This over-a-century-old fishing village serves a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the modern city due to its tranquil beauty. Follow our guide as we uncover the best of Tai O, from picturesque sceneries to historic, colonial buildings. By Elaine Lok and Cara Hung
Best things to do and eat in Tai O
Tucked away on Shek Tsai Po Street, Cha Kwo Choi is a renowned dessert store that sells cha guo or tea dumplings. This traditional Hong Kong dessert is made from glutinous rice flour and various Chinese herbs. A charcoal grill gives this beloved snack its distinct taste. Other famous sweet treats include soft-yet-chewy mochi with your pick of flavour, such as peanuts, red bean paste, salted egg yolk and minced pork.
When in Tai O, sampling shrimp paste and dried seafood is a must. At Cheung Choi Kee, have a bite of its famous shrimp paste and pork roll, which phonetically, is the word ‘husband’. The flavours of the homemade shrimp paste combined with juicy minced pork pack quite a punch. Enjoy it wrapped in a crispy roti with shredded lettuce.
Founded in 2012 by local designer Benny Yuen, Earth.er is an eco-friendly clothing store that proudly sells apparel made with sustainably-sourced materials. Inspired by traditional Southeast Asian fashion, the collection makes use of natural materials, such as hemp and old rubber tires, to produce clothing, bags and shoes, all of which are handmade in northern Thailand and Nepal.
Tai O is famously home to the Tanka people who’ve built their
homes on stilts above the mudflats of Lantau Island for generations. To keep up with the times, residents have ingeniously transformed stilt houses into modern ventures including this café. Specialising in handcrafted artisanal coffees, Solo serves drinks in heart-shaped mugs to add to the whimsical atmosphere. Unwind on the terrace –it’s ideal for boat and people watching.
The long queues here speak for itself. The sugar-dusted Chinese-style doughnuts from Tai O Bakery is iconic not only in Tai O but across Hong Kong. Served fresh out of the fryer, the doughnuts’ sugary exterior paired with the eggy- yet-fluffy centre is simply heavenly. The bakery serves only a small batch each day, so be sure to grab one earlier in the day.
For some of the best seafood in the ‘hood, head to Tai O Crossing Boat Restaurant. Using only local produce, this restaurant serves Cantonese-style stir-fry dishes in addition to other comfort food. Go for the house favourite charcoal-roasted goose, pan-fried cuttlefish patties, and steamed rice wrapped in lotus leaves. Every dish here incorporates Tai O’s best produce: shrimp paste, dried seafood and pork.
Not only is Tai O a fishing village, it’s also an island of cats – they were originally used for pest control but have since populated the island. For the purr-fect day out, pop into Tai O Fei Mao Li, which invites locals and tourists alike to gather at its shop to have a light meal and to play with the cats. They only ask $25 per half an hour. Don’t miss the semi-regular workshops or special events that aim to promote and celebrate the culture of Tai O and its local artists.
Formerly the Tai O Police Station, the western colonial-style landmark was eventually revitalised into a hotel in 2012. Situated on a small hill by the ferry pier, Tai O Heritage Hotel offers a serene yet elegant environment for hotel guests. Make sure to dine at Tai O Lookout, a glass-roofed restaurant furnished with the works of local artists. Learn more about the history of the hotel with the free guided tours available every day.
As Hong Kong becomes more environmentally conscious, eating local is more prevalent than ever. That is why community projects such as Yi O Farm are essential in sustaining the market for local produce. A collective of nature lovers and charitable Hongkongers began this project in 2012 with about 100,000sq ft of land to harvest rice, vegetables and fruits. Walking tours and farming workshops are available, or simply take home quality locally-grown fresh fruits