I invited Patrick to spend a night at the newly renovated Tai O Police Station, which has been converted into a Heritage Hotel and opened in April this year.
The hotel sits at the end of Tai O, overlooking the small fishing village. During daytime there are quite a lot of visitors exploring the grounds but after 6pm only it becomes quiet, with only hotel guests staying at the hotel, which overlooks the South China Sea.
The old police station was built by the British in 1902 and is now a Grade II historic building. Its location was chosen due to its proximity to the old Chinese-British border along the Sea.
The police ultimately moved inland in 1996 and used the building as a patrol post instead, since the border would be dissolved a year later. The building was unused and empty from 2002 to 2008 (here are some pictures of how it looked before it was restored). From 2009 to 2012 it was beautifully restored to its former glory.
The building’s architecture is quintessentially colonial, with Western features (arches) combined with Chinese elements (the tiled roof).
The Tai O heritage hotel has nine suites renovated from the former station offices. The original reporting room and two holding cells were converted into a reception and a small souvenir shop.
We checked in at the reception and were shown our suite for the night, rooms 2115 and 2116 – the sea lion (a former bedroom) and the sea leopard (a former office and then a bar).
Each room has a sea-view but unfortunately you have to open the door to see it – the windows overlook the mountain side. The room was beautifully decorated and very spacious, with two big marble bathrooms.
The reason that the windows overlook the mountain side, rather than the sea is that the entire site has been preserved. All adjustments that have been made can easily be undone in order to convert the hotel back to its original state (that’s because it is a conservation project). Remnants of the site’s military past have been preserved: Each window has a set of metal shutters, which were used to keep out bullets. There is also a restored and functional searchlight facing the sea, as well as three cannons.
After we checked into the hotel, we went on a sunset boat cruise – a quick boat trip to explore the village and learn more about its shrimp paste factory, the famous Solo cafe and its bridges. A nice excursion, part of our room package, but you could also onto this ride separately (without a room package) by just walking alongside the harbour and taking one of the small boat tours from there.
We then had a lovely Christmas dinner together – with funny hats and toys that made lots of noise. It was more like a New Year’s eve dinner than a quiet Christmas dinner, but we enjoyed it a lot. We were served a four course menu with lobster bisque, a starter with scallop and salmon, turkey and gammon as a main and a chocolate yule log as a dessert.
The food was nice, nothing too fancy or special, just decent home cooked meal at a fair price (the Christmas dinner is 388 HKD with 10% service charge – it was included in our room package). The atmosphere was fun, the food was good and we even met Santa Claus who brought us small gifts.
The dinner took place in the rooftop restaurant, Tai O Lookout, where we also had breakfast the next day. In the past, this room did not exist – it was created when the police station was transformed into a Hotel. As part as the conservation project, the legs of the glass canopy are actually on the ground, so it doesn’t have any weight resting on the building. If the owners want to reveal the rooftop again, all they have to do is tear off the canopy.
We had a nice stay from Dec 25 to Dec 26 in the Tai O Heritage Hotel – the room was lovely decorated and we slept well. Service was friendly and helpful and we had a nice dinner (a little more on the homemade side than in a fancy restaurant). A nice Christmas 2012 to remember.
- Tai O Heritage Hotel is at Shek Tsai Po St., Tai O, Lantau, Tel. 2985 8383
- Rooms and packages start at 1,380 HKD
- To get to Tai O, take the MTR to Tung Chung, then take bus 11 from Tung Chung Town Centre for 40 minutes to the end of the route. Alternatively, take the ferry from Central Ferry Pier 6 to Mui Wo and take bus 1 to Tai O. Once reaching Tai O, take a leisurely 20 minute walk through the village while following the signs, or take a two minute jet boat ride for $10.
- After exploring the heritage site, why not visit one of the many surrounding temples (Hung Shing Temple, Kwan Tai Temple, Hau Wong Temple), the Hong Kong Shaolin Wushu Culture Center, go searching for pink dolphins, take a boat ride, or look at some stilt houses?