Thursday, July 28, 2016

5 Days in Penghu

penghu tourist map

A mere 45-minute flight from Taipei City's Songshan Airport and we were in Penghu, one of Taiwan's smaller islands, just off the West coast. We went from the bustling city ** insert dramatic deafening sounds of cars, scooters, people talking, honking horns here** to this quiet island **insert sounds of ocean waves breaking on the shore, people on vacation laughing and chatting happily everywhere, birds chirping, angels singing** in less than an hour. Exactly what we needed; an island getaway for some peace and quiet.

The Husband had been to Penghu a few times before, but it was my first visit to this island. All I asked for from this 5-day mini vacation was a break from the city, sand under my feet, sun on my skin and ocean water up my nostrils (okay, didn't really ask for that last one, but it happened non the less..)

Shanshui beach
Shanshui beach (miserable, isn't it?)

How we got there

There are quite a few flights out of Songshan Airport (TSA) in Taipei City to Penghu's Magong Airport (MZG) every day. We opted for an evening Mandarin Airlines flight, as we still don't really trust TransAsia after all their recent aviation disasters. The return flights were very affordable (about 4000TWD per person if I remember correctly.) You can book the tickets online, at the airport desk or at any 7/Eleven in Taiwan. There are also flights to Penghu from most of the other domestic airports in Taiwan.

I loved that it wasn't a mission to get there, because it didn't involve a lot of travel time (you only have to check in about 40 minutes before your flight) and the flight itself wasn't even a full 45 minutes. Technically, it can take less than 2 hours door to door if you live close to the airport in Taipei City. We had arranged with staff from the B&B in Penghu to pick us up at the airport (which they did for free). I read online that taxi fares from the airport to most areas in Magong, the main island of Penghu, is about 200 to 300TWD, and you can just catch a cab from the curb outside the arrivals hall.

The drive from the airport to our B&B at Shanshui beach (in the Southeast of Magong) was about 15 minutes. The driver even stopped at a 7/Eleven for us so we could buy a few drinks and snacks for the evening.

Shanshui
Beach bound

Where we stayed

The Husband and I both wanted this trip to include lots of lazy beach days and swimming, so we booked the first 3 nights at The Tile Dome B&B right by the big swimming beach, called Shanshui. The place was clean and spacious and a stone's throw from the beach (literally about a 20 meters' walk from our door). The stay also included breakfast every morning (which we could pick every evening for the next morning and they delivered it to our doorstep). I thought the place was quite pricey for what it was, but I noticed that that was about the standard for accommodation all over Penghu.

Tile Dome Hotel
Tile Dome B&B

Shanshui beach view
From the Tile Dome B&B overlooking Shanshui beach
After our 3 days by the beach, we took a taxi to our next accommodation. We decided to also spend some time closer to Magong City, so I booked the Oasis Hotel for the remaining 2 nights. (Unfortunately they had a mix up with the booking system so we could only stay there for 1 night, but they kindly booked a room for as at a really nice place nearby for the last night.) Oasis Hotel stood out to us because of the pool up on the rooftop, overlooking the ocean. The place itself was very new and modern and the rooms were lovely. The staff went above and beyond to make our stay there comfortable and they were very friendly. The only bad thing about the place is the location. It's isolated and definitely not in walking distance of the city. Oh, and the breakfast was average.

Oasis Hotel Penghu
The rooftop pool at Oasis Hotel

How we got around

It is absolutely essential to rent a car or a scooter while you are there. Even if you are planning on staying in one area, you will probably need to travel a little to get to a convenience store or a place to eat. For this, you will need a valid Taiwanese driver's license or an international driver's license. Apparently in the past it used to be easy to rent a scooter without a license, but they've become more strict in the past couple of years. The Husband and I didn't have valid licenses, but he still managed to rent a scooter from someone he knew from one of his previous visits to Penghu. It's easy to rent a scooter, just ask the staff where you are staying to organize it for you.

Penghu Great Bridge
Driving over the "Penghu Great Bridge"

To rent a scooter costs about 350TWD a day, and it's less than 100TWD to fill up the tank. If you rent one, make sure you get good helmets (they should give you two) and be very careful when driving. If you're not used to driving a scooter, just practice a little before taking on the bigger roads.

Taxis are available, but they don't just appear from around every corner like in Taipei. Whenever we needed a taxi, the staff from where we stayed called one and they showed up in under 10 minutes. 

