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17.8.13

Tai O, Lantau.

Pang Uk, traditional houses in Tai O.

Dry fish, along with shark fins, typical souvenir from an old fishing town.
The bridge, that sets center of the town.
Bamboo and its multiple uses, in this view as part of the harbour.
Burnt down pang uk.
All this, just a short board (or subway) ride away from Hong Kong. Contrasts are amazing, when condensed in such a small area.
On the main part of Lantau Island, a river splits to the north and west. At this fork lies the island of Tai O. Two pedestrian bridges cross the river on its northern and western forks. The village is on the banks of the river.
Nearby archaeological sites date back to the Stone Age, but permanent and verifiable, human settlement here is only three centuries old. When the British came to Hong Kong, Tai O was known as a Tanka village. During and after the Chinese Civil War, Tai O became a primary entrypoint for illegal immigration for those escaping from the People's Republic of China. Some of these immigrants, mostly Han Chinese, stayed in Tai O and attracted people from other Hong Kong ethnic groups (like Hoklo - linked to Taiwan - & Hakka - linked to Guangdong).
Most tourist visit Tai O to see the houses built on the water (pang uk) and discover a village in agony. The fishing lifestyle is dying out. Many residents continue to fish, but it barely provides a subsistence income. To make things worse, a large fire broke out and destroyed many residences in 2000. Tai O is now mostly squatters huts and dilapidated stilt houses.
Tai O shows the huge contrasts of a country like China. There are few (queueing in Tiffany's and gambling in Galaxy) with a lot of money, but there are many with very little resources. As the Western world keeps using their factories for cheap manufacturing, the environment gets destroyed while the goverment seems to be looking in another direction.
Hong Kong may not be Mainland China - you can still use facebook, google and all that - but still, its pollution levels and grey skies indicate where we are heading and who pays for that - if the sea is polluted, and the fishes die, it's the people in Tai O that don't get to eat.
Places like this are those that make the trip worth, I suppose. That make you realize how lucky you are and how thankful should you be, to live in a city with blue skies and packed fridges. Where houses are sturdy and opportunity exists, for the majority. Europe may be going through a dark era, but still... There are many in this World that experience an unfortunately worse situation.
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