We arrived in Tai O by bus, after driving all the way over Lantau Island from Mui Wo on the other side of the island and visiting the big Buddha statue. Directly after getting off the bus, touts jumped on us, trying to sell Chinese white dolphin watching tours. Expecting a quiet fishing village, we were surprised by busy streets overflowing with visitors. Shop after shop selling everything - especially seafood and dried fish seemed to be popular; not strange for a fishing village. Crossing the bridge over the river that runs through Tai O, we continued walking on the other side, and hiked up to a hill on the northern side of the island. In fact, Tai O is an island, separated from Lantau by a river along which the famous stilt houses are built; the town takes the same name.
Once we were on the path, the crowds had all but disappeared, and we felt relieved to have some peace around us. Passing several tombs built into the hill, it was impossible to get lost as the trail was surrounded by a low orange fence. Undulating over the hills of Tai O, the trail offered good views over the Zhujiang River estuary, with Macao on the other side. Every few minutes, a heavyweight plane would soar over our ears; HKG airport was easily visible from here. We looked at the sea, around the small boats below us, hoping to see the dolphins, but we only saw them very close in a monument at the top of the hill. At the end of the path, there turned out to be a small trail which, I hoped, continued to the village. It anyway offered great views of Tai O. It was steep, but I arrived at a closed fence at the bottom of the trail, with a sign prohibiting entry. To my surprise, I could just open the gate and walk to the riverbank.
What followed, was a slow and nice walk through the town. I took all the small side ways, walked in mud under stilt houses, or pang uk, seeing small courtyards and corners, wondering about the rickety state of the houses. They looked dilapidated, giving them only more charm, especially with the warm late afternoon sunlight shining on the town. Old people were steering their small boats through the shallow river, an old man looking out on the river from his balcony where bicycles were also parked; it seemed that this old village is not able to keep young inhabitants inside. The further I walked, the closer I got to the touristy area again, and it implied a change from a quiet, traditional part of Tai O to a noisy, flashy area where you had to watch your step. The timing was perfect: I arrived on the blue bridge at the western side of Tai O, where the river meets the sea, just when the sun was sinking towards the horizon. What followed was a nice, orange sunset which I shared with many others on the bridge, frantically shooting with their cameras. A boat and subway ride was all it took to be back on Hong Kong Island.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Tai O (Hong Kong). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Tai O. Read more about this site.