The Pescadores 澎湖

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The Pescadores 澎湖 penghu_map
Penghu map

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 - Magong (馬公), 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) of Taiwan. The tropic of cancer passes through the Penghu's 7th largest island, Hujing isle (虎井嶼 – "tiger well island").

Getting There

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

Magong 馬公

Magong (馬公) 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 ) to "horse" (ma3 ) under the Japanese Occupation in 1921.

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coral wall homes
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Richard M. buys steamed buns
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traditional general store
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inner court
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Joshua at the animal farm
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Tammy leaving the ramparts

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

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Guanyin Pavilion 觀音亭
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Penghu map
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Guanyin Pavilion 觀音亭

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

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Raja leads
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Raja checks
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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

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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.

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Tammy, Philip and Joshua
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local color

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

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Tianhou Temple (天后宮) or "Queen of Heaven Temple", located in the center of Magong City, is dedicated to Mazu (媽祖), 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), Wusheng (武聖殿), 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

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rare scholarly women guardians
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old bridges


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

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dessicated puffers litter the coastal rocks
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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 Hujing (虎井) 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

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intricate ceiling
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facing out to the ocean
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so many people
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Wengwan Temple 溫王廟

Wengwan Temple (溫王廟) originally built as a modest shrine to (王爺) or (千歲爺) in the Qing dynasty was rebuilt as a lavish and ornate Taoist temple after Japanese occupation.

Waian 外垵

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Waian 外垵

Western Terrace (Sitai) Fortress 西台古堡

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agave everywhere
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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

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Tammy and Laurie
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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

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wash basin holder
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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.

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well reflections
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glass fishermen's buoys
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fisherman and fish - mutual affection?
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Tongliang Banyan Canopy 通樑大榕

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 grouper (石斑), lobster (龍蝦), squid (烏賊), abalone (九孔), oysters (牡蠣) clams (), shellfish (貝類), 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, cantaloupes (洋香瓜), chiapao melon (嘉寶瓜), pumpkin (南瓜), 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.

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Joshua and Laurie's pad
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view from office

Sunday, May 27

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views from the roof
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views from the roof
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views from the roof
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coral wall bordered peanut patches dot the city
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cold tea for the drive to the snorkeling beach

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

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ne of several halls (tings) with a different Buddha or Bodhisatva
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Kuan-yin (Guanyin) manifestations
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Buddha and Buddhist Saints
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Reclining Kuan-yin (Guanyin)
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Tantric Kuan-yin (Guanyin)
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Granite Meditation
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Lotus Meditation I
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Lotus Meditation II
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Lotus Meditation III
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Lotus Meditation IV
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Kuan-yin (Guanyin) in the Grass
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Philip in Spanish-flavored arch with Southeast Asian iconography
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Laurie and Joshua at their favorite "temple"

We leave our entertaining and knowledgeable hosts, Laurie and Joshua on Penghu where they plan to stay through the end of the year.

Keywords: beach, bike, boat, bridge, building, dog, door, farming, grave, insect, map, ocean, shop, sign, stream, street, sun, temple, tree, well, window
People: Joshua, Laurie, Philip, Tammy
Locations: Penghu, 澎湖
Dates: 2007:05:25 - 2007:05:27