Taiji in Tai O, Lantau Island | Hong Kong

Tai O is a small fishing village in an 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 simple life observance in a setting contrasting the hustling and blistering high wire activity that in Hong Kong.

Cheska Lacson in Tai O, Lantau Island

The trip took almost an hour passing through a scenic route that showed me the other face of Hong Kong spread with more countryside and only few pockets of one-story residential units—opposite of the vertical structures in the main Hong Kong area. We also passed along portions of Lantau trail which leads hikers to ideal campsites with breathtaking nature views. The bus also zig-zagged its way through a long stretch of white beach side road, that made me wonder if the bus I'm in is en-route to a particular province back home in the Philippines.

Cheska Lacson in Tai O, Lantau Island

I sat by the window of the bus and fought off falling into a nap. I kept awake just so I could stare at the scenery while the other passengers from Mainland China engaged each other in a lively conversation. A Caucasian couple seated in front of me attended to each other by lip locking a few times. They made me envious for a minute there. 

Cheska Lacson in Tai O, Lantau Island

Upon our arrival at the bus stop, I quickly got out and took a leisurely stroll to 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 to have my lunch there.

The whole village is set by the banks of the river towards Lantau, while the other side faces the South China Sea. A lot of the houses in Tai O are called "pang-uks"—a kind of "stilt-house"—built over water because the original settlers known as the "Tanka" people, believes it is more unsafe to build their houses on top of a land. However, in recent years the method of using metal sheeting as one of the main construction material has produced a new 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 diminishing of the fishing industry in the town. As pollution caused by 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 remain visibly thriving 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.

scallops in Tai O, Lantau Island

Dubbed as a laid-back and smaller version of Venice, Tai O's history can be traced back as far as the Stone Age. Tai O 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, they entered Tai O as illegal aliens, starting their new life there and creating their own community over rows of stilt houses built over the water.

With the sun out in full force that day and the scattering wind from the sea brushes up against my faces, the thought of sleeping on a long bench under a tree occurred to me. Sleepy town indeed.

Wanting to try the local food more, I walked back towards the market where the rows of small seafood restaurants are located and settled in a small eatery serving baked scallops and shrimps. I ordered both and had one of the best scallops I've ever had. 

It was almost 2pm when I went back to the bus terminal and the Caucasian couple from the bus ride earlier were already there kissing each other while waiting for the bus. Solo traveling is great, as I am starting to find out, the freedom of doing your own exploration in 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.

It was a worthwhile sleepy-town-stroll especially discovering this quiet part of Hong Kong. Tai O's fishing village may appear almost similar as the ones found in the Philippines, yet it shows a different character. 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, as it makes you appreciate more what makes Hong Kong unique; its diversity and ability to adapt with the sign of the times while maintaining its heritage that has outlived 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.