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Tai O-Shutterstock12-03-2020
Photograph: Shutterstock

Tai O: ultimate neighbourhood guide

There’s more to this famous fishing village than just stilt houses

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong
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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 and historical colonial buildings to where you can grab a bite.

RECOMMENDED: For any history buffs, be sure to visit Hong Kong’s oldest buildings and structures, or take a hike through a heritage trail in the city.

Best things to do and eat in Tai O

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When in Tai O, sampling shrimp paste and dried seafood is a must. At Cheung Choi Kee, have a bite of its famous 'Husband roll', which consists of a mix of shrimp paste, minced pork, and shredded lettuce wrapped inside a roti. The flavours of the homemade shrimp paste stir-fried with juicy minced pork pack quite a punch. 

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Fu Shan, also known as Tiger Mountain in Chinese, is not as intimidating as it sounds. In fact, the hiking trail to Fu Shan is just a short 15-minute walk from Kau San Tei Lookout Pavilion. Enter through a small gate and proceed up the stairs that lead to the top. The panoramic view of the sea makes for some impressive Instagram photos. At the end of the trail, you’ll be greeted by the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge on one side and Tai O Bay on the other.

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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 divine. The bakery serves only a small batch each day, so be sure to grab one earlier in the day.

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Tucked away on Shek Tsai Po Street, Cha Kwo Choi is a renowned dessert store that sells cha guo (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 flavours such as peanuts, red bean paste, salted egg yolk, and minced pork.

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Kwan Tai Temple is the oldest of temples in Tai O, and it is also listed as a Grade II historical Hong Kong building. Dedicated to honouring Kwan Tai, a brave and courageous military general of the Three Kingdoms era, the ancient temple was built during the Ming Dynasty. Inside the ancient temple, you will find statues of what is believed to be Kwan Tai's red hare and horseman, both of which are also worshipped by visitors.

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Tai O is famously home to the Tanka people who have 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. The best part, however, is Solo’s cute little terrace, where you can sit and watch people and boats go by.

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Not only is Tai O a fishing village, but it's also an island of cats – they were originally used for pest control but have since populated the island. For the purrfect day out, pop into Tai O Fei Mao Li, which invites locals and visitors alike to gather at its shop to have a light meal and play with the cats. 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 too.

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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 100,000 sq ft of land to harvest rice, vegetables, and fruits. Join the walking tours and farming workshops, or simply shop for some quality locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables.

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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.

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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. You can also learn more about the history of the hotel with the free guided tours available every day.

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