Guest post by Stephanie Long
Just outside of the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong Island, the Outlying Islands make for a great day trip, and the perfect way to escape the chaos of the city. Tai O fishing village is one of the more unique places to visit on Hong Kong’s islands.
The village is located on Lantau Island (also the home of Hong Kong Disneyland, and the famous giant Buddha statue). For a place so isolated from the city, Tai O is remarkably easy to get to. The MTR, Hong Kong’s subway, goes straight to Lantau Island – just follow the signs for Tung Chung MTR stop, and Disneyland. Once you get off at Tung Chung MTR station, go out Exit B, and take the number 11 bus to Tai O (11.80HKD one way). The buses run every 10-15 minutes, and take about one hour to reach the village. There are also buses going directly to Tai O from Ngong Ping and the Giant Buddha statue.
The bus route winds up and down mountain roads, and the views themselves are well worth the trip. The sharp green mountains offer up a completely different side of Hong Kong, one which still embraces the wild and untamed jungles of South-East Asia.
After about an hour, the bus finally reaches the western side of Lantau Island, and Tai O fishing village. The village is home to a minority people in Hong Kong, many of whom still live the traditional fishing lives of their ancestors. Although their traditional fishing lifestyle is dying out, tourist interest in Tai O has helped to provide extra income for many families here, and to keep their way of life alive.
Tai O has a small market selling mainly dried fish products. Shrimp paste and salted fish are the main fare sold here, although you can find everything from dried baby shrimp to dried seahorses.
There are also a number of boat toars advertised, promising dolphin sightings. While the likelihood of actually seeing a dolphin might be questionable, the tours are relatively inexpensive, and if nothing else, are a great way to get a different perspective on the village.
The most distinctive feature of Tai O is the stilted houses, and it’s these that have earned the village its reputation as the “Venice of Hong Kong.” Standing around the mouth of a small stream, these traditional houses are joined together by a maze of wooden planks, all suspended above the water on slender stilts.
The best way to spend a few hours at Tai O is to wander through the stilted houses. Narrow wooden bridges form a maze, connecting the houses together–it’s easy to get lost and come across quite a few dead-ends and barred-off bridges, but the village is so small that you’ll be able to easily work your way back to the market and the main road.
There are only a few restaurants in Tai O, and the ones that cater to tourists are best suited to larger groups. They have set seafood meals for 2-10 people, although the more people you eat with, the more dishes you’ll have the chance to try.
If you’re there by yourself, for a quick snack you can try the grilled seafood. For 20-35 HKD each, you can get grilled abalone, oysters, or giant prawns piled with cheese, along with a cheap beer or a fresh fruit smoothie to wash it down.
For travelers looking to find a more laid back and traditional side of Hong Kong, Tai O fishing village is the perfect day trip.