YOU CAN OPT TO FLY OR FERRY TO PENGHU, but the courageous ones would always choose to brave seasickness. Fortunately for us, we are near the port Budai, where ferries travel to Penghu’s main city, Magong, in a 90-minutes trip. This distance is the shortest of all from Taiwan Island. Just one month ago, my department bought us a free trip to the islands. However, it being a weekend trip, I felt that much of the archipelago deserve another visit.
Penghu is well known to Chinese descendants (even from afar) through a famous folk song 外婆的澎湖灣, roughly translated as “Grandma and her Penghu Bay”. The lyrics accurately describe Penghu with endless sunshine, white pristine beaches, fields of cactus and of course, old fishermen. The residents of Penghu LOVE fishing so much that one of its highlights for visitors are the abundant (and amazingly affordable) seafood. Perhaps through the love for fishing and seafood led to the islands’ other name, Pescadores (meaning “fishermen”). Lucky for our friends under the sea, we are vegetarians, thus making this trip somewhat a challenge in many interesting ways.
Our plans started way before summer. In fact, it started last summer because we had been scheduled to visit then, but was interrupted by an untimely typhoon. This year, our prayers were heard because the weather was perfect. Many travelers base their trips from Magong, a seaside town, which is on the main archipelago. This is the only city, so if you won’t like to part with modern facilities, it’s best to stay near it. We are blessed with a very cheap and clean 6-person room at 小魚兒 “Little Fishes” B&B. The owners helped us with the scooter rentals (one for every 2 persons), and arranged a kayaking/shore exploring package for the afternoon.
Scooters are the best way to travel the island. Cars may be comfortable but finding a parking spot may be difficult in Magong city.
DREADFUL EXPERIENCES REPEAT THEMSELVES UNTIL YOU GET USED TO IT. My last kayaking experience occurred one month ago during the previous Penghu trip with colleagues. That was a 4-hour-non-stop feat leaving us sore and exhausted. I swore not to repeat my wrong choices again, until today.
There are plenty of kayaking and surfing on the south shores of the main archipelago, mainly on Shanshui and Shihli beaches. We rode our scooters there, and met with the guide. After a short déjà vu lesson on oars, we strapped up our life jackets and head to sea.
We had a softie in our group (my god-sister CT, who is generally afraid of physical challenges), and so we had to team her up with my brother, Kennie, who is the fittest among us. I paired myself with my sister Gennie, who is always enthusiastic, but was also the heaviest. Fortunately, teamwork conquered all limitations because our kayak seemed to soar through the ocean beautifully.
We followed our guide to a nearby uninhabited island, which is pretty much cactus and sand. We were then told that the residents planted cactus all over the island to prevent invaders from lurking into their land. It was not until a few years ago when smart business people started marketing it as cactus fruit sorbets, ice-cream and even cosmetics. Harvesting the fruits is a very tedious and dangerous job. After gathering the fruits, the vendors have to carefully dissect the prick covered outer skin to reveal its soft, red inner pulp. My brother tasted one and said it was sour. The guide then told us that they believe only those who have a true heart finds the pulp sweet. Either this is a myth or my brother is evil. We may never know.
The highlight of the afternoon is when our guide offered to bring us cliff-diving. This is done near a quiet ship dock, which should be a secret. I’ve never done something like this before so during the first jump, I struggled while I multitasked trying to run from the cliff, strike a pose, cover my nose, scream and land perfect at the same time. The result, too much pain without enough fun. I realized that it is way better to just jump and scream, and of course let yourself sink deep into the water before swimming back up. Kayaking may still be a challenge, but the cliff-diving experience made all the effort worthwhile.
Off we go on the kayaks.
The cactus island. It should be called “The big rock on the ocean with cactus”.
Cliff-diving duo. Ask your guide if they offer cliff-diving, ditch if them if they don’t. Haha!
AFTER ALL THE HARD WORK, we cleaned ourselves up and continued our journey to Fengkuei Cave. This is a sea-eroded gully that makes a calming sound when waves go through it. Add on a UFO-inspired viewing tower and an amazing sunset, the only image that comes to my mind is the cover of a new age nature sounds CD.
Another thing worth mentioning is that the Shanshui beach evolves into a cute waterfront street at night. There are a number of guesthouses nearby and visitors tend to flock the beach after dark to listen to the romantic waves. BBQ restaurants and street vendors selling food such as ice-cream sorbet to grilled squid come to life in the evening. Here you’ll see groups of college students and some foreigners hanging out (often with beers in their hands).
Odd-looking viewing towers near Fengkuei Cave.
WE HAVE DECIDED TO CALL IT A DAY early, in part because of the leftover motion sickness from today’s ferry ride. The breeze may be refreshing in the hot daytime but it can be chilly at night. We found our way back to the B&B, almost stumbling on the doorsteps due to fatigue. When you stay somewhere near the beach, the waves can sound loud at night. Remembering how the soothing nature sounds can be, I tried to concentrate on ocean tides from afar, but could not. The snores were way louder.