Our Guide To Tai Po
Posted on 30 March 2017
Mention Tai Po and images of genteel fishing villages, cycling trails and bustling market towns come to mind. We decided to explore the area and get some fresh spring air on an 'out of office" day. We got on the train and headed up to the New Territories.
Our first stop, a tranquil hill top sanctuary, Tsz Shan Monastery. It's a side of Hong Kong you rarely get to see. The architectural style is inspired by 7th century Tang and Northern Song dynasty. You get an overwhelming sense of calm and zen as soon as you enter the grounds. Just what the team needed!
Upon entering the main gate, a friendly staff member will hand you a map. Follow the suggested route which takes you through 11 areas, the grand finale being the 76 metre Guan Yin statue also known as the Goddess of Mercy symbolising compassion and gracefulness. It's the second highest in the world and made from white bronze-cast. When you look up at her, she seems to be looking down on all beings, guiding them to enlightenment.
Open to the public in 2015, it took 12 years to complete and aims to pass on the Dharma (wisdom) preached by Śākyamuni Buddha. They offer a complimentary tour (spoken in Cantonese or Mandarin) or you can download their app for the English guide which also includes short meditations.
You can take part in a water offering to Guan Yin by walking through The Compassion Path. After setting an intention at the fountain, you walk a bowl of water to a bronze water vessel known as the Thousand Wishes Pond in front of the statue, to make your wish. Complete the ritual by walking around the Guan Yin statue three times. We wished for more travels and new exciting adventures of course!
This is one of the few sites that isn't overrun with visitors. Advanced booking is required and there are some visitor guidelines to respect. Thanks to the visitor quota it maintains an air of tranquility. You can book online via their website.
How to get here: Take the MTR to Tai Po Market Station and grab a New Territories green taxi to the front gate. 88 Universal Gate Rd, Tai Po
No exploration is complete without a culinary tour for us! Here's what we discovered: Tai Po Hui Market and Cooked Food Centre
A modernisation of the traditional wet market, this large complex houses a fresh produce market and cooked food centre. Fish and meat are sold on the ground floor and fruits and vegetables on the first floor – take the escalator up to the second floor and you’ll find dozens of stalls serving everything from Cantonese barbeque meats, noodle and congee dishes, to Thai and Indian cuisine.
Ping Kee Noodles 平記麵家
If Anthony Bourdain visited this place in an episode of No Reservations, we had to try it! One of the few places left in Hong Kong who handmake their own egg noodles. Order the shrimp roe lo mein and wonton soup noodles.
Stall 12C, 2/F, Tai Po Market Complex, 8 Heung Sze Wui Street, Tai Po
Hong Kee 洪記
Unfortunately, by the time we got to lunch around 2pm, they had already sold out and were closing. They are known for their super fresh tasting handmade fish balls.
Lam Kee Dim Sum 林記點心
Offering some of the cheapest dim sum in town, serving staples like har gow, siu mai, black bean chicken feet, custard buns and char siu bao, this is a must do.
Stall 8-9, 2/F, Tai Po Market Complex, 8 Heung Sze Wui Street, Tai Po
After stuffing your face with a variety of dishes, head down one floor to the fruit and vegetable market and take a walk around. You'll see market stalls overflowing with colour and you'll probably end up buying some fresh produce from local farms like we did.
Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees
Leading up to Chinese New Year, you'll find this place packed with locals and visitors celebrating the long-established tradition of well wishing.
In the past, during the Lam Tsuen Well-Wishing Festival, villagers would write their wishes on joss paper tied to oranges and throw them onto the banyan trees. It was believed the higher it landed, the more likely the wish would come true.
Unfortunately, in 2005 one of the branches gave way so a period of conservation for the trees was imposed for them to recover. Now, wish makers can tie their wishing papers to nearby wooden racks, or throw a plastic orange available from the on-site vendors onto the new tree.
Fong Ma Po Village, Lam Tsuen, Tai Po