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Tai O: Preserving the Past

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Reporting by Samantha Wong
Photos by Duey Tam

Perched high on a lush hillside in the far north-west, Tai O Heritage Hotel gazes out proudly across the South China Sea. The nine-room property, previously the 1902-built Tai O Marine Police Station, is managed as a non-profit social enterprise, with the aim being to preserve its heritage and help promote Tai O’s famous landmarks and traditions.

“Tai O Heritage Hotel has been meticulously restored and refurbished to maintain its late 19th-century character and historical details, such as the cannons, searchlight, corner turrets, dry goods store and cells distinctive to the former police station,” says hotel manager Karl Law. “We hope guests will be able to visualise the beautiful colonial architecture of the olden days and at the same time experience elements of the still thriving fishing village.”

Originally established as a garrison to combat pirates in the neighbouring waters, the property was restored by the Hong Kong Heritage Conservation Foundation in 2009 and listed as a Grade II historic building by the Antiquities Advisory Board in 2010.

Every effort has been made to minimise the impact of renovation on the existing structure, which consists primarily of three sections – a two-storey main building, a two-storey outhouse and a onestorey extension added in the 1960s.

Classically understated colonial features include the arched façade, Chinese tiled roof, wooden casement windows, granite steps, French windows, fireplaces, and connecting bridge between the main building and the ‘outhouse.’

The nine colonial-style guestrooms overlook the sea. Tied in closely with the history of the old police station and the fishing village, all rooms and suites are named after local attractions or Hong Kong Marine Police Force ranks and vessels.

Likewise, Tai O Lookout, the glass-roofed restaurant situated on the first floor of the hotel, is named after the guard tower where the marine police grouped to monitor pirate activities. Surrounded by greenery, with breathtaking sea views, it features the colonial wood-carved furniture previously belonging to China Tee Club, and it serves as a platform to showcase locally created art pieces.

You can book a tour of the hotel (www.taioheritagehotel.com) and it’s well worth doing. You’ll be treated to the story of a rogue Indian police constable, Teja Singh, who killed his commanding officer Cecil Glendinning, and held his wife and child hostage there in 1918. The ghosts of Singh and Glendinning are said to haunt the hotel to this day.

Should you stay the night, don’t be surprised if you’re woken by the sound of Glendinning’s bagpipes

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