Wed, Jun 12, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Penghu: the art of knowing what to avoid

Forget about the cutesy restored villages and the selfie hordes, grab your bike and you’ll find tranquility just around the corner on Penghu

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

While not as egregious, the same approach can be seen in other villages marked on the tourist trail, such as Nanliao (南寮) and Erkan (二崁). But the settlements that are not highlighted as attractions are just as easily accessible and far more authentic, and even on the northern outskirts of Magong I found a maze of delightful semi-urban paths dotted with coral walls, temples and traditional brick buildings to cycle through. Penghu can be thoroughly enjoyed if you just know what to avoid, and remember that a view of the gorgeous ocean is always nearby.

WHEELING THROUGH FOUR ISLANDS

It’s surprising that cycling is not a popular activity on Penghu, or at least what I saw of it. During my three day jaunt around the four main islands, I saw a total of three cyclists that resembled tourists, the rest on bikes were local kids.

I was hoping to find a bike shop upon disembarking so I could ride to my guesthouse, but only scooter and car rentals could be found around the port. I end up walking, and upon arrival I reassure my friendly guesthouse owner that I possess decent stamina and have experience biking long distances before she shows me to the shop. It’s tucked away in a narrow alley and has less than 10 bikes available.

The shop owner tells me that most of her customers are foreigners, and most biking activity here takes place during triathlons or competitions. Upon hearing that, I assume that Penghu isn’t going to be very bike friendly — but it’s the exact opposite.

I head north along the coast from Jinguitou Fort. Traffic is sparse and I quickly find a bike path that carries me for a good distance hugging the shore while the white buildings of downtown Magong slowly shrink and disappear. There’s nobody here except for the occasional jogger, and when the path ends I’m dropped off at the city’s Siwei Borough (西衛), a curious labyrinth of narrow winding paths, where new residential buildings and hostels intersect with decaying old houses and green fields. There’s a cape extending out from the northern shore with panoramic views of the other islands, including the wind turbines across the sea on Jhongtun Island (中屯).

I spend the rest of my day wandering and snapping photos of this quiet neighborhood. When I tell the guesthouse owner where I went, she laughs: “Even us locals get lost there!”

The next day I set out to traverse all four islands, with my destination set at the 30km mark at the basalt columns on Siyu Island (西嶼, literally “West Island”), which are worth the trip. There are clear lanes set aside for bikes and motorcycles, and the terrain is relatively flat, making it easy going. There’s even a bicycle path that took me under and around the massive wind turbines, leaving me wondering why I’m the only cyclist here. Not complaining, though.

For the rest of the trip, I found that by detouring in any direction I could find charming villages that seem mostly untouched save for the one or two modernist guesthouses that seem to have taken hold in every locale. Locals and migrant fishermen move slowly about their daily tasks as children run about, looking surprised that anyone has bothered to visit despite the buzzing tourist activity just a few minutes away.

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