Sunday, 28 July 2013

Penghu II

Apologies for the delay in posting. I've been in the UK and wasn't able to keep up this blog as I'd hoped I would.

Let me continue to tell you about Penghu.

Of all the islands available to visit in the Penghu archipelago, Jibei is one of the most popular. We went there on our third day, having booked boat tickets through our hotel. During the peak season it's advisable to book ahead. Every boat or trip we took was completely full.

The crossing took about 20 minutes and once we arrived we hired scooters, as this is the only way to get around the island. (It's also the best way to get around the main island, although there are taxis available, too.)

Jibei has a long spit of soft, pale yellow sand, which is perfect for a short shoreline stroll, but most people go there for the water sports. A day ticket buys you access to whatever activity you like, as often as you like. Most are trips out into the sea on various kinds of water vehicle, very, very fast and involving lots of screaming. Snorkelling is more my thing but unfortunately the sea was too choppy the day we visited.

Safety measures are tight, and everyone is required to wear lifejackets and head protectors, which is just as well as one ride was so extreme my son couldn't hold on and ended up bobbing in the sea, waiting to be picked up. After that, he played it safe on the floating slide platform.

The guys riding the jet skis that towed the tourist rides had a great time deliberately spraying everyone on the beach whenever they passed.

Jibei does have more to it than water sports. As well as the long spit of sand the island itself is an interesting example of traditional life in Penghu. We only had time for a few short hours there but I hope to go back and see more one day.

We were fortunate to have timed our visit to coincide with another tourist draw, Penghu's firework festival. Regular displays take place over the Rainbow Bridge during the peak season, and we were there for the final show of the year. Our hotel backed onto the display area so we could watch from the corridor and, after a long preamble, the display was as spectacular as I've come to expect in Taiwan.
Another popular island to visit is Qimei, which means 'seven beauties', and refers to the the legend of the seven beautiful maidens who drowned themselves rather than be ravaged by pirates. Qimei provides one of the representative images of Penghu, a heart-shaped, stone-built fish trap, which, typically, seeks to make life a little more convenient. The fish swim into the trap at high tide, and are unable to leave through the narrow entrance at low tide, allowing fishermen to avoid those bothersome fishing expeditions.

We'd planned to visit Qimei on our last day, but the weather was rough, and Qimei is the furthest island from Magong, so the organisers couldn't guarantee we would be able to land. We decided to give it a miss this time and instead visited the museum in Magong, did our souvenir shopping - including lots of Penghu's famous black sugar cake and a jar of pickled shellfish for my son' lovely teacher - and ate a delicious lunch of some local dishes.

This is dried octopus. Traditional dishes in Penghu reflect the archipelago's unusual climate. Unable to farm or fish for several months of the year due to the scouring trade winds, Penghu islanders developed many ways of preserving food to last them through the lean months.

The top left hand dish is dried cauliflower, which was surprisingly delicious. Top right is some kind of omelette and bottom centre is, I think, sardines.

We spent the remaining hours of our holiday enjoying the area behind our hotel. My son and I walked over the Rainbow Bridge, which is deceptively high, with wide views of the seascape.

We spent four days in Penghu, which wasn't long enough. If you wanted to have a relaxing holiday but still with lots to do, two weeks would probably find you wishing you had a little more time to spend. 

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