Tai O Heritage Hotel's General manager Frankie Lu (left) presents the Merit award to Vivian Lee Wei (right), student of Maryknoll Convert School
The aroma of salty sea water and appetising shrimp paste fills your nose. Warm human touch embraces you as kind senior citizens smile at you. Wooden stilt houses make you forget the bustling metropolis packed with skyscrapers.
Tai O, located on the western side of Lantau Island, is one of the oldest fishing villages in Hong Kong, famous of their fresh and tasty shrimp paste and salted fish. However, the population of this culture-rich village has dropped drastically, in line with a decline in fishing and preparation of sea food products. With so few residents remaining in Tai O, it is wonderful that its vitality has been reinvigorated.
The Tai O Heritage Hotel opened in 2012 on the island, with the aim of promoting heritage conservation, community development and sustainable ecotourism. Originally, this building was the Old Tai O Police Station built in 1902 to combat pirates, smugglers and illegal immigrants. It has been restored and turned into a nine-room boutique hotel.
Observing the Chinese tiled roofs and French windows, you’ll notice how the exquisite the Chinese and Western architectural features are tastefully merged. The colonial-style monument has most of its original architectural elements conserved and furnished in a contemporary style to satisfy the functionality of a hotel.
The sustainable development of Tai O has not been a simple task, according to Frankie Lui, the general manager of the Tai O Heritage Hotel. The transportation of construction materials and the maintenance of the hotel pose immense challenges. The blood and sweat exuded throughout these four years of being in office is immeasurable, but when he works together with his colleagues, they all feel a deep resolutions to execute their tasks well.
Tai O Heritage Hotel is not like any grand, luxurious 5-star hotel. Instead of maximising profits, the hotel aims at accommodating visitors, who are fascinated by the cultural environment and natural habitat of Tai O. The hotel attendants have to welcome guests with genuine hospitality and compatibility. Through guided eco-tours, guests can learn more about this natural treasure.
The hotel has significantly boosted the economy of Tai O. Besides attracting visitors who buy souvenirs from local shops, the hotel purchases products from these stores. For example through utilising shrimp paste in their recipes it lets these small-scale businesses earn a revenue. Part of the income of the hotel even subsidises Tai O cultural events, such as the dragon boat festival.
“This is not our hotel. This is the Tai O residents’ hotel,” Lui says.
Before the hotel was opened, few youngsters remained in this paradise of stilt houses, preferring to explore prospects in the city. But now, the hotel is also providing job opportunities for youngsters. Some have returned, reviving the economy and vivacity of the community.
Tai O residents have shown unconditional support towards the hotel’s dedication to heritage conservation. When asked about the future prospects of the hotel, Lui says his greatest hope is that the hotel will receive more visitors and more recognition.
Undoubtedly, their relentless effort in heritage conservation and fostering the prosperity of Tai O, our “Venice of the Orient”, deserves substantial commendation.