PengHu, along with Orchid Island and Ali Mountain, has for a long time been on my short list of places here that I'd not yet gotten around to visiting. Well, I finally had a chance this past Monday through Wednesday for an initial visit.
I drove my scooter an hour and a half or so down to BuDai in ChiaYi County, and took the 90 minute ferry ride from there. Cost is 900NT for economy; 1286NT for business class.
In PengHu, I met up with 40 some Chinese/Taiwanese/Vietnamese/North American coworkers for our annual get-together. They were mostly from Taipei, but two families traveled from Kaohsiung (4 hour ferry ride from Kaohsiung).
We stayed at the Youth Activity Center. The rooms were clean, cool, and spacious enough for the reasonable price, and included cable TV which was nice because I enjoyed watching the U.S. Olympic Redeem Team crush another of its opponents (this time Australia) in basketball. (No offense, Australian friends. I'm sure I'll enjoy my work visit to your country next month immensely!)
Because there were a number of small kids along for the trip, our planned activities were not ideal for adults travelling alone, but at least I was able to get a better idea of where I might go next time for skin diving and SCUBA.
I shared a room with our coworker from TuCheng in Taipei County, whose wife didn't come because of their small child. I pitied the poor guy for having to listen to my snoring! The view from the balcony across from my fifth floor room was spectacular. At night, neon lights on the bridge brightened up the sky.
Both mornings I awoke at 5:30. Ordinarily in Taiwan when you go the park at this hour you find lots of elderly people taking their exercise. But in MaGong, in addition to the park, they hit the water, specifically the man-made "beach" swimming area inside of the bridge above. The second morning from my vantage point on the bridge, I counted 93 swimmers inside the cove and another 24 swimming out several hundred yards outside. Some of the doggy paddle and "freestyle" strokes were so poor I wondered if the elderly folks would be able to make the considerable distance back, but several of them had floats just in case, I guess. By 6:30 am each day, all but a dozen or so were gone. I admire them for getting out like that each day.
The second day we took a bus around the main islands -- all joined by bridges -- to see some of the main sights. We started out with a swim off the fine sands of ShanShuei beach on the main island's southern end. The visibility was incredible.
The tour guide also dropped us off by the windmills. Like many other places around the world (as well as Taiwan), PengHu has recently begun harnessing wind power in order to meet electrical needs.
Also that second day, we drove over to a lighthouse with a pretty vantage point on the southern end of SiYu, the western most island. Finally, we stopped off to see the so-called "Whale Cave". It was blazing hot everywhere we had to walk.
The third day we walked over and caught a boat which first let us down to see some coral. If I remember correctly, the tour guide said that of the 1500 different kinds of coral worldwide, over 500 are represented in Taiwan. The view wasn't all that spectacular though and I regretted again not being able to get away to skin dive this time around. Perhaps I can learn more about coral identification before the next time I go out.
After 10 minutes or so of that, we then went to a unique floating barge/raft with other floats stationed around it in the middle of the inner sea between the main islands. I'll call the place Karaoke Alcatraz. Because of the heat and the fact that I'm not a huge Karaoke fan, from the moment we arrived I couldn't wait to escape from Karaoke Alcatraz. But it really wasn't such a bad place.
Off the barge they had different pools with netted squid, cuttlefish, and fish for kids and interested adults to fish in. However, there were no hooks on the lines and it was against the rules to land what you caught. Personally, I would have rather thrown my hook in to the open water outside of the floats as I saw tons of fish out there feeding off the oyster garbage, etc.
There was another very small area for paddleboats. On a lot of the tourist literature you read how PengHu hopes to develops itself into a tourism/recreational area in the future, and it's obvious it's not there yet, but places like these are at least attempts in the right direction to attract families who might like to vacation without having to take additional ferry rides to all the other islands. If the government of Penghu ever gets its casino petition granted, I hope they will be careful enough not to destroy the island chain's natural beauty and resolve to keep crime checked as well.
On the return trip, because of an impending typhoon the 2 evening ferries back to Kaohsiung were canceled and 2 families were forced to travel to ChiaYi instead. But they easily hired a car to take them back down south.
Though this was far from my ideal vacation, in fact it was not intended as a vacation but as an opportunity to catch up with other coworkers and I'm very thankful to God for the opportunity. If you go to PengHu though, better to go in late May after the winds have died down and before the summer heat really starts to pummel you.