Penghu 澎湖 (also called the Pescadores) is an outlying island archipelago located in the Taiwan Straits between Taiwan and China and is under the jurisdiction of Taiwan.
The Penghu (pronounced "pung hoo") is an archipelago, not a single island. The sea around Penghu is a saturated turquoise and the sand coral so pack beach footwear. Very few people, hoteliers included, speak any English, so be prepared to exercise your Mandarin and do your research before you get there!
As a rule of thumb, the summer months (April to September) are very hot and humid, and consist in the high season. The winter months (October to April) are much more comfortable and are the low season, when the island is much more quiet... at the price of a very, very heavy wind. In that case, boats are often cancelled to other islands such as Qi-Mei.
Main islands (澎湖本島)
Penghu’s main islands (all connected with bridges) include the administrative divisions of Magong City (馬公市), Huxi (湖西), Baisha (白沙), and Xiyu (西嶼).
Penghu's only city. See Makung. (Magong is sometimes romanised as Makung)
Qi-mei Island (七美)
To get to Qimei from the main island you take a boat from the South Sea Tourist Centre (南海遊客中心) which is located on reclaimed land down by Magong harbour on Xinying Road. From Qimei Island you can see the famous double heart stone weir (雙心石滬) which is a large stone traditional fishing trap made in the shape of two hearts. You can also see what is believed to be the site of an old fresh water well which is now a sacred shrine dedicated to the Seven Beauties (七美) from which this island takes its name.
Ji-bei Island (吉貝嶼)
To get to Jibei from the main island you take a short boat ride from the North Sea Tourist Centre (北海遊客中心) which is located on Baisha Island (白沙). The boat operators offer package deals that include boat fare, unlimited use of water sports facilities such as wave runners - though someone else does the actual riding - banana boats, snorkeling, water slides, and other forms of water activities and a scooter to use around the island.
Wangan Island (望安嶼)
To get to this island you take a boat from nearby the South Sea Tourist Centre. The main point of interest on Wangan Island is the old courtyard house village ruins that are clustered around several traditional fresh water wells and of course a few temples by the sea. These courtyard houses are believed to be some of the oldest (possibly even the oldest) such ruins in Taiwan. These houses are now overgrown with trees. Hopefully someone will soon recognise their local, national and international architectural, cultural and historical significance and begin restoring them as they would then be an even better tourist attraction particularly as Tea Houses and B & Bs.
It is best to rent a motorbike from nearby the Wangan Island ferry terminal which in high Summer should cost between NT$350NT and $400, but this price is very likely to be cheaper at other times of the year when discounts are likely to be offered.
Aimen Village (Ai-men) is located walking distance from Magong airport. Just turn left on the road outside the airport and walk down the road for 5 minutes. Aimen Village is walking distance to beautiful Aimen Beach. Just turn right and walk down the little lane as you enter Aimen Village. This lane is easy to locate as it is signposted and is also lined with coral fences. There are a few B & Bs in Aimen Village which are an easy walk to the beach.
Xiyu Island also has several villages such as Erkan Village that are not only worth visiting but also a good place to stay if you are looking for an island get-a-way holiday.
There are hundreds of B & Bs scattered across Penghu both in the Magong city area and dotted across all the inhabited islands of the archipelago.
The locals speak a Penghu dialect and Mandarin. English is rarely spoken but all National Penghu University of Technology (NPU) students have studied at least one and up to four years of English as part of their university degree studies and many of these students work part-time at Penghu B & Bs and Hotels.
The main entry point of Penghu is the domestic Magong airport which is located in the middle of the main island, which is not walking distance to Magong city as it is a 20 minute drive from the city of Magong.
It is possible to fly to Magong Airport, Penghu from at least 6 domestic Taiwanese airports including Taipei (Songshan), Taichung, Jiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung and Jinmen Island. Uni Air and Mandarin Airlines each provide frequent and convenient flights to Penghu. A few regional international flights are expected to commence in the next few years.
Magong Airport is clean and modern, with cafés and free Wi-Fi. However, very few electric or USB appliances are available in the terminal.
A taxi ride from the airport to the city of Magong should not cost more than NT$300. However, if you are able to telephone and book a taxi ahead of your arrival in Mandarin Chinese the cost drops down to $200). Some taxi numbers: 0937713723; 0931873045. Taxi drivers do not speak English. Also, taxis do not use meters in Penghu, so make sure to ask the cost to your destination before you set off.
Many Penghu B & Bs and Hotels offer (often free) pick-up and drop-off to and from Magong Airport and the Harbour Ferry Terminal.
There is ferry all year round from Kaohsiung which takes 5 hours and 5 minutes, and arrives at a downtown Magong pier from where you can easily walk along the main street and around the downtown area. However, it is much more frequent in summer than in winter; also expect cancellations due to typhoons (summer) or strong wind (winter). From Kaohsiung to Magong costs NT$860-1700 one way in Summer 2011 (see full details online). Magong to Kaohsiung is slightly cheaper costing from $819-1619. This service may not be available every day and sailing times are subject to change according to the season.
