The Pescadores ("Fishermen's Islands" in Portuguese), known in Taiwan
as Penghu (澎湖群島),
consist of 64 to over 100 small islands
(depending on tide level) covering an area of 141 square kilometers
located between Fujian, China
and Taiwan in the Taiwan Straits with a distance from Taiwan at
the closest point of 45 Km.
The three largest islands of Penghu's twenty inhabited islands -
Paisha (白沙 – "white sand")
and Hsiyu (西嶼 – "west island")
form a horseshoe shape and are connected by causeways and bridges.
Magong island, composed of Magong city
and Hushi (湖西 – "lake west") township
is the largest island in the archipelago
accounting for half the total area, as well as 70 percent of the population.
With a population of 91,950 people, the islands are administered as Penghu County (澎湖縣)
The tropic of cancer passes through the Penghu's 7th largest island,
Hujing isle (虎井嶼 – "tiger well island").
At least four airlines -
Far Eastern Air Transport (FAT 遠東航空),
Uni Air (UNI 立榮),
TransAsia Airways (TNA 復興), and
Mandarin Airlines (MDA 華信)
provide at least 30 flights per day
departing from Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Chiayi, and Kaohsiung every day to Makung.
Ticket fares run 1,350 TWD to 1,700 TWD for a one-way ticket.
Several ferries operate between
the cities of Kaohsiung and Chiayi and the Makung Harbor.
Tai Hua (台華輪)
travels from Kaohsiung Harbor to Makung Harbor once per day
in about 4 hours. One-way tickets cost between 600 TWD and 1,300 TWD
depending on your cabin.
Friday, May 25
is the site of the first Han Chinese community in Taiwan.
Magong city, Penghu's largest city,
incorporating all of Magong island with a population of 54,212 (2007),
is the administrative seat of Penghu county.
The earliest temple in the country
to the goddess Matsu (媽祖) is found on Makung.
Makung is also known as "Magong Ao" (馬宮澳
or originally, 媽宮澳),
or "Matsu Palace Seaport". The first character of the name was changed
from "mother" (ma 媽)
to "horse" (ma3 馬) under the Japanese Occupation in 1921.
The urban area of Magong is richly interspersed with gardens
and grass lawns. We notice how little trash is visible in the streets.
Sandstone designs and light pastels against bright primary colors bring to
mind Greek islands.
The low numbers of cars, other vehicles and factories on the Penghu islands
along with the windy weather means there is little noticeable air pollution.
One of the impressions visitors are left with is how clean the islands are.
During the migration season, the islands are an important
stop over for many different species of birds in addition to
over 200 bird species native to the islands.
Guanyin Pavilion 觀音亭
is a short walk form Magong city center.
The PengHu Islands were born of basalt magma from volcanic eruptions over 8 million years ago.
Penghu's sandy and rocky coastline outlines flat islands
composed of wave-eroded platforms and
wave-eroded cliffs originally formed from layered basalt flow from under-water volcano eruptions.
Soil is formed from basalt and coral reef.
Long-term underwater erosion has
created a relatively flat landscape -- the highest point is 79m on Damow isle
(大貓嶼 – "big cat island") or Cat Islet.
-- marked by winding coastlines totaling
more than 300 kilometers in length.
The blue waters of Penghu, rimmed by white sand beaches,
are home to abundant coral, shells, and various other ocean creatures,
including migrating dolphins.
The clear seawater, pristine beaches and beautiful skies
make Penghu a favorite ocean resort area.
In the summer the Kuroshio tributary current and then in the winter
China's coastal current pass through the Penghu sea territory,
contributing to a rich and diverse marine life around the islands.
Infrequent rainfall, salty mists, and strong monsoons
discourage the growth of large plants. The open spaces on the islands are covered
by shrubs, herbs, and grassland rather than the dense forests of the Taiwan mainland.
Guanyin Temple 觀音宮
Guanyin Temple (觀音宮)
in Longmen Village (龍門村 - "dragon gate village")
in Husi (湖西 - "lake west") Township
on the far east of Magong island
is the oldest Buddhist temple in Penghu.
