Written by Mr. William van den Broek

Penghu
Imagine blue skies, clean pristine waters, tranquility, sandy beaches, sunshine, friendly people, nice historic sites, amiable temperatures all year around, excellent and affordable seafood cooked to perfection, a sunset which will dazzle your eyes and put you into a romantic mood, surrounded by water and has been in existence for million s of years, we have the basalt rocks and geological sites to prove it, than why not travel to paradise, Penghu, located in the Taiwan straits. Penghu is a group of islands in the Taiwan Strait on the south west coast of Taiwan and has unique geological world class sites, a lingering coastline; enviable natural resources and has over a thousand years of human habitation. For foreign travelers, it is the best kept secret, as the island is still rustic and unspoiled by ugly developments and urban intrusions.

Domestic travel is on the up rise in Taiwan seeing people have more leisure time, more disposable income and all are seeking safe destination where they can learn more about their own country. Penghu is only a fourty minute flight from Taipei and even shorter from Taichung and Kaohsiung. You may also travel by ferry though this takes a little bit longer. Penghu is a jewel in the ocean and the island is waiting to be explored. Many who come here for the first time cannot belief their eyes when confronted by this treasure of an island, which still holds its charm. The people from Taiwan, nor their overseas counterparts, are aware that Penghu, previously called the Pescadores, has the only archipelago in South East Asia with some of the best historical sites you can find anywhere in the world. Most people think about Penghu as a windy place but they have never visited and though it can get windy during some days in winter it is nothing like the wind they experience in places like Hawaii. In summer, the wind may play with you hair but most of the time you will experience cooler breezes which are welcome when the sun is setting while you partake in some refreshment on the beach or at the waterfront where you can experience the fireworks festival.

The Penghu tourism bureau and the county government are much aware that Penghu has much to offer to the tourist and have been instrumental with the cleaning up of the beaches, planting of over one million trees, encouraged the relocation of graves and beautified the parks so as to present a clean and caring tourism environment. Penghu’s economy relies on the fishing industry and all around the island you will find small quaint fishing villages with their own ports, much like one would find on a Mediterranean holiday. Freshly caught fish can be bought here or you can go to one of the many restaurants who know how to cook their seafood. The islands have not been asleep and much development has taken place over the last few years though this has been in keeping with the environment, Mac Donald’s, Seven Eleven Watson’s Giordano’s and Star bucks have added flair to the consumer market and the locals have been encouraged to up grade refurbish or redecorate their shops to keep up with the trend setters. The government also introduced a “Green Grassland” project and today they have grassed a total of 50 hectares. Many scenic routes have been established along the coast lines and the physical fit may take pleasure in a bike ride along the many constructed bicycle paths. The climate on Penghu is characterized by an average temperature of 23C all year around with a high of about 28.3C in July. Over the past few years Penghu has seen a steady flow of migrants mainly from Vietnam, Indonesia, Kampuchea and the white Caucasian population stands at 34.
The Penghu Archipelago has many attractive and interesting tourist attractions and offerings off unique basalt formations and unspoiled nature and charm with picturesque island destinations that are only starters for the tourist who like to explore the wonders of these islands. Traveling north on the island you will find the Trans Ocean Bridge which links the Paisha and the island of Siyu and once was the largest bridge ever constructed in the Asia Pacific region and the remnants of the old Japanese cable car can still be observed from many vantage points. Close to the bridge and in front of the Bauan temple stands the 400 year old Banyan tree which has engulfed the temple for many years. The tree offers a shady spot during the summer heat and you may want to taste the local made cactus ice cream on offer here. A little bit further down the road on your travels and over the bridge you will come across heritage listed Erkan village where the buildings date back to the 18th century. The architecture was inspired by Japanese and European early settlers and traditional Penghu houses can also be found here which exhume the meaning of historical heritage of the Chinese culture. While on your walk through the village observe the artistic displays provided by local artists and also visit the local incense cottage making industry which still operates along the traditional ways. Now that you have the taste of history in your mouth travel to the Siyu fort which formed a defense against pirates in the Taiwan Strait during the Cing dynasty, the forts towering walls stand in silence today to tell stories of the past. The Japanese, during their occupation of Taiwan, used the fort as a defense installation and if you listen carefully their footsteps can still be heard in the long underground corridors. Adjacent to the better known Western ford stands a smaller fort which is worth a visit for the romantic inclined seeing this is much smaller and has a mystic of its own. Only a few more minutes on your bike and you will reach Yuwongdau lighthouse where you will be charmed by a spectacular uninterrupted view over the ocean. Returning back to Magong you will have the opportunity to visit the whale cave with some unique geological offerings and also their museum is well worth a visit and if time permits take a side road at random and explore many of the scenic spots, you will be dazzled by the rock formations, clean beaches and the sound of the ocean.

On your travels to the south of the island you want to visit Lintou Park which carries some of the history of Penghu .Aimen beach is adjacent to the park and here you will find golden sand which stretches for miles. The sand is so pure that it will startle your eyes and if you have time, visit here at night with a picnic basket in one hand and a loving partner in the other. Once the romance is over and you are back to reality go and explore the island further and if you have acquired a taste for beaches explore Shanshei beach which is favored by the local population.

On your travels further south you will find the Fongguei cave, though this isn’t a cave in the true sense but a blow hole which sprays ocean water into the air many stories high when the wind prevails. Fongguei also welcomes visitors to their temple which is grandeur by any standards and you may observe that this is well protected by lions on either side. A mere three kilometers down the road you may inhale the history of Penghu on Shetou hill where many battles were fought and this was the place where the Dutch took control of Penghu in 1622.Have a look around and cast your eyes over the ocean and you will find yourself on the opposite site of the island with Makung in your view.

One may never leave the island unless you have visited at least one of its temples .Located near the seafront you will find the oldest Matsu temple in Taiwan build in 1592 it has become a prime religious center for the locals and tourist alike. The structure is noble and adorned with delicate wooden carvings and not one nail was used in its construction. This temple is graded on the national heritage list and is also functional and steeps history and tranquility though its mystic and charming simple outlay.

Now that you have visited Penghu why not hop on a boat and explore the many islands the Pescadores has to offer. These islands are waiting to be discovered and have some world class surprises in stall for the tourist. Take Wa- Ann with its world class listed heritage Chinese village which is virtually in tact and not touched by frivolous development. The island has also a green turtle conservation center and a variety of lovely beaches, by the way if you are in for a hearty breakfast have one here it’s the best you will encounter anywhere in Taiwan and the B&B is simple, inexpensive, clean and also supplies excellent food.

If you are in, for a real seafood treat travel to Cimei where seafood is abound and the local abalone is sumptuous. For the romantic at hearts visit the Twin Heart Stone Weir an authentic fish trap and stand still for a moment in silence at the Seven Beauties Tomb.

Of course if you want some more excitement on your travels you can also visit Jibei Island where the water sport entertainment is put on for those who really enjoy a good day of all out water sports.

So when you are wondering whether or not Penghu is worth a visit and a place where there is something to do rather than just go to the beach, take my word for it. Penghu is the place to be , it has charm is inexpensive, gives you the opportunity to explore and discover yourself and if you get bored you can always come and visit the aquarium, the world class crab museum, the exquisite tourist center, the four eyed well, seek out the Japanese suicide submarine base yet to be excavated, go snorkeling and diving and look at the 1200 fish species on offer or observe the corals and ship wrecks, visit the basalt reservation areas, observe the many migrating birds, go to one of the many bars, go wind or sail surfing, visit a coffee or souvenir shop, seek out the Shungcheng door , look at the city b……or just relax and enjoy a cup of Cha while the sun is setting.
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