Time for another adventure in Hong Kong! 😃 The destination this time is Po Toi Island (蒲台島) which is the main island of the Po Toi Islands (10 islands in total) located in the southernmost part of Hong Kong. The name Po Toi is said to have come from the fact that the main industry here other than fishing used to be the production of round cattail hassock (蒲團) shaped dried seaweed (苔). Other than being famous for its seaweed, Po Toi Island is also famous for its unique rock formations and ancient rock carvings believed to date back to the Bronze Age. Po Toi Island is almost completely made of soft granite which has been shaped over time by water and wind. There are very few people living on the island nowadays with many buildings abandoned and left to ruin. Even in this day and age, there is no official electricity and water supply on the island. A visit here will not only let you escape the city but will also transport you back to the simplicity of a bygone era.
There are two small ferries or kaitos that will take you to Po Toi Island. One is from Aberdeen and the other is from Stanley. The Aberdeen ferry runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the week and both days during the weekends while the Stanley ferry only runs on the weekends, so better check the schedule first. By public kaito, it takes about an hour from Aberdeen and half an hour from Stanley to reach the island. It is also on these days that the Ming Kee Seafood Restaurant and other small cafes located on the main beach are open. To avoid the crowds, we went on a Tuesday on a friend’s yacht.
Most people come to Po Toi to do some hiking. Po Toi Country Trail has three hiking routes taking you to the different rock formations and landmarks on the island. Route 1 covers the center of the island taking you to the deserted Mo family mansion, Coffin Rock, and Ngau Wu Teng which is the highest point on the island. Turn right after getting off the boat to get onto Route 1. As you head up Route 1, you will pass by the abandoned Po Toi Island School and then a paved path leading to the Mo family mansion further up. The Mo family mansion was built in the 1930s and was intended to be the retirement home of Mo Siu Tong. Mr. Mo supposedly made his fortune selling bean curd sheets on the mainland. Locals claim that the Mo family left the island after attempted kidnapping and robbery by pirates. This mansion is said to be haunted partly because it once housed Japanese soldiers in the 1940s and partly because it was built right in front of Coffin Rock. It is called Coffin Rock because it looks like an actual coffin. If you climb the rock face, you will reach another set of steps and it will intersect with Route 3. At the top of the path is Ngau Wu Teng which is the highest point on Po Toi. From here, it is all downhill until Route 1 meets Route 2.
Route 2 is a short circular route that covers the south of the island taking you to some of the must-see rock formations such as Palm’s Cliff, Turtle Rock, Supine Monk Rock, etc. Route 2, which was what we did, is the shortest, easiest, and most popular route. To access Route 2, you need to go down the narrow alley next to a pink island cafe and up some stairs.
The first rock formation on Route 2 is called Gorilla’s Palm and then it is Supine Monk Rock and Turtle Rock. Supine Monk Rock is a large rectangular rock with a square rock on top resembling a monk bowing. Turtle Rock resembles a turtle climbing up the hill or a turtle coming up from the water for a breath especially when viewed farther away. If you use your imagination, most of the rocks here resemble something. 😄😄
Next is the Nam Kok Tsui Lighthouse 126 or simply Po Toi Lighthouse which is the southernmost lighthouse in Hong Kong built in 1970 and still in use today. From the lighthouse, head downhill to the Gold Panning Cliff which is the southern most edge of Po Toi as well as Hong Kong.
The highlight of Po Toi Island is the Palm of Buddha or Palm Cliff where vertical lines are carved into the cliff face by years of erosion hence forming the shape of a hand. To see this rock formation, there is a small unpaved platform across the Palm as well as one above it.
Further along the path after the yellow footbridge as we loop back to the trailhead is another highlight of Po Toi which is the Bronze Age rock carvings of various animals and patterns of spirals and curved lines. You have to descend some steps to see these 3,000-year-old carvings along the bottom of the cliff. Some say these rock carvings are drawn at the base of the cliff as offerings to the gods of the sea for protection and good fortune. These rock carvings were discovered in the 1960s and listed as declared monuments of Hong Kong in 1979.
Route 3 is the longest route that covers the north of the island taking you to the Tin Hau Temple, Kwoon Yat Pagoda, and Conch Rock or Snail Rock. Turn left after getting off the boat to get to Ming Kee Seafood Restaurant and onto Route 3. Tin Hau Temple, renovated in 1893, faces Tai Wan bay on the west of the island. Next to the temple is Conch Rock.
It was such a wonderful visit to this small Po Toi Island! The beauty of Hong Kong never ceases to amaze me. If it wasn’t for the impossibility of travel at the moment, I am not sure if I would ever have ventured here. Until the next local adventure!
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