The temple was built in 1738 during the Qing Dynasty (清乾隆丙辰) as Fude Temple (福德廟).
The temple was destroyed by French military forces in 1884,
and was rebuilt in 1891 by the chief of the Qing Dynasty (清朝) army, Wu Hong-Luo.
and was restored to its present condition in 1964.
Mazu (媽祖), the "Sea Goddess of Mercy"
(or "South Sea Guanyin Bodhisattva") is worshipped at
Guanyin Temple (觀音宮).
Governed by moderate ocean climate,
the lightly vegetated land reaches a high of 28C in the summer and dips to 16C
under the influence of the northeast monsoon.
Average annual rainfall is 1000mm accumulated over an average of 95 rainy days.
The dry season is from October to March getting around 200mm of the total annual rainfall.
Because the islands are flat and located in the path of the
northeast monsoons through the Taiwan strait,
winds are strong, fast and constant in the winter, at least 6m/sec (level 4)
from October through January.
Under the influence of a continental cold air mass,
wind speeds can reach level 8 and sometimes up to 12.
Guoyeh Beach 菓葉沙灘
Rubbish washes up along
Guoyeh (菓葉 – "fruit leaf") beach
— fishermen's waste, many glass bottles — leaving a barrier
of refuse of civilization at high tide which discourages the civilized from
crossing to discover this fine beach of calm waters and beautiful shells
on the eastern end of Magong island (馬公島).
Fishing is the main activity of the islanders evidenced by the
colorful fishing boats found in the natural harbors.
While their husbands are at sea, the women work the sandy soil
sometimes with ox-pulled plows
in fields surrounded by coral walls to protect their
peanut crops, sweet potatoes and melons
from being destroyed by the high winds.
We are impressed with the classy facilities of the bed and breakfast operations.
Sylvia's Sunrise Bed & Breakfast also arranges various sea activities, including
diving, sea kayaking and windsurfing lessons.
On ridges and mounds beneath the surface of the sea off Taiwan,
coral polyps spawn once a year producing swarms of orange or red coral eggs
occurring after sunset three to seven days after the full moon in April,
depending on water temperature and tidal changes. On spawning night,
the polyps on coral colonies release both eggs and sperm which float
to the ocean's surface, where fertilization takes place.
This coral larvae drift on the currents, sometimes for several months,
before settling on a suitable substrate to form new colonies or add to existing ones.
With 1,566 kilometers of coastline, the Taiwan area almost completely encircled by coral reefs,
is home to nearly 300 of the world's cataloged coral species home to an estimated 1,600 marine species.
Only the sandy west coast does not tend to form marine ridges which attract coral,
algal material and exotic fish. At the confluence of cool waters from continental currents
and the warm waters of the northeasterly Kuroshio current,
Taiwan is at an undersea crossroads for a wealth of diversity of sea life.
The Kenting National Park Administration has identified 220 species of reef-building corals,
45 species of soft corals and 23 species of gorgonian corals, as well as other types.
Kenting's coral cover has dropped to only 25 percent of what it would be if it had been left undisturbed.
Raw sewage from urban centers and organic pollution from tourism facilities settle onto the reefs,
damaging these underwater ecological communities.
Runoff from construction and deforestation muddies coastal waters or forms sediment directly onto the reefs.
This prevents light from reaching the symbiotic algae that live within the tissues of coral polyps.
In 1987 it was determined that part of the area Third Nuclear Power Plant at Nanwan
was suffering from coral bleaching from hot water discharge from the power plant.
Temple of the Queen of Heaven 天后宮
Tianhou Temple (天后宮)
or "Queen of Heaven Temple",
located in the center of Magong City,
is dedicated to Mazu
the Goddess of the Sea and patron deity of fishermen.
Built in 1592, this is the oldest temple in Taiwan,
and an outstanding sample of Chinese temple architecture.
This is Taiwan's oldest existing place of worship
and remains a center of worship for Penghu residents today.
Allow time to visit the many and various temples of Penghu,
including Tianhou (天后宮),
City God (城隍廟),
and Baoan Temple (保安宮), as well as the
Guanyin Pavilion (觀音亭).
