Tai-O fishing village.

To continue from where i last left off, the bf and i had spent our first night in Yau Ma Tei area, choosing to stay at a mid-range priced hotel named Charitas bianchi hotel. For our second day in Hong Kong, we planned to explore Tai-O and Big buddha on Lantau Island, so we got up early to make a head start. 
Directions on how to visit Lantau Island and Tai-O can be found in the details below. 

Breakfast was a simple affair- buffet-style at the hotel, which was included in the room rate. The eggs and ham were good but everything else was forgettable. 

very modest spread 

We then headed back to the room to quickly pack our things. Though the breakfast was nothing impressive, the room was large and comfortable, with pillows and bed linen that provided us a real good night's rest. 

Although we hadn't booked a room with a bathtub, we had been allocated a corner room that was accessible for the disabled- this meant that our bathroom had a low bathtub, toilet bowl and also wash basin, which was fine for us but might be uncomfortable for others. 

We took the MTR from Yau Ma Tei (red line) North-west to Lai King, where we changed to the yellow line towards Tung Chung. From Lai King it's only a mere 3 stops to where you can get off and take the cab car.

Though we had set off rather early, around 9+am, the train cabins were full when we changed to the Tung Chung line. About a third of the passengers got off at Sunny bay MTR stop to change to the Disneyland stop. Majority, like us, were on their way to visit Big Buddha. 

From Tung Chung station, once you exit, you can see a huge outlet shopping map to your right, and a bus station (partially obscured) further front. The place where you purchase/collect the Ngong Ping cable car tickets and take the cable car is a 10-15 walk ahead, to the left of the bus station. 

We had purchased our tickets via the convenience store ahead of time, but it is also possible to do so online. Would advise you to do so to avoid having to queue to purchase your tickets as there's a separate queue for those who purchase online and those who purchase on the spot. 

The package we purchased was the 360 Sky-Land-Sea Day Pass, which included standard cable car, free Tai-O fishing boat ride and unlimited bus rides package for a day. More details can be found here
There are 2 kinds of cable car- the standard and the crystal one, and the only difference is that the crystal one has a clear panel flooring, so you can see the ground beneath your feet clearly. For those who have fear of heights (like the bf), it's advisable to opt for the standard one. Also personally there's not much difference aside from the cable car flooring, so would advise you save the money on the crystal cabin to instead spend on souvenirs or snacks in Tai-O. 

the standard cabin 

us on the cabin ride

The cabin ride takes about 20-25 minutes approximately (excluding the wait time before you board) and is relatively smooth. From the cabin you can have a panoramic view of the Tung Chung area below. 

Upon arrival, what greets you after you exit the cable car station is a mini made-up village with souvenir stores and a small stage where performances are sometimes held. There is also a toilet and some eateries here in case you need to use the washroom or grab a quick bite. 

From here you can see the silhouette of Big Buddha from a distance away. A 15 minute walk will take you to the foot of where the Big Buddha is. It's only about a 5-10 minute hike up the flights of stairs to where Big Buddha is. 

Up close, the Big Buddha is a statue of calm and serenity against the beautiful clear blue sky. It was almost perfect save for the hoards of noisy tourists (particularly those from China) crowding the area. There are 3 floors beneath the Buddha statue: The Hall of Universe, The Hall of Benevolent Merit, and The Hall of Remembrance. If you enter the inner chambers beneath the big buddha itself, you can follow the circular flights of stairs up to the alleged cremated remains of Gautama Buddha himself. 

After visiting Tian Tan Buddha, we followed the signs to the Tea Garden and walked through the hiking trail from the Tea Garden's entrance for approximately 15 minutes to reach the Wisdom Path.
The Wisdom Path is a series of 38 wooden monuments which have verses from the centuries-old Heart Sutra carved on each one of them. The verses displayed are based on the calligraphy of famous contemporary scholar Professor Jao Tsung-I, and are arranged in a horizontal '8' pattern, representing infinity. 

Along the 15 minute walk to wisdom path, we passed by a very vintage and quaint-looking old house, with the roots of a tree overgrown around it's walls! It was really beautiful despite being very old and dilapidated. 

After the hike, we walked over to the vegetarian restaurant near Po Lin Monastery (closed for renovation). You can purchase a meal ticket at the same place where you first purchase the ticket to see Big Buddha, at the foot of Big Buddha. It cost us each 78 HKD for a standard vegetarian meal. 

The dining rooms were large and spacious and quite comfortable. We didn't wait long to be served- within 10 minutes they had served us tea and the 3 main dishes, as well as soup. Despite having hear rave reviews about this vegetarian meal from a colleague of mine, the 3 of us unanimously agreed that the food was just passable. 

mock meat (chicken), capsicum, cucumber

bittergourd soup

fried rolls with carrot strips in them

mushroom with vegetables- best dish 

On our way back, we walked by a couple of road side stalls/stores and stopped by one for some dessert- Taiji, which is sesame paste mixed with soya beancurd. There are a couple of stalls offering the same dessert- we didn't know which was the original and so randomly just selected one and sat down. 
It tasted amazing! The thick, creamy rich flavour of the sesame blended perfectly with the smooth beancurd, leaving us wanting more! Pity we were full from the vegetarian lunch, so we didn't get a second helping. 


After our vegetarian lunch, we headed towards the Bus terminus near the cable car station to take bus 21 to Tai-O fishing village. The bus is rather infrequent (20-30 minutes wait for the next one) so be sure to plan your timing so that you don't waste time waiting for the bus. Also head to the bus stop early as sometimes it may be crowded and you can't board the bus even though you are on time. 

