A small fishing village, Tai O is starting to become more commercialized as a tourist destination, and most tour buses include the village on their daily Lantau itinerary. Near the bus stop, a sign welcomes visitors to Tai O, and other signs point the way to the market or one of several temples. It seems that traditional fishing life is being slowly converted to a tourism-based economy. Visitors can pay to take a guided walking tour of the fishing huts elevated on stilts above the water.
We wanted to get a sense of daily life in the village, so we bypassed the main street and spent a couple of hours navigating back lanes and almost-hidden alleyways. The market was an interesting place to browse through. Although there was a bit of the usual tourist fare, cheap jewelry, postcards, fans, and tacky memorabilia, the majority of the stalls were filled with dried fish and seaweed, live crab, eel, and prawns, as well as shark fins. One place even had a full-sized shark that had been dried and hung from the ceiling. In another spot, an enterprising senior was selling homemade dumplings, as well as jars of herbs for medicinal use.
There were signs advertising main temples, but we were more interested in the small temples and shrines that we discovered purely by chance. Some were little more than a pedestal with incense and a bowl of oranges as an offering.
As well as the stilted houses near the water, there were also quite a few sheet metal-coated houses. Lines of fish were strung out to dry in front yards, and people were huddled over tiny kitchen tables to play a noisy and energetic game of mahjong. The preferred method of transportation seemed to be via bicycle, and cyclists carried their groceries or packages on long poles balanced atop their shoulders.
Buses from Tai O run regularly to Tung Chung, Po Lin Monastery, and Mui Wo ferry terminal. Exact fare is required. Schedules and costs are posted at the bus stop at the entrance to town, across from the large parking lot.
Behind the bus stop are the public bathrooms, which are very clean and equipped with toilet paper, soap, and a hand dryer, which are not necessarily all that common in public areas. There are also large signs discouraging the practice of spitting on the street. I guess some aspects of commercialization are a good thing.