Most of Penghu's temples are dedicated to Matsu, Goddess of the Sea,
who is the protector of fishermen.
Archaeological records of settlements of pottery makers on the main and outlying islands
evidence the islands were settled by humans four to five thousand years ago.
The islands of Penghu were the earliest parts of Taiwan to be settled by Chinese,
and the first to encounter European settlement.
Chinese people have been living on Penghu since the 12th century.
The island became part of China in 1171, during the
Yuan dynasty (元朝) (1271–1368).
During the Ming (明朝)
Penghu was occupied by pirates and then claimed by the Dutch.
The islands were given their current name of Pescadores or "fisherman's islands"
by the Portuguese in the 16th century.
Portuguese navigators visited in the sixteenth century, and the Dutch arrived
in the early seventeenth century, eventually establishing a military and trading base
in Penghu in 1622. The Dutch and the Ming empire wrestled for
control of the islands for decades
Koxinga (鄭成功) defeated the Dutch troops
who then moved on invade Tainan in southern Taiwan
Penghu came under Japanese control
with the treaty of Shimonoseki (馬關條約)
at the end of the Sino-Japanese war in 1895.
Penghu returned to Taiwanese administration following World War II.
Penghu county government was established in 1981.
Tailing Temple 泰靈殿
Penghu's population is made up of immigrants from along the coast of China's
Fujian (福建) Province.
These people had to adjust their lifestyles to the environment of the islands,
adapting the ways of Chinese agricultural to a land of high winds and low rainfall.
Compared to average Taiwan incomes in 2000,
with average annual household incomes of NT$891,445 (US$25,840)
the annual income of Penghu residents was 22 percent lower at
only NT$697,315 (US$20,212). As a result,
Penghu looses about 3,000 people per year — mostly people seeking
employment in other parts of Taiwan.
The county's population has dropped from 130,000 in the 1970s to nearly 60,000.
Around 15 percent of the population is over 65 — much higher than any other area of Taiwan.
Saturday, May 26
With a full day and rented motorcycles we head straight for the extreme end
of the bridge connected horseshoe of connected islands to Waian (外垵)
at the southern tip of Siyu (西嶼 — "west island").
Water and Power
The first built sea water desalination plant
at Chenggong reservoir (成功水庫)
has provided 2000 tons of fresh water daily
since August 1995,
employing reverse osmosis to generate
fresh water which is combined with treated waste water
to supply tap water.
Another 7000-ton sea water desalination plant was set up
in Wu-kan (烏崁) in Magong city.
Smaller sea water desalination plants also operate in
and Tong-pan (桶盤)
in Ma-gong city contributing
200 and 100 tons of water respectively daily.
The Wangan (望安)
sea water desalination plant provides 400 tons daily.
The only groundwater reservoir in Taiwan is located
in Baisha (白沙)
using under surface standpipes to store water and pump 3000 cubic meters
of water into the tap water system.
1200 cubic meters of this water is used for surface soil irrigation.
The Jian-shan power plant (尖山發電廠)
in Jian-shan village
established in April 1993
has an area of 14.3 hectares including a private
area of 11.3 hectares. Taipower built
12 large diesel-electric plants providing
total electric power of 120 megawatts.
Waian Wengwan Temple 外垵溫王廟
Wengwan Temple (溫王廟)
originally built as a modest shrine to (王爺)
in the Qing dynasty was rebuilt as a lavish and ornate Taoist temple after Japanese occupation.
Western Terrace (Sitai) Fortress 西台古堡
Penghu was often viewed by invaders
as the stepping stone to the main island of Taiwan.
Sitai Fort (西台古堡)
was built in 1887 during the Ching Dynasty
at the strategically important southern end of Siyu Island
to guard against invasion from the sea.
With Under-earth tunnels inside leading to different heavily fortified chambers
and naturally protected by cliffs in back and oceans in the front
Sitai Fort is the best-preserved and largest fortress on Penghu.
