Penghu South Sea Island-Hopping 南海觀光 Part 2 – Qimei (七美嶼) & Wang-an (望安嶼) Islands17 July, 2013
After exploring 2 (七美 & 望安 Qimei and Wang An) of the 4 islands during our South Sea four islands cruise/tour (南海四島), we continued our Penghu South Sea island-hopping trip with the 2 remaining islands in the itinerary – Hujing Island 虎井 and Tongpan Island 桶盤. At about 1pm (after lunch at Wang An island), we depart Wang An jetty for a 15-minute boat ride to Hujing island (虎井嶼).
Hujing Island (虎井嶼) – Home to the Eighteen Arhats 十八羅漢 and 山本五十六南進作戰指揮所
Upon arrival at Hujing Island, we were bussed to the Marshal Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku (Commander in Chief of Japanese Combined Fleet during World War II)’s military underground bunker 山本五十六南進作戰指揮所. While it was named after Marshal Admiral Yamamoto, it was said he had never dropped by Hujing but instead the garrison of troops based here were led by a lieutenant (junior officer)「海軍一小隊」駐守由中尉隊長指揮.
After World War II, the bunker was taken over by the Taiwanese troops. Most of the fixtures in the bunker have been removed with just a few Taiwan flags and labels indicating what the rooms used to be (use your imagination here too :-)).
After a quick walk around the bunker, we were bussed to Goddess of Mercy (Guan Yin) and 18 Arhats statue park (觀音石像 and 十八羅漢石像). The 18 Arhats (十八羅漢/十八阿羅漢) are depicted in Mahayana Buddhism as the original followers of the Buddha who have followed the Eightfold Path and attained the Four Stages of Enlightenment. They have reached the state of Nirvana and are free of worldly cravings. They are charged to protect the Buddhist faith and to await on earth for the coming of Maitreya, a prophesied enlightened Buddha to arrive on earth many millennia after Gautama Buddha’s death and nirvana. The construction of this statue park was funded by the Hujing locals.
Besides taking pictures with each of the Arhats, you can also a great view of Hujing’s bay area as well as Tongpan island (桶盤) .
Tongpan Island (桶盤嶼) – Home to the Basalt Columns 柱狀玄武岩 & Lotus Platform 蓮花座
Tongpan island (桶盤嶼) is just a short 5-minute boat ride from Hujing island. The entire island is surrounded by basalt columns 柱狀玄武岩. Due to its natural beauty, the island has also been known as the “Yellowstone Park of Penghu”. There are no scooter rental and no guided tours provided at this island. The boat will stop at the island for about 45 minutes.
Upon disembarking from your boat, just follow the signs and make your way to the basalt columns about 10 minutes walk away. Do note that there are very steep slopes along the way. The walk around the basalt columns will take about 20-30 minutes.
These basalt columns were caused by countless volcanic activities millions of years ago with the cooling of lava that reached the surface. Don’t worry about volcano eruptions here as the volcanoes are now extinct. In more technical terms – Basalt lava from the oceanic crust is a type of volcanic rock, and such lava will cool rapidly when reaching the surface, thus contracting into hexagonal columns in a process known as “jointing “. The structure of a joint is multi-variant, and thus this creates the most unique natural landscape of Penghu Basalt. Basalt with a dense texture is often grayish-black in color, and according to the different mineral elements inside the rock, there can be different shade variances. If the air inside the lava did not escape in time when the lava cooled, it will become air holes, thus forming the vesicular basalt; Penghu aragonite is developed from such type of basalt.
Another highlight of the walk along the basalt columns is the lotus platform 蓮花座 on the southwest coast of Tongpan island (see picture bottom right). This was one of the openings of a volcano where the lava spewed out.
After exploring Tongpan island, you will take a 10-minute ferry journey to Makung Pier 南海遊客中心 South Sea Visitor Centre and arrive back at around 4.30pm and that concludes the South Sea Island-Hopping tour (南海四島 – 七美、望安、虎井、桶盤).