Tai O – The Fishing Village Built on Stilts

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Tai O, is a fishing town on the western side of Lantau Island in Hong Kong. The village is now mostly squatter’s huts and dilapidated stilt houses, known as pang uks. People still live here, unlike the floating fishing villages in Ha Long Bay where the government have moved the residents into brand new apartments.


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Tai O, as disruptively beautiful as it is, has street dogs. It’s never a good sign for your town or village when dogs roam around, ownerless, with a kind of pimp-like swagger, high fiving other dogs. But then this is a slum, only a slum with flat screen TV’s, not tube teles like the Favelas in Brazil.


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Historically, any fish that went unsold by Chinese fisherman would be dried out on the piers and placed into salt barrels. Shrimp would also be left out in the sun to ferment, before being mashed by feet into paste. This practice is still employed today which will account for large parts of the harbour smelling like a Grimsby tackle shop.


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The cats here don’t care much about you either. But that can be said of all cats I suppose.


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The posters for the boat trips advertise the elusive and endangered pink dolphins, leaping from the waters like Grobbelaar in his pomp, one for the cameras as the commentators would say. Sad to say the dolphins were a no show. The boat man took us back in with no apologies. I pointed to his bastardized light fitting made out of half a can of 7Up, held with masking tape and gave him the thumbs. He nodded, stoically. A man of few words, even fewer gestures. He chugged down river, carefully inspecting the other villagers as they set about their daily chores; gutting fish, arguing, haggling. He waved to no one.


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