Hong Kong’s Venice: Tai O from every angle

Tai o

Vue sur le village de Tai O

In Hong Kong there are few vestiges of the architectural past that remain: they build, then demolish, then reconstruct…newer and higher. There are not many HK neighborhoods remaining where we can take a good look at the past but we have discovered at least one – here you can be transported back to the time when Hong Kong was only a series of unknown fishing villages: Tai O.

Tai O is known as the Venice of Hong Kong but really it is a fishing village on stilts resting in a beautiful corner of Lantau Island (HK airport is on this island plus it has the biggest mountains in Hong Kong). Tai O is a Tanka Village (indigenous inhabitants of Hong Kong) and although a fire destroyed a lot of the houses in 2010, the village was rebuilt to conserve its traditional charm.

From Hong Kong Island it takes about 1hour 30 minutes to arrive at Tai O, which is a long way to travel in small Hong Kong… less motivated to visit now? Here are some good reasons (there is something for everyone!) to take the journey:

tai o

Vue depuis un petit café au bord de l’eau

1. It is a very photogenic village located in a magnificent setting. Once you pass over the entrance bridge, you walk over the bay on houses raised above the water on stilts to discover a fishing village… a long way from the frenetic capitalistic activity in Central Hong Kong. Be sure to explore the small alleyways between the houses – it is difficult to get lost and despite a few aggressive looking dogs you are welcome.

shrimp paste

Shrimp paste preparation

2. Some Hong Kong traditions are still preserved and readily seen here: the fishermen darn their own nets, the women prepare the shrimp paste (a local and very smelly specialty) and egg yolks are dried for the preparation of moon cakes.

Dried fish tai o

Dried fish everywhere

3. If you like dried fish you will be served: between the small dried fish lavischously grilled for snacks, the dozens of dry fish cooking on the grill for bigger appetites and the dry sharks (for what or who we do not know!) in the shop doorways…. fish is king here.

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Tai O Heritage Hotel

4. Not interested or had enough of the Shangri-La, Four Seasons, Intercontinental and the like? At Tai O we can  stay at a rare Hong Kong boutique hotel – The Tai O Heritage Hotel. It is located away from the village in an old colonial police building on the hill overlooking the bay and it is very nicely renovated. You can visit during the day and have lunch there if you can’t stay the night.

pink dolphin tai o

On the way to see the pink dolphins

5. It is rare to see wild animals in Hong Kong but at Tai O you can see dolphins in their natural habitat… plus they are a pink species! Me and little G can confirm that they exist and I took photos (despite also being very busy making sure little G didn’t jump off the boat) of pink jumping dolphins to prove it.

6. Tai O is perfect for watching planes take-off and land – at the end of the village we watched many coming and going from Hong Kong International Airport. This of course was one of the favorite parts of the day for the kids but we certainly weren’t the only ones taking advantage of this plane-spotting point with plenty of adults enjoying the spectacle.

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On the way to Tai O heritage hotel

7. We can find in Tai O egg waffles considered the best in Hong Kong …. and when you see the queue it suggests there must be something behind the claim. We didn’t have the patience to wait in line so if you get the chance to try them please let me know what you think!

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8. Tai O offers a respite from the oppression of Hong Kong’s city life: there are no cars, no skyscrapers, and less pollution.

There you go, 8 good reasons to go to Tai O… I havnt made it to ten but I hope you are already convinced to make your way to Tai O and discover some more reasons to go.

tai o

Fisherman in action

Voyagista’s Tips

  • Access by bus from Tung Chung (#11), Mui Wo (#1) or Ngong Ping (#21). I recommend to take the ferry to Mui Wo from Central if you are coming from HK Island, then bus or taxi.

  • Two suggestions for sleeping: stay deluxe at Tai O Heritage Hotel or comfortable (on the wallet too) at L’Espace Elastique

  • For lunch or a drink here are two options: Tai O Heritage Hotel restaurant or Solo, a small cafe with a view over the canal (86 Kat Hing St, +852 9153 7453).

  • The boat for the dolphin viewing costs 20HKD for an adult and 10HKD for kids.The trip includes a small loop to see the town from the water and then goes briskly onwards to see the pink dolphins. We took the boats just after the main bridge into town, which was OK, but there are others to choose from like Dolphinwatch.

  • Go during the week, or in the morning on the weekends, to beat the crowds.

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The shark used for advertising

Looking for other ideas in Hong Kong, check out Saikung or Chi Lin and Nan Lian

Tai o

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