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Tai Po: historic market town with modern amenities

Spanish expat Maria Prieto Rivas and her family have been living in Tai Po, in the New Territories, for the past four years. The historic market town has many modern amenities, but there are about 80 remote villages in the area which date back generations, making it a fascinating mix of old and new Hong Kong.

Tai Po is a fascinating blend of old and new Hong Kong
Tai Po is a fascinating blend of old and new Hong Kong

The Specifics

How long have you lived in Tai Po? We moved to Hong Kong four years ago and we’ve lived here since then.

Why did you choose this spot? The previous school of our daughters was nearby, and now that they’re in the American School Hong Kong, it’s much better, as we have a shuttle bus from Beverly Hills to Tai Po MTR – it’s very convenient. This complex is perfect if you have kids because it’s very safe and they can enjoy playing outside on bicycles and scooters, or swimming or hiking; there are lots of options, not only for them but for us too.

Tai Po is home to the world's tallest bronze statue of Guan Yin
Tai Po is home to the world’s tallest bronze statue of Guan Yin

The Scene

When you walk out of your place, the first thing you see is: The 500,000 square feet Tsz Shan Monastery with the world’s tallest bronze statue of Guan Yin. It was completed in 2013. There’s a bicycle route that runs from Sha Tin to Tai Mei Tuk where you can find good restaurants and enjoy the views. Very near to our complex, The Beverly Hills, you’ll also find a very good restaurant, Aqua Garden; it’s at the end of Sam Mun Tsai Road, and it serves seafood and yummy Chinese food.

The unofficial uniform of your street is: Sports clothes and casual clothes. The Beverly Hills has a good gym and a fantastic swimming pool and a lot of streets to walk or run on. I’m doing Zumba twice a week with my instructor Girlie, and I enjoy taking classes with my neighbours and friends. You can see a lot of people getting around the complex, either on bicycles or just walking.

Maria and her family love dining at Aqua Garden restaurant in Tai Po
Maria and her family love dining at Aqua Garden restaurant in Tai Po

If a celebrity moves in next door, it will most likely be: I know that more than one celebrity lives here, but I only recognise one of them – I’ve seen him in some advertisements. He always says hello, but I don’t know his name!

When you’re in need of a dose of culture, you: I enjoy going with my husband to the concerts of the HK Philharmonic or going to art exhibitions like the Asia Contemporary Art Show in the Conrad that my daughters also love. We went to the last edition of Art Basel, too.

Maria has embraced the lifestyle in Tai Po
Maria has embraced the lifestyle in Tai Po

If you’re missing home, you: Sometimes I don’t have time to miss home, to be honest, and I’m quite happy living here. I think the important thing when you move to a new country is trying your best to adapt yourself. I miss my family and friends, but now with technology like Skype, WhatsApp and Facetime you can feel them much nearer to you.

A mandatory stop for out-of-town guests is: The last time our Spanish friends visited we went to lunch at Aqua Garden and they enjoyed the excellent Chinese food and the view. We’ve taken another friend to Tai Mei Tuk for lunch in the Thai restaurant there, and to visit the monastery.

The Town Square in Tai Po
The Town Square in Tai Po

A common myth about your neighbourhood is: A lot of expats think that Tai Po is very far from Central, but actually it’s only about 30 minutes. I think more people are moving here, and since arriving four years ago, I’ve noticed Tai Po changing, and I like those changes. A Market Place supermarket opened recently, and more things are coming in the future.

If you’re ever woken up at night, it’s almost always due to: The storms, though in four years that’s only happened once. Recently, the management office called me because I’d left my keys in my door. They’re very professional and always very careful with safety; I really appreciate that.

Maria loves the facilities in her Tai Po apartment complex
Maria loves the facilities in her apartment complex

The Superlatives

Your favourite activities nearby are: Riding the bicycle or the scooter with my daughters. Also, we love going to the swimming pool and playing in the water slide.

You won’t find better local food than at: Aqua Garden – it’s my favourite local food restaurant in the area; also, the Thai restaurant in Tai Mei Tuk.

Maria loves the feeling of safety in Tai Po
Maria loves the feeling of safety in Tai Po

One thing you’d never change is: The feeling of living in a safe place. My daughters play outside and I don’t need to be worried. And everything is extremely clean – for me that’s very important.

But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing go is: Nothing! I’m very happy here. I work as a Spanish teacher in different schools in the New Territories and I enjoy my job, my husband likes his job and my daughters are really happy in the new American School Hong Kong; so to be honest I don’t need to change anything.

Tai Po is connected to Central by train and bus
Tai Po is connected to Central by train and bus

What would you say to someone considering moving to Tai Po? I think it’s a nice, safe area and the houses are quite big. If you have kids and you like outdoor activities, it’s the perfect place to live because there’s such a great variety of options, from swimming to basketball. You can find everything you need in Tai Po, or if you’re looking for something special you can be in Kowloon in 30 minutes by MTR, or Central in 50 minutes.

This article first appeared in the Feb/Mar edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!

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