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COMPASS MAGAZINE, July 2000. VOL. 7 ISSUE 7

COVER STORY:

30 Minutes To Makung:

Exploring the Gateway to the Penghu Archipelago

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These little herds are often spotted grazing through the shops on Chung Cheng Rd. (¤¤¥¿¸ô - see Makung city map in center section of this issue), a newly spruced-up thoroughfare with yellow globe streetlights, brick paving and a new name; 'Art Street' (ÃÀ³Nµó). Here is a good place to start a walking tour from. Starting from the north, the street slopes down nicely, framing a view of the harbour. Standing in front of the harbour is a classic statue of Chiang Kai Shek (½±¤¶¥Û ), his pose suggesting he has just heroically tossed a frisbee into the harbour.

While shopping is in most cases cheaper on Taiwan than in Penghu, there are some decent handicrafts and art shops along this stretch. One of the most interesting is Taiwan Story in Penghu (µâ®q¶c¨Æ) just off Chung Cheng Rd, the owners of which are some of the funniest and friendliest people I've ever met (him: "your Chinese is very good, how long have you lived here " me: "nine years" him: "oh, then your Chinese sucks").

Something not in the guide books that I found much more interesting is just off this alley and was shown to me by one of the 'Taiwan Story' tea club. It is a plaque embedded into a wall that was used to deflect evil spirits or bad luck - presumably over to the neighbours place. These are not found on Taiwan, and sadly they are almost all gone in Penghu. Penghu is culturally and historically different from Taiwan, and this example is just one of many little surprises that awaits the visitor with a little curiosity. The gentleman who pointed it out to me was a broadcaster in Taipei who came to Penghu to do research for a documentary. He never went back and has spent the last decade learning and preserving traditional Penghu crafts. Penghu is unique, and has a special draw to it.

Yet another block over from Chung Yang St. is the Tien Ho temple (¤Ñ¦Z®c), constructed in the Ming Dynasty and the oldest temple in Taiwan. While I must admit to suffering 'temple fatigue' after being in Taiwan so long, but this temple captured my interest. Check out the amazing sweeping roof (I was told it is stylistically different than temples on Taiwan) and the striking artwork to the right side of the entrance featuring what looked to me like dragons cavorting in milk.

Down towards the harbour and to the right is one of the old city gates (¶¶©Óªù). Sadly, not much remains of the once important Makung fortifications - which saw many European navies come and go.

What made Makung so worthy of defense was the port. This port still serves as a main entryway for seafood. Makung is famous for it's fresh seafood, and indeed my first meal was so fresh my cook had to chase after it swinging a wooden mallet. Like most tourists I started with the outdoor seafood restaurants near the romantically named Number 2 Fish Port (²Ä¤Gº®´ä). Next to each is a whole array of red plastic bins featuring live seafood. One roams through and picks out the desired seafood, initiating a small massacre as your dinner is pulled wriggling from the bins and executed. And was that food ever fresh! It was easily some of the best seafood I've ever had.

Afterward, however, locals told me that the outdoor restaurants are widely known to take some liberties on the price and that as a tourist I'd have been safer to go to one of the many indoor restaurants in the neighbourhood - because they post their prices clearly. Even if I was cheated on the price, I can't say I regret it - sitting out under the stars with my beer, smelling the salt air and eating the great food was very pleasant.

Besides the seafood, try the 'Penghu Melon' ("¼ê´ò¥Ê") as the accompanying vegetable dish. In place of a rice dish, try ordering the locally popular 'pumpkin rice noodles' (»Ô«n»y¡Qª÷¥Ê¦Ì¯»¡@°ê»y¡F«n¥Ê¦Ì¯»).

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