04 November 2009

Tai O Fishing Village

Buying fruit and vegetables at one of the many stands along the walkways through the village.

Typical scene in the early evening at Tai O.

In case anyone was wondering, this is indeed a dried headless shark skin! One of the wonderful things about Chinese food is that absolutely nothing is wasted, and, with an open mind to try new things, a lot of the food is actually really tasty. On the contrary though there are some things that are extremely far from being tasty too.

Along the waterfront at Tai O fishing village.

Along the waterfront at Tai O fishing village.

Tai O (traditional Chinese: 大澳) is a fishing town, partly located on an island of the same name, on the western side of Lantau Island in Hong Kong.

On the main part of Lantau, a river splits to the north and west and at this fork lies the island referred to as Tai O. Two pedestrian bridges cross the river on its northern and western forks. The village is located mostly on the banks of the river. The western and northern parts of the island facing the South China Sea are uninhabited.

Nearby archaeological sites date back to the Stone Age, but permanent, and verifiable, human settlement here is only three centuries old. Stories that would be impossible to substantiate have Tai O as the base of many smuggling and piracy operations, the inlets of the river providing excellent protection from the weather and a hiding place. In early 16th century, Tai O was once occupied shortly by Portuguese during Battle of Tãmão. At nearby Fan Lau, a fort was built in 1729 to protect shipping on the Pearl River. Smuggling of guns, tobacco, drugs and people remains a documented illegal activity both into and out of mainland China.

When the British came to Hong Kong, Tai O was known as a Tanka village. During and after the Chinese Civil War, Tai O became a primary entrypoint for illegal immigration for those escaping from the People's Republic of China. Some of these immigrants, mostly Han Chinese, stayed in Tai O, and Tai O attracted people from other Hong Kong ethnic groups, including Hoklo (Hokkien) and Hakka.

Tai O has a history of salt production. In 1940, it was recorded that the Tai Po salt marshes were covering 70 acres and that the production has amounted to 25,000 piculs (1,512 metric tons) in 1938.

Currently the fishing lifestyle is dying out. While many residents continue to fish, it barely provides a subsistence income. There is a public school on the island and most young people move away when they come of age. In 2000 a large fire broke out destroying many residences. The village is now mostly squatters huts and dilapidated stilt houses.

Source: Wikipedia

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