Taiwan adventures 2015: Part 1 (Penghu)

03 – 05 Jun 2015

Some of us would have heard this song, 外婆的澎湖灣 (1979) by 潘安邦. But how many of you have visited Penghu before? Penghu is an archipelago made up of 64 islands and islets, many people travel here for the summer to enjoy sea sports and the coastal scenery. For the first stop of our 2015 Taiwan trip, we had a 3D2N trip to Penghu (澎湖).

How to get to Penghu?

There are many ways to get to Penghu from mainland Taiwan, you can either take a plane or catch a ferry over. From Songshan airport, Taipei, it took us one hour to travel to Magong airport. Besides Taipei, you can also catch a flight from Taichung, Jiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung and Jinmen Island. Flights cut down on time but are slightly pricier. There are several domestic air carriers that have flights. If you wish to save on costs, you can take a ferry over from Kaoshiung, but do be aware that the ride takes about 5 hours and the waters can be quite choppy.

A traveling tip for domestic flight to Magong airport, do remember to pack light as the check-in baggage limit is 10kg. However, don’t fret! The excess baggage charges on Uni-air are quite reasonable, TWD17/kg.

Our flight from Songshan airport to Magong airport

Our flight from Songshan airport, Taipei to Magong airport

Accommodation and getting around Penghu

We stayed in La villa de la sirene (人魚之丘) upon the recommendation of a friend. The minsu is tucked inside a cove and overlooks a mudflat. When we arrived at Penghu, the minsu arranged transport to pick us up. For me, one of the main drawbacks on Penghu is the lack of public transport, so in order to get around, you would need to rent a motorbike, cab or join a tour group.

Our minsu, doesn't it look like a lighthouse?

Our minsu, La villa de la sirene, doesn’t it look like a lighthouse?

There are many rooms to choose from in the minsu and all of them have a unique theme to it. Due to the design of the minsu, there was a very special room at the top level, 5F 海洋之樹.This room is a double-floor attic and even the view from the bedroom is amazing. Check out the room here. Jen (小貞) was the main person in charge and she was always so cheerful and welcoming. At first, we didn’t have any activity planned beforehand. However, once upon arrival, she helped us planned our itinerary from scratch and it was a blast. Here were some of my highlights:

penghu map

Penghu map

Penghu Day 1: Sightseeing by cab
Some of the main tourist attractions include visiting a impressive looking centuries-old fig tree, 樑古榕樹 (online sources say it’s more than 300 years old!) This is supposedly a Ficus microcarpa and Penghu’s country tree. At the fig tree stop, don’t forget to try the famous cactus ice-cream (仙人掌冰).

ficus-tree-1

Wow, such a huge Ficus tree! Glad it is now integrated as part of the Penghu culture & tourist stop

ficus-tree

Next up, we went to the Penghu JhuWan Crab Museum (竹灣螃蟹博物館). It had lots of live crustacean in aquariums and also preserved ones.

crab-museummantis-shrimpPenghu has lots of amazing geographical land forms, so it should be quite exciting for some of you. I would imagine that some of these land forms are those that you will in textbooks but not in real-life.

Whale cave? (鯨魚洞 )

Whale cave? (鯨魚洞 ) Does it look like one?

Basalt landscape (大菓葉柱状岩)

Basalt landscape (大菓葉柱状岩)

It was low tide just before dusk. We managed to do a bit of intertidaling in the mudflats just behind the minsu before heading out for a special dinner.

intertidaling-outside-minsu

We signed up for a dinner cruise (海上浪漫之夜), sounds romantic ahh.. We had to meet at the designated pier at 6.20pm to board a boat for the scrumptious dinner. Almost every dish had some form of seafood and all were fresh and so yummy! If you are a seafoodie, make sure to try one of these meals! After the meal, we also got to try night-time squid fishing, but the whole boat only caught two squids. Not too many squids this time round as it was not squid season yet.

seafood-dinner

Lots of fresh grilled oysters and other seafood for dinner

Penghu Day 2: Eco trip & Penghu Fireworks Festival

start-of-eco-trip

We went for a whole day coastal trip at Shagang 沙港東海一日遊. The tour depends largely on the tides. At low tide, we get to go out to the rocky shore just in front of the dock to try to bait crabs, to observe inter-tidal organisms and also to dig for cockles 海瓜子.

horseshoe-crab

Tri-spine horseshoe crab!

seastarsSo many marine organisms!! Urchins, Pentaceraster sea star and horseshoe crabs (Tachypleus tridentatus), so happy!

In order to everyone to put in their best efforts, the staff said that the food at lunch and tea depended on what we managed to find. The staff also demonstrated one of the traditional fishing methods (抱墩)that people used to trap fishes during a change in tides.

digging-for-hum

Digging for sea cockles, “hum” (in Singapore’s context)

hum

Our meal depended on it!

Duoduo the sea dog, who always accompanied us to the rocky shore and enjoyed getting soaked in seawater

Duoduo, the sea dog, who enjoyed getting soaked in seawater

After lunch, we were out to sea to collect the fishing lines that were set up the previous day. According to the staff, whatever that was caught will become food for tea. Besides fishing lines, little pots were also used to catch moray eels which were supposed to be their favourite hiding spots. There were a few flatheads, solefishes, stingrays and eels for meals while the tri-spine horseshoe crab was taken back to the rocky shore for use for visitors’ show & tell session.

leopard moray eels

leopard moray eels

fishing

We also had a chance to try out fishing too using a simple line & hook. Even though we came back with a tan, it was an enjoyable half day out, enjoying the sea breeze and observing biodiversity up close. If you are interested in the full itinerary of this tour, you can take a look, here & here.

At night, we went to town to catch the annual Penghu fireworks festival. The fireworks festival is only held in summer months, on Mondays and Thursday. So if you are interested in catching it, do remember to check out the dates. If you like to know more about the history of the fireworks festival, you can check out here.

penghu-fireworks-festival-2015

Fireworks to end the Penghu leg of the 2015 Taiwan trip

So that’s the end of short first leg to idyllic Penghu with all its coastal charm. If you want to experience a Penghu islander’s fishing lifestyle and also observe biodiversity in their natural habitat, then you might just fall in love with the place. For more information, you can check out the Penghu Tour Website. For the next leg of the trip, we took a domestic flight back to mainland Taiwan and our adventure continued with the second largest city of Taiwan, Kaohsiung City! Off we go!

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