An authentic little fishing village under the smoke of a big city

At the bottom of Lantau Island, at the far corner, we find the little fishing village of Tai O. A hair raising downhill taxi ride from the big Buddha at 80km an hour drops us at the outskirts of the village. I almost wish I had not bothered coming here. My first impression is of a worn down village of tired houses and old fishing boats. A man is trying to convince us to take a boat tour to see the Chinese pink dolphins. But then we start walking the narrow streets of this little village. The further we go the more enthralled I become. Tai O truly is Hong Kong of the beaten path.

Where the fish is fresh and the scales are old

We walk narrow streets with shops full of life and dried fish. Cross a bridge over the river, we watch as a fishing boat full of fresh catch moors at the quay. Several customers are ready to buy as they know that you cannot get fish any fresher than this. The owner of the boat is negotiating with customers on the quay. On the boat, a woman is ready to weigh the fish the customers select. No modern technology here. She uses an old fashioned scale: two plates connected by a cord, hanging around her neck. One plate has a weight, the other one the merchandise. We want to stay and watch, but we are not buying anything and hurt business so we are shooed away quickly.

A village on stilts

We get deeper into the village.  We cross another bridge when we hear a tour guide claim “this is “the spot” for the best picture of the village on stilts”. And indeed on the other side of the bridge we see a total different part of the village. It’s a unique village of fishermen’s houses built on stilts.

Life after the 2018 typhoon Mangkhut

We continue and we see a lot of debris and half-finished houses. We realize that a big part of this village was destroyed by typhoon Mangkhut the year before. The village is slowly being restored again. Looking at the devastation I cannot start to imagine what it must have been like to be here during the typhoon. I feel a deep compassion for the people of Tai O. Spending your whole life and money trying to build up an existence and a better life for your children and then one storm takes it all away.

Triple Lanterns café – no need to hurry

From the bridge, we see a cute little café on the other side of the river and we decide it is time to stop for a break. We enter Triple Lanterns Café and order lemon honey tea and read the story of the café. The owner is born and raised in Tai O and started the café a couple of years earlier. Her motto is “no need to hurry” and we understand her perspective as we sit at the deck and look out over the river. You wouldn’t think the big city of Hong Kong is just miles away from this off the beaten path little gem. We look at some of the pictures that show the sunset from the café over the ocean. It’s such a nice and calming place. 

Simple things in life

After that, we decide she is right: there is no need to hurry so we just sit back and enjoy the view of the river and the boats floating by. Life can be so simple at times.  

I will have to go back to see if the pink dolphins are really there and to have another honey lemonade at the Triple Lanterns café, this time with the sun setting over the river like in the pictures hanging on the wall of Triple Lanterns Café. In conclusion, Tai O is Hong Kong of the beaten path. #noneedtohurry #simplethingsinlife


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