What we ate

Penghu is famous for its seafood, but none of the food really blew our hair back. Not that there's something wrong with it, we just aren't big fans of oysters etc. It was hard finding food actually. We tried a few restaurants here and there, and had a few 7/Eleven meals, too. If you're really desperate, we did spot a McDonalds and a MOS Burger in Magong City. We did try some of their cactus ice cream though. It sounds weird, but it was actually really tasty.

cactus ice cream
Local cactus ice cream

What we did

Initially we just wanted to relax by the beach, but after doing that for 2 glorious days, we got a little antsy and did a scooter trip around the island. We stopped at all the famous sites along the way, took photos, and enjoyed the scenery. It took us about 4 hours to do the entire journey from Shanshui beach all around the island to the "Xiyu Lighthouse" and back. It can be done faster, for sure, but we took our time and stopped often to stretch our legs. 

On this scooter trip we stopped at the "Fenggui Blowholes", Aimen Beach, another nice swimming beach (I noticed they had a lot of watersport activities going on there). We also passed pastures with cows, picturesque harbors and lots of temples. 

cows

temple


Fenggui
Visitors admiring the "Fenggui Blowholes"

Aimen
Aimen Beach
As we headed north, we stopped by the "Zhongtun Windmill Power Park" and passed over the "Penghu Great Bridge" which is true to its name. Many people stopped there to take pics of the bridge that seems to go all the way to the end of the Earth. After that we stopped at a place called "Whale Cave". (Sorry, no whales here!), but there were some cool geology sites like "Xiaomenyu" to admire, and this seemed to be a place where people made a pitstop for lunch.

windmills
Zhongtun Windmill Power Park
Xiaomenyu
Xiaomenyu
Whale Cave
Walking to the "Whale Cave"

As we headed onwards, we stopped at the "Erkan Ancient Residences". Let's be honest, I had seen stunning pics of this place on Instagram so we "had to" stop there. We spent quite some time there taking photos and enjoying fresh pineapple juice. After that we headed for the "Xiyu Lighthouse", the earliest lighthouse recorded in Taiwan's history, and the last site on our trip. We only stayed there for about 10 minutes because by this time it was noon and the sun was beating down on us.

Erkan
Erkan Ancient Residences

Erkan
Erkan Ancient Residences

Yuwengdao Lighthouse
Xiyu (Yuwengdao) Lighthouse

As we made the turn to head back, we stopped in "Wai-An Harbor", with its quaint fishermen's village. We were tired, hot and sweaty as we finally made our way home. I think it took about an hour of non stop driving to get back to our B&B at Shanshui beach. 

Fishermen's Village
Wai-An Village
During our 2-day stay closer to Magong City, we enjoyed walking around the city visiting all the tourist sites. We went to see "Mazu Temple", "Zhongyang Old Street", the "Four-Eyed Well" and the "Military Housing Culture Area". 

Mazu Temple
Mazu Temple

Zhongyang Old Street
Zhongyang Old Street

Four-Eyed Well
Four-Eyed Well

Military Housing Culture Area
On our way to the "Military Housing Culture Area"

Military Housing Culture Area

Military Housing Culture Area
Military Housing Culture Area

Some extra info

I have to point out that almost no one speaks English in Penghu. Although most of the signs are in English and Chinese, we rarely encountered locals who could communicate with us in English. Luckily The Husband can speak Chinese, so we were fine. But I doubt that I would have been able to manage this trip on my own. So keep that in mind when you're thinking of going there. I wouldn't say it's impossible, but you might have to download some kind of translator app for the occasion. 

Sunset
A Penghu sunset

Locals in Penghu are laid back and extremely friendly and helpful. I assume they aren't used to having Westerners around frequently because they were curious about us, and they loved chatting with The Husband. We felt very welcome!

It was extremely hot while we were there, so make sure to lather on those SPFs (my legs definitely paid the price and looked like overcooked hot dogs after our scooter trip..). We really enjoyed the sunshine and clean air. The locals mentioned that it can get very windy and unpleasant over the cooler months, and that's why there are almost no tourists during the Winter. Even though we went during Summer, the high tourist season, the beaches were almost deserted during the day and the streets were never crowded. 

In general, we had such a lovely time there. It was the perfect little getaway from the city and I will go back in a heartbeat. There are still more smaller islands of Penghu that I want to go and explore. If you have any questions, or if I left anything out, please contact me and I'll be happy to help you plan your trip.

Shanshui beach
Full time beach bum

Happy travels!

5 comments:

  1. What a lovely trip and your photos are even more captivating. Thanks for this wonderful share Liesl. Taiwan is definitely on my Bucket list. Cheers love!

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    1. Thank you for your comment, I'm glad you enjoyed the post! You should definitely visit Taiwan some day, it has so much to offer.

      Have a great day!

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