TAIPEI (Taiwan News)--I decided to give myself a bit of time, which was only three days, to explore the Penghu archipelago after I had heard so much about its beauty. So there I went in early summer this year, and all I could conclude about the visit is that this place far surpassed my expectations.
The Penghu archipelago, located in the middle of the Taiwan Strait and consisting of 90 islands and islets, collectively forms Penghu County of Taiwan.
As my time was very limited, I couldn’t traveled to all the places I wanted to visit. Therefore, I decided to tour around the main island of Penghu County, also named Penghu, Baisha Township (白沙鄉), and Xiyu Township (西嶼鄉), located respectively to the north and northwest of the main island and connected to the main island by bridges, as well as the offshore island of Qimei (七美島).
I took a boat from Budai Harbor（布袋港）in Taiwan's southwestern county of Chiayi on the morning of May 12. There are several boat companies, including Taijistar, All Star, and Kai Shiuan, operating the route between Budai Harbor and Magong, Penghu's biggest city. Almost all the boats are big enough to accommodate more than 300 passengers, and the one way journey takes about 80 minutes and costs about NT$1,000. Each operator has its own early booking discount policy, so be sure to book early for a lower fare. All Star also operates a shuttle transportation business for transportation to and from nearby train stations and Taiwan High Speed Rail stations.
Soon after I arrived at Magong Harbor, the scooter rental boss came to meet me at the harbor to deliver the scooter that I ordered in advance, and I began my day trip along County Road 203.
I visited several places along the road. My first stop was the great Tongliang banyan tree, which is over 300 years old and forms a huge, sprawling canopy over the courtyard of Bao'An Temple (保安宮). I was pleased that I visited this place not because of the banyan tree but because of the cactus ice cream I bought from an ice cream maker and vendor at a back alley in Tongliang Village. It tasted so natural and delicious, yet it was so inexpensive.
Later I visited the Erkan Village (二崁聚落), which oozes charm from every coral wall, stone walkway and brick façade. There are 50 or so old residences, most of them were built in a combination of southern Fujian and Western styles in early 20th century. I will label this village as one of not-to-miss Penghu attractions.
About 1 km south of the Erkan old houses is the Daguoye Columnar Basalt, which is one of many beautiful basalt cliffs formed from the cooling lava that created Penghu. Later I also visited the Yuwengdao Lighthouse at the southwestern tip of Xiyu. On my way back, I visited an old Japanese built military base, a beach called Dream Beach (夢幻沙灘) and a sea cave called Whale Cave, so named because it looks like the mouth of a big whale.
Daguoye Columnar Basalt
A Japanese built military base in Xiyu.
Next morning, I took a boat from the South Sea Visitor Center near Magong Harbor, where several boat companies operate routes to Wangan Island (望安島), Qimei Island, Tongpan Islet (桶盤嶼) and other islets in the south sea. To visit islands on the north sea, including Jibei Island (吉貝島), visitors need to go to the North Sea Visitor Center in Baisha Township to take a boat.
The boat trip to Qimei also took about 70 minutes. After arriving on the island, I picked up a rental scooter and toured around the island. There is an around-the-island road, which took me to the most famous attraction on the island, Double-Heart of Stacked Stones, which looked mysteriously beautiful from the above. It is a stone fishing weir located on the north side of Qimei. It’s an ancient fishing method that has been passed down over 700 years. By constructing corals and stones into walls trapping fish in the water, it’s a natural fishing method that requires no equipment.
Double-Heart of Stacked Stones
Visitors are not allowed to go down to the seashore to have a close encounter with the cultural and tourism treasure.
Qimei Island is another must visit place in Penghu. A combination of quietude, isolation, primitiveness and mystique permeates the whole island. On my way to the Double-Heart of Stacked Stones, I encountered a herd of little goats running towards my direction. It was one of the most amazing and joyful experiences during my trip to Penghu.
On the last day of my trip, I rode along County Road 201 and visited Fongguei (wind-cabinet) Cave, a drum sound making sea cave on the southwestern tip of the Penghu Island as well as Shihli Beach (嵵裡沙灘), a nice, clean and beautiful beach strongly recommended for beach lovers.
Of course, I also visited the famous Tianhou Temple and the old street near the temple. I also saw a magnificent fireworks show on a beach near the temple, which was a part of Penghu’s annual fireworks festival.
When I was boarding the boat back to Budai Harbor, I was sure of one thing—I will visit Penghu again, next time to Wangan and Jibei islands. As the boat pulled away from Magong Harbor, the sight of Penghu was fading away but basalt rocks and coral reef walls built to divert strong monsoon that I saw so much in Penghu in the past three days were coming into my head.