Hong Kong has come a long way since its fishing village past. The city of over 7 million has burgeoned into one of the world’s leading international financial centres with imports and exports as one of its main business activities and it saw the unveiling of its tallest tower, the International Commerce Centre (108 storeys high) in 2010. However, pockets of a simpler time still remains today, and Tai O Fishing Village is the perfect example of that.
Dating back over 200 years, Tai O remains one of Hong Kong’s important fishing villages. In its heyday, over 30,000 people lived in the area, which had vast salt fields from which the fishermen used to preserve their catch. Today, not so much of that still exists, but the town has fast become one of Hong Kong’s most popular tourist sights off the beaten track thanks to the launch of Ngong Ping 360.
Tai O Market is the place to be to (literally) get a taste of the town. Salted fish and other dried seafood dominate the selection at every stall – for obvious reasons, these are the village’s specialty. But of course, they can be an acquired taste, so instead try one of the glutinous rice balls with diced coconuts and peanuts, egg waffles and Chinese pizzas from some of the hawkers and hole-in-the-walls around town. Other items found at the stalls include mini Buddha statues, pearl necklaces and knickknacks perfect for souvenirs.
One of the most fascinating things to see in the village (with the most ‘interesting’ to smell being the salty fish) would be the houses of the townspeople. For generations, these fishermen have built their homes on stilts above the tidal flats of Lantau Island. The result is what’s now lovingly referred to as the ‘Venice of the Orient’, with houses and walkways suspended over the sea, which ware easily accessed by ladders leading down to the water.
Whether you’ve gone to visit the Big Buddha or just want to visit the village on its own, Tai O is easy to eat to. For a standalone visit, head to Tung Chung and take bus 11 at the bus terminus and get off at the last stop. The journey takes about 50 minutes so be sure to bring something to entertain during the trip. If you’re at the top of the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car in the Ngong Ping Village, take bus 21 to the last stop. This shorter journey takes approximately 25 minutes.