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PENGHU – A Trip to Paradise

September 26, 2013

Forget Greece – the Penghu archipelago is a hot contender for East Asia’s answer to the Mediterranean. Crystal-like sand shimmers across wide expansive beaches, tumbling into cool azure waters from which the finest seafood in Taiwan is plucked daily for your ravenous consumption.

The Islands

The archipelago’s main islands are connected by new bridges and any scooter-rider will relish the wide-open and practically deserted newly built roads that weave around the relatively flat terrain, making self-guided travel here not only simple, but thrilling. Scooters can be rented for about NT$400 per day and are the best way to see the island’s many sites.

The islands can be reached by boat or a short 45 minute flight from the inner city Songshan airport. Arriving in the tiny Magong Airport, it is quickly apparent life has a different pace in Penghu.

Picking up a tourist map at the airport, a visitor’s itinerary is clearly articulated with most sites being of geographical or historical interest.

Geographically, Penghu is famous for its unusual and whimsical basalt rock formations, etched into the volcanic hotspot island by thousands of years of wave and wind power. The formations on the main island can be explored by motorbike and is punctuated if you book an island hopping boat tour of the rest of the island, affording stunning panoramas of the imposing, natural basalt columns.

Historically, Penghu is renowned as the first colonized land of Taiwan, a site of ancient famous battles and a strategic defense fort. A military outpost at the highest point of the island chain can be visited, as can 2,000-year-old settlements. Visiting the ancient residents is a portal back in time and a unique insight to a very different indigenous culture in Taiwan. Tourists can sample traditional cake treats and tea or collect artisan’s wares on offer in the romantic semi-restored villages.

However, Penghu’s claim to the Mediterranean of East Asia is in its unparalleled coastline. The beaches of Penghu are spectacular feats of industrious government protection and nature’s finest elements. The lack of heavy industry in pretty Penghu means the water here is clearer and cleaner than other coastlines in Taiwan. The beaches also offer something for almost any ocean-lover from sun-baking, to surfing, and windsurfing to motorized sports.

The Accommodation

Sunrise B&B is the premier windsurfing B&B on the island. Set in a historical building on the eastern most point of the island cluster, Sunrise B&B has been artfully renovated by its owner – and windsurfing enthusiast Jan Hou. Jan offers a very homely, laid-back stay in the beautiful B&B and if you’ve never thought to try windsurfing before, it will be hard to escape Jan’s contagious enthusiasm for the sport.

The building has an uninterrupted view of ocean horizons and an elegant deck for avid sun worshippers.

Jan is a professor at the local university and laments Penghu’s dwindling population but has faith in the flourishing beauty of the islands for tourism.

“A perfect day,” he begins with a wide smile. “Is sunny, a small wind and an ocean for me to surf.”

Another tourism entrepreneur Well Hsu also banks on the Greek Isles feel of Penghu being an unbeatable tourist destination. Channeling the inherent romanticism of the pretty belt, Well has created three bespoke hotels – The Greek, The Little Mermaid and Riad Gardens, each with a unique ocean-themed decorating spin. The Greek could have been transplanted direct from Mykonos, situated close to the most famous surfing beach on the main island. The Little Mermaid is an otherworldly lighthouse with spiral staircase, moat and bright, cartoon bright rooms, all with a view of the ocean. Riad Gardens is a pure Moroccan-Mediterranean feat in décor. All rooms are uniquely adorned with individually selected furniture; the aim, Well says, is to elevate romance.  He is proud to highlight that the themed hotels are popular for proposals and anniversary getaways.

A world-away from the larger-than-life glamour of Well’s hotel trio is Villa Romana, a unique homestay experience in a beautiful villa offering almost 360 degree views of the ocean at the end of a quite peninsula outcrop on the main island.

The homestay has only three bedrooms – but each boasts an elegant bathroom, enormous bed and small dining space set against breathtaking panoramic windows overlooking Penghu’s glittering waters.

The homestay is a perfect option for groups looking to spend a bit of time in Penghu getting to know the various islands.

The Food

Of course, no report back from Penghu is complete without much adoration of Taiwan’s best and freshest seafood. The seafood restaurants in Penghu are beyond compare for quality and quantity of all manner of seafood cuisine. Penghu also boasts a healthy number of Oyster farms were hungry punters can BBQ their own copious number of Oysters for a set fee – usually between NT$300 – NT$500. The all you can BBQ fares are a wonderful option for the budget conscious, but be prepared to get down and dirty (and rather smokey). Apart from the a number of classier seafood restaurants line the street grid of Magong, fish, cuttlefish, snails and seafood soup burst with fresh flavor nightly in Penghu.

 

 

 

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