Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tai O

Tai O is really quite an interesting place. Where else in Hong Kong can you live in houses built on stilts, having a front door opening onto the street and the back door looking out to the ocean? Or alternatively, looking out to green mountains over water?

Hulus? Dragon boats? Crabs running all over the place? The ubiquitous salted fish?

Ms. Wong, who is not a native, but lived in Tai O for 50 years, wrote a lively book about the place. She also rented a house and stuffed it with all kinds of memory-evoking stuff: tea pots, bowls, chopping boards, cupboards, baby chairs, kerosene lamps, slippers, ... She, and other well-meaning people, have been trying to preserve and promote the rather unique way of living over there.

It makes one wonder what, if anything, the government is doing. Perhaps it is better this way. Because when the government dabbles in conservation, it has a habit of making real living history look stale, faked, or worse. Just witness what has happened to the former marine police headquarters compound in TsimShaTsui. It is totally unrecognizable now, even though a few of the big old trees has been “preserved”.

I hope the government does not try to build a new-and-improved version of stilted houses on the water, and end up destroying the existing neighbourhoods in the process. I hope it does not rebuild a new Tai O and make it so expensive that the current residents are driven out because they cannot afford to live there. Because that is what happened to so many old districts that has been "re-developed" by the government all over Hong Kong.


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