Winner: Can heritage conservation co-exist with development?

By Jacky Chan, 15, Hong Kong Chinese Women’s Club College
By Jacky Chan, 15, Hong Kong Chinese Women’s Club College |

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Nikki Ng (left), Group General Manager of Sino Group presents the champion's award to Jacky Chan Ho-hin (right) of Hong Kong Chinese Women’s Club College.

Exploring the rustic Tai O fishing village situated on the serene western side of Lantau Island, you will see striking stilt houses, smell scrumptious shrimp paste and taste delicious seafood. However, Tai O is more than that! The distinctive customs of the Hakka people make Tai O so interesting. Staying in the Tai O Heritage Hotel, you can gain an insight into the place’s intangible heritage and history and receive a significant message about heritage conservation, while having a relaxing time.

Witnessing the changes in Tai O for over a century, the former Tai O Police Station was carefully renovated and remodelled in 2012 into the Tai O Heritage Hotel. The hotel has retained much of the original police station’s colonial features, displaying to visitors the old cannons and a searchlight with which the police used to search the sea for pirates and immigrants. Even some bullet holes were left intact. The place is inextricably connected with Tai O’s history.  

Working in close collaboration with the local people, cultural and experience tours are on offer to explore the stilt houses and see how people live there. The friendly stilt -house dwellers are happy to chat with visitors and, taking up the role of a tour guide, they even recount their life-stories.

While in general hotels primarily focus on profit maximisation, the elegant Tai O Heritage Hotel stands out from the crowd as it delivers a deeper underlying message —heritage conservation.

“Accomplishing the goal of conservation of an invaluable heritage far prevails over the monetary benefits the development of the heritage may bring,” says Frankie Lui, general manager of the Tai O Heritage Hotel.

Frankie Lu, General Manager of Tai O Heritage Hotel (left) and champion Jacky Chan Ho-hin (right).

Some people may argue that it requires a mammoth amount of money to revitalise a heritage building into a hotel, so why shouldn’t the resources rather be allocated to education, for example? 

Cultural heritage is an essential property of Tai O. The Tai O Heritage Hotel is not solely for tourism, it represents the collective memory and culture of the local people. It also educates us about our roots and our past. 

The cost of ruining our heritage buildings is too high, as most of them possess an in-depth meaning of the history of a region. Thus the government ought to be respectful of the history of bygone days, put more resources into educating adolescents and citizens about the importance of heritage conservation and organise more trips to heritage sites. Or else, in the long run, the city may be perceived to have no soul.

Heritage conservation and economic development are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Hopefully, the example of Tai O Heritage Hotel will exert a knock-on effect, leading more adolescents to become conscious of heritage conservation. Consequently, the culture and memories in Tai O can be safeguarded for the foreseeable future.