobster, you name it they have it. And they have it fresh. The food was quite expensive but it was worth it.
Before leaving the place, we tried the motorboat ride which was a good 20-minute tour of the place. We were lucky to take it when the sun is about to set that gave us an incredible view. We got a glimpse of the village in whole. We had a closer look of the stilt houses, we were able to see the extent of the village, we saw the construction of the bridge that would connect Zhuhai, China, Hong Kong, and Macau, and we had a good time admiring the beauty on this far side of Hong Kong.
It was truly a different version of what we normally picture Hong Kong and the village was a living testament of what Hong Kong used to be and a constant reminder of the early life before all the skyscrapers and blinding lights enveloped the now progressive city.
How to Get to Tai O?
Take the MRT to Tung Chung Station (Orange Line), exit at Exit B and walk towards the way to Ngong Ping Cable Car. Turn right and cross the street to bus terminal. Take Bus # 11 directly to Tai O. The bus ride takes approximately 50 minutes. You may also take the cable car to Ngong Ping Village should you wish to visit Ngong Ping first and then take bus #21 from Ngong Ping.