內垵遊憩區 Neian Recreation Area 後灣沙灘
On these islands where life is defined by the sea, the main
industry is fishing and followed by peanuts and yam cultivation.
The men of Penghu almost all work in fishing,
while the women work the land.
For both, resisting the elements of nature is a major preoccupation.
Plots of peanuts, sweet potatoes and melons are usually
surrounded by high coral walls, but hats are not enough protection
against the intense sun, sandy wind and salty spray
so it is common to see women working in fields with all but their eyes covered by cloth.
Some of the older generations, especially on outlying islands
make earrings, necklaces and bracelets out of coral and shells.
Erkan village 二崁古厝
The well-preserved century-old residence in
Erkan Village (二崁古厝)
on Siyu (西嶼) island
is a large family home traditionally laid out with many wings
leading from the courtyard, kitchen, rooms and finally to the family temple in the inner-most center.
It features relief carvings, windows, doors,
and eaves in the classic southern Fujian (福建)
or Minnan (閩南) style.
Rustic and simple craftsmanship is evident everywhere you look.
Penghu is not known for its trees, but the banyan canopy at Tongliang (通樑大榕樹) on Baisha (白沙) is over 300 years old.
The canopy of the tree, anchored by nearly 100 trunks and covering 660 square
meters provides a canopy for the courtyard of Bauan Temple (保安宮).
The Tongliang Banyan is revered by the people of Penghu as a sacred tree
and has been designated as the official county tree.
Its ability to thrive in such an unfriendly, wind-worn environment
symbolizes the persevering spirit of the Penghu islanders.
Penghu is known throughout Taiwan
as a source of seafood, including
and other dried and processed marine foods.
Souvenirs are sold to tourists made of
coral (珊瑚), seashells, and cultivated pearls.
Known agricultural products of Penghu include
loofah (sponge) gourds (稜角絲瓜) Luffa acutangula,
chiapao melon (嘉寶瓜),
aloe or agave (龍舌蘭),
peanuts (花生), and
seaweed cakes (海苔酥). The chief mineral product is
Penghu veined stone or agate (脈石)
mostly composed of aragonite (瑪瑙)
which is only found in Penghu and Italy.
The wavy grain of this beautiful stone makes is a favorite for
carving chops and other decorative handicrafts.
Penghu agate is world famous for its color and quality.
Sunday, May 27
In the morning we drive south
across Magong island (馬公島)
to Shanshuei beach formerly called "Jhu Mu Luo Shuei"
(豬母落水 — "a sow falls into the water").
The name originating from the story that once a sow ran
to the beach and was dragged into the sea by a giant octopus.
Its name was changed to "Jhumushuei" (豬母水
under Japanese rule, and was later renamed "Shanshuei" after World War II.
The beaches are white and the water is clear.
Development and Casinos
Though fishing remains a major source of income,
overfishing has reduced current harvests substantially.
Reduced military presence has also been felt as its second major
source of revenues decreases.
Taiwan has designated Penghu its third national scenic area,
which will lead to improved tourism facilities.
The Tourism Bureau plans to add larger resort areas, marinas, ocean parks and beaches.
Private investors are expected to build quality hotels, restaurants and leisure establishments.
Some advocate the legalization of gambling casinos in Penghu
as the best course for economic development. The argument goes that the casinos
would create many job opportunities and generate local tax revenues
that could then be used for infrastructure development and social services.
Currently most of Penghu County's annual budget —
between NT$5 billion and $6 billion (US$145 to $174 million) —
relies on subsidies from the central government.
The idea of establishing casinos on Taiwan's outlying islands has been
a controversial topic for more than a decade, resurfacing every few years,
but never enough to achieve the momentum required to
rewrite longstanding legislation outlawing all forms of public gambling.
Several local people that we informally interviewed suggested
that money generated by the casinos would not stay in the communities.
Chungan Temple (Zhong-an Buddhist Monastery) 眾安寺
We leave our entertaining and knowledgeable hosts, Laurie and Joshua on Penghu where they plan to stay through the end of the year.
Locations: Penghu, 澎湖
Dates: 2007:05:25 - 2007:05:27