Sun, Jul 13, 2003 - Page 17 News List

Making a splash in Penghu

Nature has been kind to Penghu in terms of its potential to be a popular international destination for those seeking a water sports activity holiday

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

Alex Huang, left, and Sarah Platt from the US, apply sun lotion near Chihpei Island, in Penghu.

PHOTO: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

Leave the wrinklies at home when you take your trip to Penghu, a prime R n' R getaway for water sports enthusiasts, or the average weekend adventurer.

Though there is plenty to see for the culture vultures -- such as 300-year-old banyan trees and more temples than any other county in Taiwan, quaint views and plenty of camera shots -- Penghu shines most brightly as an activity center for the full range of water sports.

Penghu is the largest in an archipelago of 64 islands lying in the middle of the Taiwan Strait and sees itself as poised to take a slice of the international activity holiday action, with its fine shell-sand beaches, pristine waters and sunshine in the summer months. Penghu's other asset is wind, which blows across the Strait, whipping up big waves and providing plenty of sport for windsurfers.

It's a clean place, almost tidy. There aren't even any mosquitoes. And the environment is unspoiled. From the compact airport to the main drag in Makung, a city of 65,000 people, Penghu has its own flavor, distinct from the pace and smoke of other tourist destinations in the country.

So, while some dudes get away from it all and stay down on the beach with their tents, intent on the surf and nothing else, most locals and international tourists arrive with a package deal of flight, hotel and choice of activities.

They get bussed out to a boat in the morning and sent to a beach for waterpark-type rides on banana boats, a yellow inflatable that you ride as its whisked around behind a jetski. And other fun activities that involve lifejackets and end up with a little splashing around in the shallows of Chihpei Island. Here, lifesavers are on hand, but there is little regulation of other activities on the island.

Some of the water sports activities seem haphazard -- jetskis and powerboats duel in the shallows -- and accidents do occur, as the many hospitals on the island confirm. So, beware of cowboy operators.

Eric Chuang (莊賴櫻) of Eric Asia Aerospace Technology, a qualified pilot, offers microlight rides from a hanger on Chihpei Island. But even he admits to not having a permit. "None of the businesses here are legal, anyone can do what they want," he said.

Interestingly, the assistant at the central tourism bureau on Chunghsiao East Road in Taipei confirmed this and therefore could not recommend the names or numbers of anyone offering water sports activities in Penghu. "We couldn't do that, it would be illegal," she said.

The Penghu County Government is more in tune with the government's exhortations to go out and sell the island to tourists, it seems. The North Sea Tourist Service Center (see details in sidebar) is helpful and basically, as far as taking part in activities in Penghu, the sky's the limit.

If you want to ride buggies across the sand dunes as the sun goes down, you can do it. If you want to go diving you only have to ask. If you want to go up in a hanglider, or down in a parachute, you can.

There are in fact plenty of reputable captains of boats who can be hired for trips or fishing, and surf and sail shops that can pass on information about winds and tides and places to go. There are PADI and other approved diving instructors and there's no problem renting out anything from fins, to racing bikes. Hotels and tourist information will hook you up.

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