If you are looking for a day trip from Hong Kong that is the perfect blend of nature, culture, food and heritage, then Tai O fishing village is the place to go
Every district in Hong Kong, from Sheung Wan to Cheung Chau, has its own unique atmosphere. Life is different in the quaint fishing village of Tai O, located on the far northwestern tip of Lantau Island, it remains a paradise because of its unique culture, delicious street food, heritage and scenery. The village may technically be part of fast-paced, skyscraper-laden Hong Kong, but it’s genuinely another world, and it’s an easy day trip from Central.
Enjoy the heritage of a Hong Kong fishing village in Tai O
Known as “Venice of the East”, you won’t find the Italian masters in Tai O, but you will see that this is a place where time seems to have stood still. A real community exists in Tai O, where everyone knows each other’s names, the main form of transportation is the bicycle, and seafood is not only a favourite dish, but also a way of life.
Take in the scenery with a sampan tour
Upon arrival, we’d suggest the best way to get the lay of the land is to join a 20-minute sampan tour for approximately $20. There is no need to plan the tour in advance; operators have set up shop right next to the bus terminus. The journey begins with an up close and personal ride along the river through the stilted city, where daily life goes on as normal; on balconies, women water flowers, men tend to their bonsai trees, children fish, and the townspeople’s boats are stored safely away on the tidal flats below their homes.
Get back to nature, and try to spot a Chinese White Dolphin
At the point where the river opens to the South China Sea, the stately Yeung Hau Temple overlooks the water. This slice of the sea is home to the infamous Chinese White Dolphins. On any given day, the lucky few can spot the few remaining dolphins from the boats. The dolphins are magnificent creatures and their lush pink colour is almost unbelievable.
Wander through the village streets
After seeing the dolphins, the sampans circle around the uninhabited north and west sides of Tai O, where steep, green and rocky cliffs meet the sea below, and dock back in the town. Once on land, tourists can use this time to meander through the village streets, browsing the shops and stalls of the market. Not surprisingly, the Tai O Market is dominated by all varieties of fish from fresh to dried or salty, but it is also a good place to pick up bamboo hats and fans to shield the late summer heat.
Tai O Market, Tao O Shek Tsai Po Street, Tai O, Hong Kong, 大澳石仔埗街
Visit the historic Kwan Tai Temple
Local restaurants are a good stop for lunch to sample some native fare (most of which involves shrimp sauce or shrimp paste) and to grab a cool drink (purple passion tea is a local specialty) before heading to the Kwan Tai Temple. Situated on the western bank of the village, this temple honours Kwan Tai, the God of War and Righteousness and was built during the reign of Hong Zhi (1488–1505 AD). Every colourful detail of the temple commands attention, and even villagers say they spot something new each time they look at it.
Learn about the meaning behind these Chinese temples in Hong Kong
Kwan Tai Temple, Tai O Kat Hing back Street, 大澳市區中心吉慶後街
Stop in at the Tai O Heritage Hotel
To the west of the village is the former Tai O Police Station, now converted into a hotel – a funky contrast to the rest of the village. The hotel was created in conjunction with a heritage foundation, and the historic building has been carefully preserved to keep the original features intact.
It’s really no surprise that Tai O Heritage Hotel makes it onto our list of best places to staycation in Hong Kong!
Tai O Heritage Hotel, 14 Shek Tsai Po St, Shek Tsai Po, Tai O, Hong Kong, p. 2985 8383, 大澳石仔埗街14號
Sample some of the local food
If that’s worked up an appetite, the street-side snacks are not to be missed. Sample the giant doughnuts from Tai O Bakery or indulge in spicy fishballs from Fuk Hing Hong
Tai O Bakery, 66 Kat Hing Street, Tai O, Hong Kong, p. 2985 8621 大澳吉慶街66號
Fuk Hing Hong, Shop 4D, Wing On Street, Tai O, Hong Kong 大澳永安街4D舖
The return journey to our urban city always seems like a time for reflection; Tai O is a one of a kind experience that will make anyone think of Hong Kong, and maybe even their own pace of life, a little differently.
How to Get There: Catch the ferry from Central Pier 6 to Mui Wo, then take bus 1 to Tai O. Alternatively, take the MTR to Tung Chung Station, then take bus 11 from Tung Chung Town Centre. There is also a ferry from Tung Chung New Development Pier to Tai O.