Tired of the Peak, Big Buddha, and Sai Kung? Looking for something a bit more off the beaten track? Check out Tai O, also known as the “Venice of Hong Kong”. It is famous for the Pang Uks which are a type of stilt house that give it its iconic look. As one of the few remaining fishing villages of its kind, this day trip to Lantau Island is a perfect way to reconnect with Hong Kong’s history and culture.
What to know about Tai O
Tai O is a small fishing village located in the western part of Lantau Island, Hong Kong known for its long history stretching back centuries!! The iconic image of Tai O, and what gives it its nickname, the “Venice of Hong Kong”, is that the original village was built on stilts, with many of its structures reaching out over the water. Tourists and locals alike flock to the area to check out the interesting sights, from brightly painted boats to traditional Chinese temples. The best way to explore Tai O is by taking a boat tour – you can see the traditional houses and way of life as well as get some great views of the area including the now Instagram famous, blue rope-drawn ferry bridge. Your trip would also be incomplete without getting a bite at Market Street, where you can sample the delicious local seafood.
To get to Tai O one of the fastest routes is to take the MTR to Tung Chung and then take bus number 11. Another option is to take the ferry from Central Pier No. 6 to Mui Wo. Then from the Mui Wo Pier, take bus number 1.
What to do in Tai O?
Take a boat ride
It might seem like a small place, but there are tons of activities to make your day trip worthwhile. To truly get a feel of the village, you must experience it like the locals – by sampan! For just HK$20, you can take a ride around this unique space and experience daily life as it has been for centuries.
Click Instagram-worthy pictures at the Blue Rope-Drawn Ferry Bridge
Another must-do item is to walk to the Rope-Drawn Ferry Bridge, which has become popular for its bright blue colour. If you’re lucky, you can even see it drawn up to let big boats pass.
Moreover, Tai O Fishing Village is home to a number of temples. The favourite is usually Yeung Hau Temple which is a 17th-century temple dedicated to a Song Dynasty general and is popular for the festivities around the Dragon Boat Water Parade.
Check out the Tai O Heritage Hotel
Another historic spot to visit (or stay at!) is the Tai O Heritage Hotel. It was converted from the old Tai O Marine Police Station built in 1902 and now offers a cosy and historic stay at their nine-room boutique hotel.
Spot the Pink Dolphins
Last but not least, for animal lovers, if you’re lucky, you might be able to spot the famous Chinese White Dolphins or Pink Dolphins as they’re more commonly known. Just head to the Fu Shan viewing point (and be sure to bring a pair of binoculars!)
What to eat in Tai O?
It is home to many food delicacies, but you have to start at Tai O Market Street. The street food is legendary, and some of the delicacies that you can pick up as you roam the street include Jianbings which is the savoury Chinese crepes. You can customize what is inside but pork floss and shrimps are always good choices. The funnily named ‘Husband’ is actually a mixed shrimp paste and stir-fried minced pork roll. And of course, there are the giant fish balls, the size of golf balls that are boiled and soaked in chilli soup – a Tai O speciality!
Tai O Bakery
This one might be a bit of a wait, but it is worth it! Serving supposedly the best Chinese Sugar Doughnuts across Hong Kong. Fluffy, eggy, melt in your mouth! Have it piping hot for just HK$15. What more could you ask for?
Tai O Bakery, 66 Kat Hing Street, Tai O | +852 2985 6821
Tai O Store
If you’re looking to sit down and enjoy your seafood, although there isn’t much seating, Tai O Store is the go-to. Known for the seafood barbeque, they offer the freshest seafood, right out of the water! Oysters, Scallops, Shrimps, Cuttlefish, and Squids are just some of the delicacies. And they are served of course, with Tai O’s signature shrimp paste.
Tai O Store, 68 Tai O Wing On St, Tai O
Tai O Fei Mao Li
You have probably seen the Cats of Hong Kong Instagram account and know that these feline creatures are adored here. But at Tai O Fei Mao Li, the adoration is taken to the next level. Drop in for a quick bite and enjoy this little cat cafe. For just HK$25 for every half an hour, you can play with the kitties to your heart’s content. Plus, there is a charitable element with the proceeds going towards supporting the Tai O strays!
Tai O Fei Mao Li, 67 Kat Hing St, Tai O | +852 9497 4206
Tai O Lookout
Views are plenty in Tai O but few beat the one from the Tai O Lookout, the restaurant in Tai O Heritage Hotel. Surrounded by greenery and incredible panoramic views of the sea, this is definitely worth a visit. The decor is inspired by the colonial era and the food is pretty good too! The shrimp paste features heavily and you can’t leave without trying their signatures such as the Deep-fried Shrimp Toast, the Tai O Lookout Fried Rice and the Mountain Begonia Egg Waffle!
Tai O Lookout, 14 Shek Tsai Po St, Lantau Island | +852 2985 8383
What to drink in Tai O?
For a cafe vibe in the middle of this historic village, check out Nak Cafe. It is known for the best coffee in the area, and people rave about their espresso tonic. In addition to serving classics like eggs benedict and affogatos, you can also find some locally inspired bites such as the truffle prawn toast. Plus the staff, especially Kevin, are super friendly and welcoming. And it’s dog friendly!
NAK Kafé, 20 Tai O Wing On St, Tai O | +852 2368 8030
Tai O Tea Shop
Also on the waterfront, you can find a traditional Chinese Tea shop, that offers you insight into the tea culture of Tai O and Hong Kong. Enjoy classics from lemon tea to tea eggs to plum juice.
Tai O Tea Shop,111 Shek Tsai Po St, Tai O | +852 9086 7738
Tai O Banyan Tree café
Closed Tuesday to Thursday, this is still one of the favourites for a coffee date. You can expect great pasta, speciality cakes, and of course, coffee alongside scenic views of the village. They also have a lifestyle store section that sells unique souvenirs. P.S. This was featured on the Netflix Series, Restaurants on the Edge!
Tai O Banyan Tree, G/F, 68 Kat Hing Street, Tai O | +852 6999 8213
For a prime dragon boat parade viewing location, and of course a great view in general, Solo is a great spot to relax after a long day site seeing. They offer a great speciality coffee or if you’re looking for something cold, they also have an ice drop coffee. Also included are light bites and homemade desserts such as cheesecake, tiramisu, and a serradura (biscuit mousse)
Solo Café, G/F, 86-88 Kat Hing Street, Tai O | +852 9153 7453
Where to shop in Tai O?
Tai O Market
It is not a store but you can find some great knick-knacks and souvenirs as you explore Tai O Street Market. The delicacies of course include shrimp paste and salted fish, alongside other dried seafood but you can also find things like jewellery, lanterns, bamboo hats, and fans.
Tai O Market Street, Shek Tsai Po St, Tai O
Global Tribe aka EARTH.er
Hidden in the depths of the fishing village is a funky little shop selling sustainably made goods sourced from around Asia. It has a number of items such as bags, shoes, clothing, and accessories all made locally using traditional Asian craft techniques. The interior is also super cool, shabby chic so it’s definitely worth a visit. Earth.er, 83 Kat Hing Street, Tai O, Hong Kong
FAQ about Tai O
What is Tai O known for?
It is best known for being one of the last traditional fishing villages in Hong Kong and China. People also visit it for food items such as shrimp paste, salted fish, and sugar doughnuts.
What’s the best restaurant to try in Tai O?
For an authentic seafood meal, check out Tai O Store. For the views, Tai O Lookout is highly recommended.
What’s the main thing to see in Tai O?
The Pink Dolphins are a must-see when visiting the fishing village.
Header image credits: Millevache via WikiCommons