The Horseshoe Tour Around Penghu Main Islands (Baisha 白沙; Siyu 西嶼) in a Day 澎湖環島逍遙遊28 May, 2013
After arriving at Magong 馬公 Airport from Taipei Songshan Airport via TransAsia Airways, we embarked on a round-the-island 澎湖環島 tour of Penghu main islands. The 3 most common tour routes that tourists to Penghu take are:
- Round-the-island 澎湖環島 tour of Penghu main islands (seeing sights at Baisha 白沙 and Siyu 西嶼) – also known as Horseshoe tour around the island as these islands combined are shaped like a horseshoe.
- North sea island tour (Jibei island)
- South sea island tour (Qimei, Wang’an islands etc.)
Both the North Sea and South Sea island tours would require an early start – thus for those who have just arrived at Penghu and wants to get the Penghu island adventure started – the 澎湖環島 tour of Penghu main islands is the best option. Round the island seems like quite a long journey but it isn’t because Penghu itself is quite small – in fact the entire road trip from Magong 馬公 Airport to the other end of Penghu main island – Siyu 西嶼 will only take 40 kilometres (with a number of sights in between). For a pictoral summary of what the trip will look like, check out our Day 1 Travelogue compiled with Qiito below – you will also be able to see the horseshoe shape of the islands:
Zongtun (or Jhongtun) Windmill Power Park (or Wind Farm) 中屯風車
After a 15-minute journey from Magong 馬公 Airport, we arrived our first attraction at Baisha (白沙 – literally meaning White sand) – Zongtun (or Jhongtun) Windmill Power Park (or Wind Farm) 中屯風車. This wind farm is the second in Taiwan and it uses one of the latest technology in motor and blade designs. The angle of the blades will adjust according to the wind speed – thus optimising the electricity generation process. Just to manage expectations – this is not an attraction like Zaanse Schans Windmill Museum but if this is the first time you have ever been up close with such wind turbines 風車, it is worth a visit to feel the cool and refreshing sea breeze and hear the quiet efficiency of these 風車 (with its soft whoosh-whoosh sound – almost like a lullaby :-)).
Tongliang Old Banyan Tree 通樑古榕 at Baoan Temple (保安宮)
Our next stop (still at Baisha 白沙) is the Baoan Temple (保安宮) in Tongliang Village (通樑村) where there is a very old banyan tree 通樑古榕 (oldest and largest tree in Penghu). The exact age of the banyan tree depends on who you talk to around Tongliang and the stories you hear them tell.
One story about this tree is that between 1662–1722, a merchant vessel sailing in the waters around Tongliang wrecked itself on the rocks along the coast, and the only thing that survived from this shipwreck was a banyan tree seedling. Residents of Tongliang picked it up and planted it in front of the temple – thus the banyan tree is more than 300 years old.
Another story is that the Tongliang Great Banyan 通樑古榕 is probably only a hundred years old because according to Chinese customs, trees are usually planted after a temple is built, so considering that Baoan Temple was built just over a hundred years ago, and not three hundred years ago, the Tongliang Great Banyan could be not that old (at most 100 years old).
Regardless of the stories abt the 通樑古榕 Banyan Tree’s age, the tree is revered by the people of Penghu as sacred, and has been designated as the official county tree. Its ability to thrive in such an inhospitable, wind-swept environment makes it a symbol of the indomitable spirit of the Penghu islanders.
It is also a major tourist attraction due to the 通樑古榕 Banyan Tree’s structure – if you look closely at the pictures (both top and bottom), you will notice that the tree spans across a wide area (about 95 cubic feet) and all the branches you see actually comes from the same trunk of the 通樑古榕 Banyan Tree. It appears that there are a number of trees but actually there is ONLY one Banyan Tree!
Penghu Trans-Oceanic Bridge (澎湖跨海大橋 Peng Hu Kua Hai Da Qiao)
The Penghu Trans-Ocean Bridge spans Houmen (Roaring Gate) Channel, linking the islands of Baisha and Siyu. At 2,494 meters, it is the first sea-crossing bridge in the Far East.
