Tai O was recommended to us by two sets of friends. And I think it was a good call. I expected something far more tacky and touristy, but instead it seemed quaint and real, in spite of still being touristy. Put it this way: not many signs were in English, and that is often an indicator of how touristy a place is.
Tai O’s claim to fame is houses built on stilts. Walking around certain part of it was rather scary – it felt like it was ready to conk in at any time. So we steered away from the wonky bits and towards the more safe areas… like those made of concrete!
The other thing Tai O is famous for, is the endangered Chinese white dolphin. They aren’t easy to spot. We bought our HK$30 (£3) ticket each (bargain!), but didn’t actually believe we would actually see any dolphins. Luck was on our side, and in spite of the squealing woman who jumped up and obscured my view each time they were within range. We saw a few of them. They were small, white (pinkish) and playful.
Heritage and population
One thing there is a clear shortage of in Hong Kong, is old buildings. Yesterday our friends told us they lived in an old flat: 40 years old. In the UK, that would be classed as a ‘modern home’. It got me thinking about the population growth, and what was here when the British arrived. Apparently Britain took formal control of Hong Kong Island in 1841, when the population was 7,500 per Wikipedia: “In the Villages and hamlets: 4,360; In the Bazaar: 800; In the Boats: 2,000; Labourers from Kowloon.”
So when there is an absence of old buildings, it’s not surprising. But when you do find the old colonial buildings, and infrastructure, it makes it all the more interesting. Tai O has one of these older buildings, now the Tai O Heritage Hotel. It is the former Police Station built in 1902 with an interesting history, built to limit piracy and smuggling in the area. Positioned on the hill and mouth to the bay, it overlooks the area, and has great views from the top terraces. We did consider stopping for afternoon tea, but unfortunately, their restaurant area hasn’t been as beautifully restored, as the rest of the building. Pity. This view over lunch could be quite amazing!
We’re still a bit whimpish about trying local food without photos or English menus. And this is why it scares me: Today there was a menu that included:
Of course every town has a temple, and Tai O has quite a pretty one too. It is quite small and sits on the main walkway along the bay to the Heritage hotel.
What a lovely day out this was. It is always good when you aren’t expecting too much – then your expectations can be exceeded, so never hold to high an expectation, is my motto!
If you’ve missed earlier accounts, or you want to hear more about our 6+ month trip, use these quick links to read more: