Grab your hats, sunscreen, strollers, and little ones and head out for a cultural adventure in the picturesque fishing village tucked away on Lantau Island, Tai O!
Tai O is a visual delight, deserving of lots of mini photo shoots and several Instagram posts. Sure, much of its charm comes from the traditional stilt houses which are found in only a few remaining fishing villages in Hong Kong. But, the fact that it is framed by the coast on one side and mountains on the other combined with the flair of the lively Tai O Market make it a feast for the eyes, and other senses as well. It’s a nice opportunity to get out of the city with the kids and slow it down for a unique family day trip. One of our contributors spent six weeks living in and exploring Tai O, here are her tips for what to do when you’re there with the kiddos.
Situated on the northwest coast of Lantau Island, there are two main methods of transport to the village; from Central, Tai O can be reached via MTR and bus or Ferry and bus. To skip the crowds, take the Ferry. To skip the waves, take the MTR! The Ferry and bus services run regularly from around 5am to midnight. Both will get you there within 2hrs.
For MTR: From Hong Kong Station, take the Tung Chung line to its last stop, Tung Chung (30-35 minutes). Walk for 5 minutes following signs to Bus No. 11 (45 minutes).
For Ferry: From Central Pier 6, take the Ferry (35-40 minutes Fast Ferry, 50-55 minutes Ordinary Ferry) to Mui Wo (Lantau Island). From Mui Wo take Bus No. 1 to Tai O (45 minutes).
Both buses will take you to the bus terminus, a parking lot that puts you at the far west end of Wing On Street.
Here are ten great ideas for families with wee-travellers who want to visit this charming village I have called home for the past six weeks.
Get muddy with some Shabak Raking
During the lowest tides, families flock to the shores to try their luck shabak raking. These shellfish are as delicious as they look! Make sure you get a chance to grill them up Hong Kong BBQ Style at one of the barbecue pits on the island or bring them home on ice to enjoy in the next couple days!
Hot tip: Book in advance and bring friends. Smaller groups can be accommodated but these activities are fun to do in groups! (Find the application form for this tour and others through the Tai O YWCA – CERC Facebook Page. Simply submit your preferences to the centre, make sure to request Shabak Raking in August.) Oh, and make sure you have a spare pair of shoes!
Contact them through Facebook Search Tai O YWCA – CERC or via email: [email protected]
Address: G/F 61-63 Wing On Street, Tai O, Lantau Island, 2985 6310/2985 6330
Do as the locals do and ride bikes around the village and surrounding areas of Tai O.
There is a bike rental shop, Gik Yau Bicycle Firm (translated to “Polar Friendly Bicycle Firm”) where Wing On Street ends and Tai Ping Street begins with friendly service and plenty of bikes. You can even rent a cart and tow the little ones behind!
Bike Shop, Gik Yau Bicycle Firm, Crossroads of Tai Ping Street and Wing On Street, Tai O, Lantau Island
Star-gaze or enjoy the sunset
Pack some snacks or lunch and hike up to the Dolphin “Fu Shan” Viewing Point, my favorite perch on the island. The summit is only a 10-minute trek up the stair trail behind the Shaolin Wushu Culture Centre. Easy enough for the little ones but sorry, not so stroller friendly!
If you plan to stay in Tai O past sundown, this is the spot to watch the sunset. On clear days, you can see Macao and Hong Kong Island, and you might even get to spot a few dolphins. However, past sunset, this trail gets a bit spooky for your younger hikers as there are no lights along the path and it cuts through ancestral burial grounds. If the kids are up for the adventure, just make sure your phones or flashlights have plenty of battery.
Trail Head: Follow signs to “Dolphin Viewing Platform” behind the Hong Kong Shaolin Wushu Culture Centre, Shek Tsai Po Street, Tai O, Lantau Island, 295 8898, www.shaolincc.org.hk
Get your hands gooey with Salty-Egg Making
A traditional staple of the fishing village, duck eggs were salted and dried in the sun then later served in soups and other dishes to add flavor. This activity, also made available through the YWCA, is a gooey mess, but tons of fun.
Grind yourself up some White Bean Congee
Kids of all ages can do as the villagers of Tai O do and use specialised bowls and wooden sticks to grind white beans into congee, a delicious porridge dessert.
Flour up your hands and Stuff Some Mochi
Loh Maishi, or peanut mochi balls, are my personal favourite of the local dishes. Sign up for a cooking class with “popo,” grandma, through the YWCA, a resident-expert Loh Maishi maker!
Cultural Programs: Tai O YWCA Cultural and Ecological Integrated Resource Centre, On Facebook search Tai O YWCA – CERC, [email protected] G/F 61-63 Wing On Street, Tai O, Lantau Island, 2985 6310/2985 6330
Explore the Natural Environment
Tai O’s waters are protected by Mangrove forests, and with the Mangroves come plenty of fun and interesting critters! Look for colorful fiddler crabs and mudskippers with your little ones at low tide.
Flora and Fauna: Mangroves can be found by the Waterfront Promenade and Sun Ki Street. During low tide, the mud critters can be seen from Sun Kei Bridge and en route to the Tai O Heritage Hotel via Shek Tsai Po Street.
Try your hand at fishing off Tokyo Pier
How about some good, old-fashioned fishing? Along Wing On Street there are several fish and tackle shops where you can buy a length of line, a few hooks and some worms, and try your luck off Tokyo Pier! Maybe the owner of the store will even let you catch his cage traps to see the daily catch of minnows!
Tokyo Pier Store, G/F 62B Kat Hing Street, Tai O, Lantau Island
Recover with a Spot of Tea
For a relaxed and more refined afternoon, head to the Tai O Heritage Hotel for their Tea Time. This converted Colonial Era police station will mesmerize your little ones as they imagine the stories of the past, and will give you some much needed R&R after a long day of hiking around and being super-mom.
The set includes a menu that will keep even the pickiest of little eaters happy: Potato Wedges ($68), Fried Chicken Wings with Shrimp Paste ($78), Fish and Chips ($88), Crispy Buns with Pork Chop Marinated with Shrimp Paste ($88), Frankfurter Hot Dog ($98), Corn Nachos with Chicken ($98), Mountain Begonia Cheesecake—a local specialty on the favourite dessert. ($78).
Drinks included are coffee or tea and frozen drinks or a Mangrove Special can be substituted for $15 extra
Tai O Lookout, 1/F, Tai O Heritage Hotel, Shek Tsai Po Street, Tai O, Lantau Island, 2985 8383, www.taioheritagehotel.com
Take a Dolphin Boat Tour
For just $20, hop aboard one of these little motorboats and tour the stilt houses and Tai O waters. Catch a glimpse of General Rock, a natural rock formation resembling a reclining general, and maybe spot a Pink Dolphin or two!
Boat Tours, Dolphin Watch, Tai O Chung Footbridge (between Wing On and Market Streets), www.hkdolphinwatch.com
Hot tip: Need some wifi on the island? There are wifi-zones at the bus terminus (30 minute daily limit) and at the local library (which also has air conditioning) located at the end of Wing On Street to the left of the Kindergarten.
Public Library Information, 2985 5006, www.hkpl.gov.hk
I hope you enjoy your time on Tai O and find the wealth of family-friendly activities this fishing village has to offer!