The main islands of Magong City/Husi Township, Baisha Township, and Siyu Township are the three most populous islands and are connected via bridges. Two shorter bridges connect Husi and Baisha. The bridge connecting Baisha and Siyu is the longest bridge in the Republic of China and is called the Penghu Trans-Oceanic Bridge (澎湖跨海大橋 Peng Hu Kua Hai Da Qiao).
There will be a lot of tourists taking photos here – the safe way to take a picture with the sign “澎湖跨海大橋” is as demonstrated in the picture below. In fact, the local authorities had deliberately shifted the words to the side for the safety of those who would like to take a photo with this sign – previously when it was at the centre of the arch, most people walked to the road centre to take photos with it!
There is a souvenir shop near this 澎湖跨海大橋 sign – you should check it out if you would like to get some Penghu souvenirs. The prices are reasonable and they have quite a good variety of souvenirs compared to the souvenir shops downtown at Magong 馬公. There are also public toilets in the area – thus not surprising that this 澎湖跨海大橋 sign area is always bustling with tourists.
小門鯨魚洞 Hsiaomen Whale Cave at Siyu 西嶼
Located in Hsiaomen Village at Siyu 西嶼, the Whale Cave was originally a basalt cliff. With prolonged erosion by seawater during Northeast monsoon season, an arch was carved out of this basalt cliff over time – prompting imaginative locals to liken the rock formation to a beached whale. Looking at the picture below, imagine that the arch is the eye of a whale and you can see why this is called the Whale Cave.
If you are a fan of geology, you can also check out the Xiaomen Geological Museum for the geological secrets and history of Penghu islands.
Erkan Traditional Village and Historical Houses 二崁古厝聚
Entering Erkan Traditional Village, it feels as if you have gone back in time where you can see traditional houses everywhere. The history of Erkan Village can be traced back to the 17th century when settlers from the offshore island of Kinmen northwest of the mouth of Xiamen Bay on mainland China began to gather in the area. The Erkan Traditional Village comprises a number of old houses with basalt foundations and coral walls with the oldest dating back to 1690. Many of these buildings have been renovated and are still inhabited.
Different historical houses now showcase herbal medicine, traditional life, folk songs and intertidal activities. To experience the tempo of life in the village, visitors may stay in Erkan’s only hostel—a traditional house furnished with modern amenities. The small village is also home to three temples, including the Chen family temple. Thus, it is not surprising that in 2001, Erkan Village was selected as one of the 100 important buildings in Taiwan architectural history for its high historical and cultural value.
The Taiwanese are recycling enthusiasts – even abandoned buoys found in the seas are brought back and decorated into attractive trash bins or just household decorations.
The special product of Erkan Historical Village “Erkan Fragrance” is a manmade fragrance made from three treasures in Erkan Village – Gaillardia pulchella (chrysanthemum), Artemisia argyi (mountain cotton rose) and Hibiscus taiwanensis Hu (Chinese mugwort). These local wild plants are mixed using traditional production methods to make the unique Erkan Fragrance, which is used to dispel mosquitoes as well as to avoid evil spirits.
Other attractions at Siyu closer to the island’s southern tip are 2 Qing dynasty forts, the East Fort and West Fort and the Fisherman’s Island Lighthouse. The lookout point from the edge of the grassy plateau next to the lighthouse is a serene place to watch the sunset.
Over the next few posts, we will be sharing with you more on the beauty of Penghu. Feel free to download our suggested Penghu-Taipei itinerary if you need a quick reference. For more info on getting around Penghu, please read the “Getting Around Penghu” towards the end of the article.
TransAsia Airways flies daily direct flights to Taipei Taoyuan Airport from Singapore. To get to Penghu, you can take the TransAsia Airways domestic flights from Taipei Songshan Airport.