A smaller ferry sails between Magong Harbour and Putai, only in summer (until mid-October). This journey takes about 90 minutes.
Only those who hold either a current Taiwanese driving license or a current IDP (International Driving Permit - Taiwan is listed inside the front cover of this document as accepting the International Driving Permit) may rent vehicles. However, make sure your IDP includes a Chinese translation inside it. The airport is about 10 km from Magong city's main street, Jhongjheng Rd.
There are plenty of gas stations in Magong, but much fewer elsewhere. In addition, many of these close at 5pm (not in Magong though), so make sure you have enough gas when you leave for a trip throughout the main islands.
If you turn right as you walk outside the airport building you will find the public bus stop located on the corner of the airport building. The bus stop is clearly marked and also has a timetable and price list. This is by far the cheapest option.
There are public buses that travel all around the main bridge linked islands as far as Waian Village (Wai-an) which is located nearby the far end of Xiyu Island. The main bus terminal building is a large building about two streets over from Jhongjheng Rd walking away from and across the road from McDonalds.
In the main city of Magong major sights include the Tianhou Temple where sailors and fishermen have prayed to the sea goddess Matsu for safe seafaring for centuries. Nearby is the 400-year-old Four Eyes Well a single fresh water well with four holes so it can be used by many people at once. It is on a picturesque old street that has been tastefully restored to its former glory.
Hou Hsiao-Hsien's film The Boys from Fengkuei (風櫃來的人, 1983) was shot in Fengkuei, on the main island.
One night in Magong, then catch a boat to Qi-mei Island and stay in one of several B & Bs for the night. On returning to Magong spend another night in one of the many B & Bs in one of the villages that are scattered about the islands where you can view the ruins of and some restored traditional courtyard houses, particularly in Erkan Village, Xiyu, that are made from coral and local stones.
Ride a bicycle from Magong's Rainbow Bridge along the bicycle path beside the seashore is highly recommended. From here you get excellent views across the water to Xiyu Island.
Tourists can take a walk along Shan-shiu or Ai-men Beach, (each just a $200 taxi ride away) Most tourist also like to take a boat ride to see some of the many other islands.
Take a boat trip to Seven Beauty Island (in Chinese it is called Qi-mei although it is more often Romanised as Ci-mei or Chi-mei) an island to the south, is also highly recommended. The boat trip from the Magong harbourside South Sea Tourist Centre takes about 90 minutes and you get to see several other islands along the way. Qi-mei Island is a great place to stay in a B & B for one night. The island is small but hilly with cliffs falling into the sea on the southern side. Goats may be seen grazing across the island and another interesting feature is the dry stone and/or coral fences. The best way to travel around is on bikes and this should come as part of the B & B package. However, you will need a Taiwanese licence. Perhaps best to travel with some Taiwanese friends as almost no one speaks English here.
Ji-bei Island, is a short boat trip to the north and has some of the best beaches.
The best place for western style bread, cake, coffee and tea is Donutes which is located on a main road corner down the hill from McDonald's.
Penghu is known for many local delicacies. It offers top-notch fresh seafood although this tends to be quite expensive, in addition to other dishes, desserts, and snacks some of which are only available in Penghu.
Brown Sugar Sponge Cake (黑糖糕) can be ordered from several shops along the alley way down from the old well where you can also find Grass Jelly (仙草凍刨冰) and Pink Cactus Fruit Sorbet Ice Cream (仙人掌冰) which is widely available in Magong or on Wangan Island.
Spicy Red Oil Wontons (四川紅油抄手) can be found at 四川席炒手馬公市仁愛路25號 in Magong City Tel +886-6-9272899 Western food in Penghu is not only limited to McDonald's. The five star Pescadores Hotel offers western style food as does the "He-tian" M Hotel which is located at No. 2, MínQuán Rd, Magong, Tel +886 6 926 3936 which is an easy walk from the main street.
There are a few bars scattered around Magong mostly near the centre of the city.
Book ahead because hotels in Penghu can fill up fast in Summer. Hotels offer discounts in the off-season (Winter and early Spring).
One of the most beautiful bed & breakfasts, and situated right on the water, is the Villa Romana B&B 西衛海岸民宿 (www.villar.com.tw). Very friendly, great service, and they have fully bilingual staff. 5 minutes from the city, 15 from the airport, and with fantastic 300 degree views of the ocean (it's located at the end of a mini-peninsula).
There are a lot of ATMs in Magong, much fewer elsewhere.
Most hotels have free Wi-Fi. The 4G is available virtually everywhere on the main islands of the archipelago.
As everywhere (or even more than elsewhere) in Taiwan, Penghu is very safe: virtually no thefts, and a population always willing to help.
Typhoons are common in this part of the world during the summer months so remember to keep an eye on weather forecasts as flights may be delayed or cancelled when there is a typhoon.
In winter, Penghu is also well known for very strong winds, so if you drive a motorbike, make sure to drive carefully. Frequent "strong wind" road signs will remind you anyway.
- Kinmen island