Tucked snugly away in the south-western corner of Lantau, Tai O is locked in the past. Having developed as a fishing harbour and saltern over the past 200 years, it is rich in history and local colour and, as one of the last bastions of Hong Kong heritage to survive territory-wide development, it’s a fantastic place to observe traditional village life. Fishermen still live in stilt houses, built above a matrix of waterways, and as recently as the 1960s, villagers caught 30% of all seafood sold in Hong Kong. While the fishing industry has dwindled, salted fish and shrimp paste vendors continue to eke out a living.
There’s a lot more to Tai O, however, than the stilt houses of so-called Little Venice (https://www.arounddb.com/life-on-lantau-articles/little-venice-tai-o-supplement). There are the wetlands, home to a resident herd of feral brown cows (https://www.arounddb.com/life-on-lantau-articles/tai-o-how-now-brown-cow), there are some terrific hikes to be had and then there’s the pink dolphin spotting. Avoid the local tour boat operators, who may not always have the dolphins’ best interests at heart, and instead book with eco-minded Hong Kong Dolphinwatch. Better yet, head to Fu Shan Viewing Point, just north of Little Venice, for a bird’s eye view. There are no malls or franchised business in Tai O. You get to interact with the local business owners, and their shops cater to both residents and tourists. Tai O ‘central’ – where you’ll find restaurants, shophouses and market stalls – lies in and around Kat Hing Street on the banks of Tai O River, just south of Little Venice. Be sure to get your fill of traditional Cantonese street food (https://www.arounddb.com/life-on-lantau-articles/tai-o-street-food) as you explore this area.
Venture north-west, and on to the island’s end, and you immediately find yourself in the heart of the unspoilt, virtually uninhabited countryside. On your walk, you’ll spot Tseung Kwan Shek – the locals say this rock looks like a general taking a rest, hence the name: tseung kwan meaning general and shek meaning rock. At the end of the day, walk out on the ferry pier in front of the Tai O Heritage Hotel (https://www.arounddb.com/life-on-lantau-articles/tai-o-heritage-hotel/) to enjoy the Lantau sunset at its very best.
Tags: exploring, lantau, Supplement, tai o