The bus ride to Tai-O takes only about 20 minutes, and the bus drops you off at the Bus terminal in Tai-O, just a short walk away from the rope-drawn ferry bridge and waterfront. Once you cross the bridge, you can see rows and rows of shop houses and old houses built on stilts. Tai-O is famous for snacks, especially their seafood e.g. squid, scallops etc. 

Near where the bridge is there is a point where you can take the boat excursion to see the pink dolphins. If you purchase the Ngong ping 360 ticket, the boat ride will be complimentary. Luckily when we reached, we managed to squeeze on the the boat that was about to depart. We took the boat ride around 3pm and the boat was nearly full.

The boat excursion takes you first through the water ways so you can have a look at the local stilt-houses to see how the locals go about their everyday activities. Following which it will exit the harbour into the sea, which is where the real action begins. 

Upon leaving the harbour and entering the sea or 'lake' portion of the waterways, everyone craned their neck hard, looking around for any pink dolphins. Our boat master drove quickly and then parked and quietly waited for a while, before beckoning to us in the direction where the pink dolphins are often spotted. Though we had the fortunate of seeing quite a few pink dolphins, they were either too far from our boat or too fast-moving for me to capture on camera. Below is a photo from Bits are Cheap, capturing a pink dolphin in action near Tai-O. 

Image credit to Bits are cheap 

Following the boat ride, we took a leisurely stroll around the rather small village, buying snacks and snapping photos along the way. Bought some jelly-like pastries from a serious-looking elderly woman manning a street stall. The black pastry seemed to be made of sesame, whilst the orange one might have been mandarin orange, though we weren't sure, but they were quite tasty and cheaply priced. 

Following that we followed the path that lead away from the main village, all the way to the famous Tai-O heritage hotel, which is about 20-25 minutes walk away from the harbour. Along the way we passed by some interesting houses owned by the local townsfolk, and also managed to catch some of the local townsfolk in action, making pastries or going about their daily activities. 

Tai-O Heritage Hotel is located right at the very end of the path, and is the actual site of the Old Tai O Police Station, which is listed as a Grade II. Permission was given by the local government to the Hong Kong Heritage Conservation Foundation to transform the Police station in a nine-room boutique hotel between 2007-2008. 

The interiors of the hotel are very luxurious looking, though we weren't so sure they are worth the price tag (more than $300SGD per night)...

After exploring the area, we took another slow walk back towards the harbour to take the ride back home. As afternoon hit, glow of sunlight over the waters was beautiful, and we were getting dizzy from an entire day being out in the sun. 

Some of the alleyways and nooks and crannies of the houses are were you'll spot cats roaming around lazily, trying to find a spot to avoid the afternoon sun.... 

On our way back we decided to return to the street stalls to grab some snacks, hungry after a long walk. On the way back we passed by a cute B&B, espace elastique, and also chanced upon Tai-O Bakery, which makes the most amazing donuts. 

The facade of the bakery is very nondescript, and the stall owners very simply dressed. The donuts, however, that come from this bakery, are anything but simply tasting. Crisp on the outside, and fluffy and soft with just the right amount of sweetness on the inside, it left us wanting more. Even the bf, who is not a fan of sweet things, couldn't resist getting a second one. 

legendary donut- must try

Next to the bakery is a cute cat cafe. We didn't have time to explore the cafe but from the store's exterior it looked very promising. 


Aside from the cafe and bakery, there are some other shops and stalls selling unique clothing, souvenirs and bags. 

On our way back, we purchased a few more snacks that included charcoal roasted eggettes (ji dan zai), barbecued scallops with garlic and curry fish balls. All were very reasonably priced and tasted great, especially the scallops, which were tender and juicy. 

After we finished the snacks, we took a long bus ride back to Tung Chung, and then a MTR ride back to town, to Tsim Sha Tsui, where we were to stay the night. Our hostel Just Inn, was located just diagonally across the famous wanton noodle chain, Ci Ji, or Chee Kei noodle house. With a powerhouse in such close proximity, we had no reason not to visit. 

Though their menu is available ala carte, they have very reasonably priced set meals which a main and either a starter, dessert or soup. Each of us had the soup, and also ordered drinks separately. All of us had the barley with ginger drink, which was very hot and warmed us up nicely. 

The bf had a special soup with chicken and wanton in it, which tasted amazing. The soup was rich with the flavour of chicken broth, yet it also tasted of the prawn and wanton. The serving size was generous, with large pieces of chicken and wanton inside the soup, making it good for sharing. 

My sis had the five treasures wanton with hor fun, which came with a variety of different kinds of wanton and fish balls, as well as mushrooms in clear soup. The soup, though not as rich as the bf's, was flavourful and tasty as well. 

We also had the fried pork cutlet with curry as a starter, and the double boiled egg with dates as dessert. Both were very delicious, though we found it a little strange that they served the dessert ahead of our mains. 

The main i had was the traditional wanton mee with prawns. Noodle was thin and chewy, with bits of what seemed like ham on top of it. The wanton was hidden beneath the pile of noodles and was soaked in the light brown soup that was really delicious. 

In total the bill came up to between $10-$15 a person, which is very reasonable. We were impressed with most of the dishes and were very happy with the serving portions, and highly recommend Chee Kei to anyone looking for a good value meal in Hong Kong.