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Getting away to Penghu

By Edmund Sutherland Translated by Annie Liu

      With dozens of islands large and small, more than 300 kilometers of coastline, sunny weather, and an environment almost totally free of pollution, every visitor to Penghu County is sure to find a spot to his or her liking.

      Whether it's the octagonal basalt columns of Tongpan Island, or the veined stone of Wangan--the only place in Taiwan where the green sea turtles still come ashore regularly to lay their eggs--there's enough natural beauty here to satisfy the most jaded soul.

      The peak season for visting Penghu is May to September. But Alex Mowday, an Australian who lives and works in the island group, points out that many people prefer October and November. "It's not so hot, and the weather is still beautiful."


      It is usually said that the Penghu archipelago consists of 64 islands. In fact, at low tides, up to a hundred islets can be counted. Magong(Makung) Island is the largest, followed by Siyu, Baisha, Wangan, and Cimei, which forms the southernmost tip of the archipelago.

      The islands have a total area of 127 square kilometers, and a population of around 92,000. The majority live in Magong(Makung) City, meaning that much of the archipelago is--by Taiwan's standards--very thinly populated. In fact, the population has fallen significantly over the last 20 years, as On Siyu, Sitai Fortress--built in 1886 to fight off foreign invaders and pirates--is both historically interesting and a wonderful spot for watching the ocean and viewing nearby islets.

      Hotels and homestays abound throughout the archipelago, and if proposals to allow legal gambling go through, there could be a massive expansion of accommodation options. Camping is possible, but because of evening army patrols, visitors should not camp on the actual beaches. Fortunately, because Penghu is sparsely populated, it's not difficult to find a suitable spot a short distance inland.


      Around 60 flights each day connect Magong with Taipei's Sungshan aiport, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Chiayi, and Tainan. There are also 12 flights from Kaohsiung to Chimei every week, and two per week from Kaohsiung to Wangan. Expect to pay NT$3000 for a return ticket.

      There are two boat options. From Kaohsiung to Magong the journey takes around four hours; call the Taiwan Hangye Ferry Co. at (07) 561-3866 for details, as services are not daily, even in the summer. Ferries leaving Budai in Chiayi County take less than half the time, but arrive several kilometers south of Magong; call the Jiarong Ferry Co. at (05) 222-6859.


      General tourist information in English and Chinese can be found at Penghu National Scenic Area's website, www.penghu-nsa.gov.tw. For find out more about water sports in Penghu, take a look at the website of Alex Mowday's company: www.liquidsport.com.tw. For tourism information in English, Chinese, and Japanese, go to: http://penghu.phhg.gov.tw. For weather forecasts, see: www.wunderground.com/global/stations/46735.html

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