Rugged, remote Po Toi lies off the southern coast of Hong Kong Island. Ancient rock carvings offer evidence of early human settlement on the outcrop. Like most coastal settlements in Hong Kong, Po Toi has a small Tin Hau temple, and a sizeable flotilla of vessels brightly decked with flags and pennants makes its way to the island from Stanley during the annual Tin Hau Festival. Until the late 1960s, more than 1,000 people lived on the island. A catastrophic decline in local fisheries in recent decades, combined with enhanced opportunities in the city, encouraged younger Po Toi residents to depart. Older generations passed away and now, other than at festival times, the island is almost deserted, although its seafood restaurants offer a popular alternative to those on Lamma and Cheung Chau for weekend junk trippers. Some of those visitors take away with them dried seaweed, gathered from the coastline and sold in a small shop. Seaweed makes a tasty, nutritious addition to various home-style Cantonese soups. Po Toi achieved renown when the island featured in the dramatic denouement of John Le Carre's 1977 spy novel, The Honourable Schoolboy. Le Carre describes Po Toi's 'hillside groups of rice terraces gone to ruin, brown island peaks and a small village populated by nothing but surly dogs'. The dogs have mostly gone, but the abandoned terraces remain. Amid scenes of a desperate cold war-era shootout, helicopters and high-speed police launches converge on the island during the Tin Hau Festival. On an average sunny weekday afternoon, it is hard to imagine this scenic island as the setting for anything more startling than some clothes-optional sunbathing. Extensive trails wind around the coast, offering superb seascape vistas of rocky shorelines and distant islands. They are especially dramatic in stormy weather. Po Toi's rock formations have been given evocative, if somewhat imaginative, names, such as Palm Rock, Turtle Rock and Supine Monk; see if you can work out which one is which. Unfortunately, in typical Hong Kong fashion, its concrete paths are massively overengineered and from a design standpoint, completely out of keeping with the natural environment they seek to enhance. But they are safe, and so save the government from being blamed for yet another fatal mishap resulting from an inexperienced urbanite slipping and falling down the cliffs. Ferries for Po Toi depart on weekends and public holidays from the Blake Pier in Stanley and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Aberdeen.