Central Hong Kong and Kowloon are the tourist and local hangout spots in Hong Kong, and is the epitome of the densely populated harbour city.
Mega malls meet shops lining streets with heavy foot traffic to match.
Just a couple of days in, Hong Kong was already starting to get overwhelming.
In an effort to diversify the tourist experience, Hong Kong has made a concerted effort to shine a spotlight outside of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, including the many hiking trails and outlying islands all over the islands.
These places have become popular day trips for locals and visitors alike to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
I’d been to Tai O before a very long time ago, and I never remembered it to be as beautiful as it was when we visited on a spontaneous trip out of the city.
A small fishing town located on the western edge of Lantau Island, Tai O is home to the local Tanka people, which feels a bit like stepping back in time and a complete world away from downtown Hong Kong.
The houses in the village are built on the water on stilts and dates back to the 19th century, built by a thriving and prosperous fishing and salt industry.
However, like any other traditional village, Tai O is under threat as the population has shrunk to a few thousand in number, with many young people preferring to move to the big city and the 9 to 5 life over sustaining the traditional lifestyle of Tai O.
I’d certainly recommend visiting Tai O sooner rather than later, and though it’s become very touristy, it’s still a reflection of Hong Kong before skyscrapers and modern-day major city amenities arrived, and the great thing is that travelling to Tai O from Hong Kong is an absolute peach.
How to get to Tai O
From Hong Kong:
From anywhere in Hong Kong, hop on the MTR and get off from Tai Chung station via Exit B, and hop on to Bus 11.
The bus station is away from the depot right in front of the MTR station.
We took a while to find the right bus terminus to get to Bus 11, which was a 5 to 10 minute walk ahead.
The buses leave at 15 minute intervals on weekdays and take just under an hour to reach Tai O.
The fare comes up to HKD11.80 on weekdays and just under HKD20 on Sundays and Public Holidays.
From Ngong Ping:
Thanks to the popularity of the Big Buddha and Ngong Ping on Lantau Island, you might find yourself already in Ngong Ping before heading over to Tai O.
From there, hopping on to Bus 21 will take you to Tai O.
The trip will take about 20 minutes and costs HKD6.60 on weekdays and HKD14 on Sundays and Public Holidays.
What to Do in Tai O
Tai O has developed more with tourism activities since the last time I visited, and now you can find pink dolphin spotting tours taking tourists on cruises and boats beyond of course, cruises through the water canals of Tai O village itself.
Tai O isn’t one of those places that is chock full of sights to see and places to check off a list, but is in my opinion, all the better for it.
One of my favourite things included walking around the town’s market streets with many vendors selling seafood and fishing produce, as well as snacks local to Tai O.
The main street functions as the town’s little market strip as well, and is the busy heart of Tai O.
There are many restaurants and eateries around, including many seafood establishments.
The wonderful thing is that a lot of these restaurants are also catered towards locals which helped Tai O feel less like a tourist town.
We ended up at a humble dim sum joint, and while it wasn’t my favourite dim sum place in Hong Kong, the glutinous rice was wonderful though, and just as good in other more popular chains in the city.
Of course, it being a simple restaurant, the prices were a lot cheaper than prices we paid downtown.
We ordered a number of dishes to share and between the three of us, we paid HKD35, and I usually paid about double in the city.
Past all the shops and restaurants though, you head into more residential areas.
But unlike the high rise apartment complexes in downtown Hong Kong, houses here are stilt houses and built completely differently, and the streets were almost completely quiet and the houses were empty on a weekday afternoon, and a part of me wondered where everyone had gone.
Still, the peace and quiet was really nice to have for a day, though I imagine on a weekend or a public holiday, the amount of day trippers around would make for a completely different experience.
We made it all the way till the end of the street of houses and headed back down.
After which, we walked out of Tai O and across the Tai O Promenade Bridge and watched the waves roll in from the bench on the rocky beach.
If you’re looking for a big day out, there are other things to do including getting a bit of hiking done and going to the Fu Shan Viewing Point, the Tai O Infinity Pool, or even planning to stay the night at the former police station now known as the Tai O Heritage Hotel with it’s old world colonial charm.
All in all, Tai O was a beautiful day out of Hong Kong if just for a complete change of scenery.
So long as you go on a weekday.