The Best Day Trips in Hong Kong: Trekking Shek O and Strolling Tai O

Best Day Trips in Hong Kong Tai O

Most travelers are familiar with two Hong Kongs. The Hong Kong that appeals to gadabouts who are most interested in shopping designer stores, indulging in overpriced dim sum, and waiting on long tram lines to visit the city’s prized mountain–The Peak. Then there is the grungier Hong Kong. A city where quality dim sum, chaotic markets, and busy food carts will leave travelers with one thought: Is it time for the stomach meds? But there’s a little-known, third Hong Kong, which sits on the outskirts of the fast-paced city. The best day trips in Hong Kong are the seaside communities of Tai O and Shek O.


The Best Day Trips in Hong Kong: Tai O


Lantau Island is a tourist magnet, home to the world’s largest seated outdoor Buddha, Hong Kong’s Disneyland, and a new airport, all of which invariably scare off travelers seeking more authentic experiences. Yet, the most compelling reason to visit the island is at the base of Lantau’s peaks, on the northwestern shore. There, travelers will find the remote fishing village Tai O, a ramshackle stilt-house community that balances precariously above salt flats and colorful, sea-worn rowboats.


Tai O Stilthouse Community


The charm of the town sits beyond the market stench, where dried seafood is on display or is being carted around by Herculean grandmothers.


Woman porter Tai O


After the market, visitors can bear right into the town, where the Sun Ki Bridge presents a bucolic, mountainous Venice. Old fishing boats drift in the waterway, stilt-house terrace gardens hang over the canals, and elevated canoes drip from their morning launches. Many of the tightly packed houses are built from old boats. The seams and nails of the aluminum sidings go undisguised, giving the impression that these silver houses are either scrap homes or prototypes of futuristic dwellings.


Homes in Tai O


Past the bridge, the narrow path through Tai O leads to the green-tiled Lung Ngam Monastery, but it practically winds through the residences, forcing visitors to duck drying fish and laundry, and to overhear the music, talk radio, and clinking mah jong tiles spilling from these austere homes.


Drying Fish in Tai O


How to get there: Take the Mui Wo ferry from Central at pier #6. Then hop on bus #2 to see the Big Buddha (Though the giant Buddha is a major tourist site, it’s still worth a look.) Afterward, head down to Tai O on bus #21. If you’re eager to ride the ferry again, return on bus #1. Or you can return to the city by hopping on bus #11 to the subway at Tung Chung. (Total price of transportation: About $10.00 US.)


Best Day Trips in Hong Kong Tai O


What to eat: Come hungry. (If you do visit the Big Buddha, skip the vegetarian meal option.) Tai O is home to great seafood fare, but also unique treats like the Tai O doughnut (a cousin of the zeppoli), a gooey powdered pastry stuffed with sweet coconut and peanuts, and the “China pizza” (a mix of fried egg and batter that is folded over scallions and other vegetables), all of which are sold just before the Sun Ki Bridge.


The Best Day Trips in Hong Kong: Shek O


Shek O township is little more than a quaint seaside escape for Hong Kong city slickers. Though Shek O in and of itself is beautiful, it’s not the shore town that’s most attractive; it’s the journey there.


Best Day Trips in Hong Kong Shek O


Dragon’s Back trail, a 2.5-hour, strenuous walk, miniaturizes hikers as they voyage across what could pass for that fictional reptile’s scaly spine. Maybe that shrinking down is the reason that all of the creatures on the hike feel so enormous. Hundreds of butterflies, some larger than birds, float across the path, while giant crickets leap at one’s feet. In the groves of bamboo, ferns, and azaleas, there is an orchestration of birds full or song and an anonymous creature capable of emitting 30-second siren blasts.


Hike in Hong Kong


But it’s the views that are most incredible. Natural cut-outs in the forest, offer vistas of turquoise waters, and at the trail’s peak, hikers are rewarded with panoramic sweeps of blue seas, a rocky coastline, an endless rise of trees, and unpopulated islands off of Hong Kong Island’s southern coast.


Dragon's Back Hike in Hong Kong


How to get there: Take the subway to Shau Kei Wan. At the terminal, find bus #9 and take it approximately 10 minutes. You need to get off on Shek O Road near Cape Collinson Road for the start of the trail. When the trail ends, catch bus #9 again to Shek O village to relax by the sea. Do not attempt to walk because the sidewalk disappears and buses and cars fly down the mountain. To return to the subway, again jump on the #9. (Total price of transportation for one of the best day trips in Hong Kong: About $3.50 US)


Posted on by Noah Lederman in Asia, Somewhere

5 Responses to The Best Day Trips in Hong Kong: Trekking Shek O and Strolling Tai O

  1. Dan @ A Cruising Couple

    We were just in Hong Kong and took a trip to Lantau Island to see the Tian Tan Buddha on his birthday. We had heard about Tai O but unfortunately didn’t have enough time to see it. After seeing this I really wish we had. Next time perhaps 😉
    Dan @ A Cruising Couple recently posted…Finding Quality Accommodation at Budget Prices: La Pousada de Mong-HaMy Profile

    • Noah Lederman

      Thanks for reading, Dan. I just fondly recollected my time in Hong Kong this morning, in fact, while eating at a great little dim sum place that finally replaced a terrible American diner. Then to hear your story about Tian Tan Buddha’s birthday I really felt returned.

  2. Christoffer Moen

    Heard about it but never got to visit Shek O last time in HK, now after reading this I’m ever more determined to check it out. Thanks for sharing!

    • Noah Lederman

      Thanks for reading, Christoffer. Shek O is a great place, but the hike that ends with a dip in the sea makes it best.

  3. Kylie

    Thank you!

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