This ‘Venice of the Orient’ is a remarkable place to forget modernity. Go for the famous stilt houses, local shrimp paste delicacy or to see the bronze big buddha
A fishing village home to the Tanka people, Tai O is situated on Lantau Island, the largest island in Hong Kong that is located at the mouth of the Pearl River.
There are 47 villages on the island, with three – Mui Wo, Tai O, and Tung Chung – being developed as new towns.
However, it is Tai O that is the largest settlement on Lantau, with canals running the length of this small fishing harbour.
Known as ‘The Venice of the Orient’, this village is famous for homes built on stilts over the water and also has a manually operated drawbridge that spans the narrow creek dividing the town, which replaced a rope-drawn ‘ferry’ that operated for over 85 years.
Bus: From MTR Tung Chung Station, take bus 11 to Tai O bus terminus. The journey takes around50 minutes. Walk for around five minutes to the rope-drawn ferry bridge and then take a stroll along the waterfront.
Cable car: From MTR Tung Chung Station, take exit B and get on the Ngong Ping Cable Car to Ngong Ping Village, that takes around 25 mins. Hope onto bus 21 to Tai O terminus and walk to the ferry bridge. The standard cable car of a single trip will coat HK$86/adult and HK$125/adult for a round trip.
Ferry: You can also board a ferry from Central, Hong Kong to Mui Wo to reach the island. The slow ferry takes 55mins while the fast ferry takes 35-40mins.
It’s free to enter the island, but attractions inside may charge an entrance fee.
What to see
The Big Buddha
Erected in 1993, the Tian Tan Buddha statue is 34 metres high and faces north to look over the Chinese people.
Located near the remote Po Lin Monastery, the buddha sits 26.4 metres atop a lotus throne and draws pilgrims from all over Asia, with the statue’s raised right hand delivering a blessing to all.
Taking 12 years to build, the buddha costs HK$60m to construct and is made up of 160 bronze pieces.
Climb the 268 steps for a closer look at the statue, while also enjoying the sweeping mountain and sea views.
Opposite the statue, the Po Lin Monastery is one of Hong Kong’s most important Buddhist sanctums and has been dubbed ‘the Buddhist World in the South’.
The monastery contains colourful manifestations of Buddhist iconography and contains a beautiful flowered garden.
Right next to the bus terminus is the entrance to Tai O village.
Once here, walk along Kat Hing Street for the market to experience local foods and fish. Look out for the dried salted fish hanging up and also dried pufferfish. Try the garlands of fish maw (dried swim bladder) hung up in shops or on wooden sticks. They’re super crispy.
There’s also Tai O Market Street that sells more dried seafood and it’s here where you can pick up the local shrimp paste.
Don’t plan to go too late, as the market and shops tend to close around 6pm-7pm.
One of the main draws of visiting Tai O is the Pang uks – houses built on wooden stilts that are driven deep into the muddy tidal flats of the river. The small traditional-style old houses sit along the waterfront in the estuary and date back to the 19th Century.
The older houses are commonly made of metal sheeting, while the modern houses feature balconies and are made from concrete.
Tip: You can get a boat ride around the canals for around HK$20 per person. You may even spot the rare pink dolphin.
Ngong Ping 360
Ngong Ping 360 is one of Hong Kong’s must-see attractions and includes a cable car journey and the culturally themed Ngong Ping Village.
Providing an overlook of Ngong Village, Ngong Ping Cable Car is a 3.5-mile long bi-cable ropeway linking Tung Chung and Ngong Ping.
As the first of its kind in Hong Kong, the cable car journey starts from Tung Chung Terminal, running across Tung Chung Bay to a station on Airport Island where it turns about 60 degrees toward North Lantau. The total journey time is between 25- 30 mins.
The cable car offers standard cabins and crystal cabins. The crystal cabins have glass bottoms and tickets are charged at a premium rate.
Both sets of cabins circulate on the same ropeway with passengers being segregated by queuing systems at both termini.
A round trip for a standard cabin costs HK$210 and a crystal cabin costs HK$290.
Tip: You can purchase a sunset tour that includes a single trip cable car experience, Po Lin Monastery, Big Buddha, Tai O Fishing Village and Cheung Sha Beach. A standard cabin costs HK$690 and a crystal cabin costs HK$750.
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