Take the No 9 bus from Shau Kei Wan across Hong Kong Island's central spine of mountains to the east, beyond Cape Collinson, and another world - far removed from the densely crowded city - appears as if by magic. Big Wave Bay and Shek O, whether seen from the roadside at Windy Gap or high up on the Dragon's Back - a popular hill trail - offer a glimpse of what much of Hong Kong looked like before decades of insensitive overdevelopment obliterated other, equally dramatic, rocky coastlines and scenic vistas. Shek O's main beach is still one of Hong Kong's cleanest (unfortunately the back beach is one of the dirtiest) and Big Wave Bay is popular year-round with actual and wannabe surfers, especially - sometimes tragically - during the typhoon season. Summer weekends see hundreds of day-trippers flocking from the city for a day at the beach; weekdays are much more pleasant if you want to avoid crowds. Perched above the cliffs on the road to Cape D'Aguilar, remote, windswept Hok Tsui ('crane's beak') is one of the island's last remaining coastal villages. Hong Kong Island's earliest human inhabitants probably lived near Shek O beach, fishing and gathering shellfish in the shallows and hunting birds and small creatures where the golf course now lies. Other than pottery shards and two Neolithic rock carvings - one at Big Wave Bay, the other at Wong Chuk Hang, near Aberdeen - few traces remain of these people. Scattered among the ridges of the golf course, overlooking the cliffs, numerous hugely valuable residences enjoy magnificent views. Most were built in the inter-war years. In the 1920s, the Shek O Development Company was formed to create a sunny, breezy seaside residential community. Prospective residents were vetted by the Shek O Club or the golf club, as it is otherwise known, membership committee. Existing members had to vote in new applicants; the right to build a bungalow followed. Originally intended to keep out the Chinese - although this was never explicitly stated - membership also helped exclude anyone else socially suspect. Chinese were gradually tolerated as residents - if not exactly welcomed. Due to atrocities committed against villagers after a wartime landing on the beach, the club rigidly excluded Japanese until recently. Shek O village has become a popular residential area, especially favoured by those able to work from home. There are a number of cafes and restaurants, including one of Hong Kong's favourite outdoor Thai-Chinese restaurants and a less heavily advertised but equally popular 40-year-old family-run dai pai dong next to the village temple.