THE SUN CAN MEAN DIFFERENT THINGS to different people. To the Taiwanese girls, excessive sun means dark complexion, and this is a big cosmetic no-no. There is a Chinese saying that goes like this, “one shade of fairness can cover up three shades of ugliness”. This is good news to whitening lotion lines and umbrella makers because Chinese girls hate sun tans.
I don’t mind being tanned. However, after having a difficult relationship with the Penghu sunrays last trip, I now find myself to be an avid sun block worshipper. Last month, I spent two uncomfortable weeks looking like a red cooked lobster, with silk shirt collars feeling like rough denim on my neck. The pain of my past had now evolved into our daily family ritual of “sun block mania”. The rule is to first spray a generous amount of SPF 50 sun block on your whole body, followed by obsessive rub of SPF 50 sun lotion on all areas of exposure. Reapply liberal amounts of the “white BBQ sauce” all day long, keeping in mind that if you step out into the grill, I mean sun, for too long, you’ll have to repeat the above steps frantically again until you look like a pale shiny plastic mannequin.
TODAY, THIS PALE SHINY GROUP OF SIX is heading towards Jibei, a small island in the northern sea of Penghu. So, Penghu consists of 64 islands. Most of its residents live on the main island, but the other islands are roughly grouped and known as the North, South and East Sea Islands. Jibei is known for its sand-shell beaches and water sports. Most travelers visit the island as a daytrip, purchasing all-in packages at the Chihkan port which includes a roundtrip boat fare, scooter rental on the island and unlimited water rides.
Upon arrival, we were amazed by our electric scooters. The bikes were very silent. Too silent for safety, that is. One too many times, bikers would overtake from behind without us noticing. But the silence proved worthy when we went exploring the island. Outside the main beach, other parts of the island were still unpopulated. Here, I imagine serene nights where millions stars light up the sky. It should be worth a night’s stay next time.
THE SAND AND SUN MAY BE BEAUTIFUL, but people come here mainly for the water sports. There are several operators on the island, but all offer similar types of water rides and snorkeling tours, and each of them dedicated in entertaining the young and young-at-hearts. I find the waters too muddy for snorkeling but some of the rides were amazing! My favorite is the “couch potato” ride where you sit in an over-sized balloon shaped like a sofa while it gets towed by a high speed motor boat. There are all sorts of bumper tube and banana boat rides to suit everyone. The only advice is to remember to hang on tight while you have fun, so that you don’t embarrass yourself by falling into the sea.
Fun times fly. By evening, most of the visitors had travel their way back to the main island. We were a noisy screaming bunch on the rides, but when it was time to leave, everyone was surprisingly quiet. Our exhausted group’s skin has gone from shiny metallic white to a dark shade of brown. If you look closely, the nose and cheeks now demonstrate hints of pink, with burning pain just one or two days away. The lips, however, all smiled in satisfaction. This is when I had an epiphany. Tan or no tan, you’ll know that you had a good one when no one complains about their complexions at the end of the day.