TAI O, HONG KONG
Photos and words by Cara Gallardo Weil
The fishing village of Tai O is located on the northwestern coast of Lantau Island, the largest island in Hong Kong. The village is a stark contrast to the modern architecture of the airport and the city metropolis, normally associated with Hong Kong.
Tai O is home to the Tanka, or boat people, a nomadic southern Chinese ethnic group who traditionally lived on junks. Their houses are built on stilts above the tidal flats. These structures are interconnected, forming a tightly-knit community that lives on the water. The stilt houses, or ‘pang uks’, were once common across Hong Kong – Tai O is the last remaining community of any scale.
Although Tai O’s fishing industry has shrunk considerably in recent years, fish is still a central part of village life, and one can catch a waft of the shrimp paste (a speciality of the village) and salted fish and scallops can be seen drying on verandas.
The village is unique in a city like Hong Kong and when observing village life, one feels a sense of stepping back in time. Getting there can be a bit of a trek, but well worth it – not only is the village a glimpse of Hong Kong’s past, but the journey there also offers a different view of Hong Kong that will surprise many who only know the skyscrapers and modern metropolis.
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