Tai O is a small fishing village in a small island of the same name located on the western part of Lantau, the biggest island in Hong Kong. After my trip to the Tian Tan Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery in the Ngong Ping plateau I boarded a bus to Tai O. I reckoned I could do with observing a simple living setting in a territory that is filled with all the hustling and blistering high wire activity that of Hong Kong.
The trip took almost an hour of passing through a scenic route that showed me a part of Hong Kong where there 's a seemingly endless landscapes and rows of stand alone residential units, which is a high contrast with the vertical direction of the structures in the main Hong Kong area. We also passed along portions of Lantau trail - which leads hikers to ideal campsites with breathtaking views and youth hostels. The bus also zig-zagged its way through a road sitting beside a stretch of white beach - which makes you wonder if you're on a bus going to a particular province back home in the Philippines.
I sat by the window of the bus and fought off falling into a nap as I always do when taking a ride on a new place. I enjoyed looking at the scenery while the other passengers from Mainland China engaged each other in a lively conversation and a few Caucasian travelers attend to each other's partners in a semi-passionate manner by lip locking a few times here and there as they were about three couples of them on that bus that day.
Upon arriving I quickly got out of the bus and took a walk into the market near the port. Rows of seafood stalls selling fresh and dried sea creatures adorn the walkway leading up to the town itself. I haven't had lunch nor breakfast that day and it's almost 12 pm already so I decided I'd have my lunch there - but not after I explore the place first. A hungry tummy can always wait when I'm on the road. I could easily turn it off compared to just sitting at home and feeling starved all the time. It is always a different case for me when I'm on a trip, the appetite to see new things always comes first than satisfying my food appetite.
The whole village is set up mostly by the banks of the river towards Lantau while on the other side which faces the South China Sea, ample land space remain uninhabited. A lot of the houses in Tai O are "pang-uks" a kind of "stilt-houses", built over the water because the original settlers known as the "Tanka" people believes that is is more unsafe to build their houses on top of land. However, in recent years the method of using metal sheeting as one of the main construction designs has produced another housing style in Tai O. Walking further I saw rows of houses in silver metal sheet as if its uniformly built and not out of place.
The advanced fast paced urbanization, industrialization and economic development of Hong Kong has in years contributed to the dwindling of the fishing industry in the town, as pollution caused by these economic boom has spewed over to a larger body of water surrounding Tai O. Still, the charm of a simple fishing and close knit community thrives visibly in this place.
A number of historical buildings and small temples are also found in Tai O. Some of which I've already featured on my previous blog entry called "Temples, Shrines & Monasteries". These are the Yeung Hay Temple - which was built in 1699, the Old Tai O Police Station and other temples such as the Kwan Tai, Tin Hay and the Hung Shing.
Dubbed as the simpler and much smaller version of Venice, Tai O's history can be traced back as far as the Stone Age as evidenced by a few archaeological sites dug in the past. It was first ruled by the Portuguese in the early 16th century. When the British came to rule Hong Kong, a particular group of people from mainland China came arriving in hordes riding a wave of boats and ship. They were called the "Tanka" (boat people) and ended up living on their boats and eventually, entering Tai O as illegal aliens, starting their new life there and creating their own community over rows of stilt houses built over the water.
It was a bit after lunch time when I decided I should have something to eat and people are preparing for their nap time and with the sun out in full force that day and the scattering wind from the sea brushes up against everyone's faces, the thought of sleeping on a long bench under a tree occurred to me.
I walked back towards the market where the rows of small seafood restaurants are located and settled in this small eatery that serves baked scallops and shrimps. I ordered both and had one of the best scallops I've ever had, even though I've had not too many scallops passed through my tongue before.
It was almost 2pm when I went back to the bus terminal and one Caucasian couple from the bus ride earlier are already there kissing together while waiting for the bus. Solo traveling is great as I am starting to find out, the freedom of doing your own exploration of a new place is boundless and so gratifying but, I also wouldn't count out traveling with my love one. I need to meet a hippie and free spirited nomad wannabe girl soon, so we can both start planning some cheap holidays to magaluf.
It was a well spent stroll in this quiet part of Hong Kong, a fishing village same as the ones found home in the Philippines, yet it also present a new side to it therefore offering a different perspective and a unique experience. From almost being overblown by the rapid fire and almost on steroids energy of Hong Kong, I was able to visit an almost magnificently contrasting setting. It was really special to see and witness the other side of the coin, makes you appreciate more what makes Hong Kong unique - its diversity and ability to come along with the sign of the times while maintaining an old ritual living that have failed to continue in other places that were eaten alive by the industrial revolution and the modern day economic revolution.
If I stay here for a couple more days, I swear I could have been doing some wu-shu and kung fu moves and eating by chopsticks and embracing the simple living at Tai O.