They say the cure to everything is salt water in terms of our tears, sweat, and the sea.
And I feel that the residents of Tai O and the whole village itself is the best personification of this phrase.
Our excursion to Lantau Island started off with a scenic bus ride through the greenery of Hong Kong. I was mesmerized by the large amount of preserved land in contrast to the industrialized skyscrapers that surround our dorms. As we delved deeper into the island the people dwindled, buildings shrank, but the vast forests stayed.
The village of Tai O is located at the western end of the island sitting right next to the ocean. Gabby, our tour guide, informed us that Tai O is one of the oldest establishments in Hong Kong, which could be seen through the architecture of the village. Many homes sat on stilts plunging into the ocean banks surrounded by boats, a sight I was familiar with having been born in a fishing village in Vietnam. Even so, the general aesthetic greatly deserved its moniker as the “Venice of Hong Kong”.
Another aspect that I found very quaint were the mom-and-pop shops scattered throughout. From restaurants, storefronts selling dried seafood, and even cat cafes, the villagers of Tai O have readily accepted their position as a tourist destination. At the same time, the village is able to keep its rustic simplicity – an aspect that makes Tai O unique. While buildings were interconnected, and there were many, the village is quite spacious which only added to the relaxed vibe that emanates throughout the area.
During our visit, we toured through the village and noticed many Taoist temples and shrines. The villagers of Tai O revere several deities of which include a warrior deity and, quite obviously, the sea deity. The oldest temple in Tai O dates back to the 1600s and was remarkably well-kept much like the rest of the village.
I believe that the village is so well-kept and such a popular tourist spot because the residents truly love their home. When the government gave the villagers the opportunity to move to modernized homes, they didn’t accept, which truly emphasizes that their roots to the village are deep.
In their position, I would do the same as it would be silly to move away from the sea – the cure of all things.