On the back side of Hong Kong Island is the community of Aberdeen. We decided to go after reading there are sampans you can ride. Now, when we read about sampans, we imagined cool looking boats with awesome accordion-like sails that were right out of a movie.
Our excitement was met with a harbor full of junks and fishing boats with people pestering us for about half a mile to ride their sampans, which are actually just little sampan-type boats with motors, no sails, and ugly tarp or plastic covers. They take you on a tour up and around the harbor or typhoon shelter to see the boats and the boat-house community.
In the end, we did not go on a sampan but did see a bit of Aberdeen. The bus we took was a double-decker so we got to see a bit of the city as we drove. If we had more daylight, we would’ve definitely explored an old cemetery on the hillside in Aberdeen but it wasn’t lit up at night.
Out on Lantau Island is a small fishing community called Tai O. You can get there from many points on the island via their great bus system. We got there from the Ngong Ping area with the big Buddha. Not knowing what to expect and having a disappointing Aberdeen experience, we didn’t have preconceived ideas of what we would see. We were pleasantly surprised and spent much more time than expected there.
Tai O is a traditional fishing village mostly built on stilts over the marshy tidal areas and inlets. Along the narrow streets are dried fish and other sea creatures as well as plenty of live ones for sale. Even with all of that the air wasn’t overtly fishy smelling. As you go through the market area, not very touristy I might add, you see real people doing what they really do day in and out.
Our first adventure in the village was a boat ride in through the community then out to the bay. It was completely worth it to go up in the village as the fishermen actually do. It is a very different perspective from the paths and alleys that you go on by foot. After going up into the village, the boat took us out to the ocean where, I’m guessing mostly in warmer weather, you’re supposed to see dolphins. If we had, then this is easily the best 20 HKD spent.
After the boat trip, we meandered up through the village past the shops and restaurants (tried the Tai O Bakery’s pastries and they were yummy) into the narrow paths that made up its streets. This was so cool to see the village from the inside. We wandered up and down little alleys and saw fishermen making nets, old people playing mahjong, fish drying and more. This excursion was definitely worth a visit off the beaten path of Hong Kong’s typical tourist.