My husband’s grandfather was a Marine in the Taiwanese military, which means my mother-in-law spent her childhood in Penghu (澎湖縣). This archipelago falls within the Taiwanese territory and serves as a unique island getaway for locals and tourists alike. Summers offer a relaxing summer getaway, but in winter months it has some of the highest winds in the northern hemisphere, making it a hotbed for wind sports.1
The First Island: Culture of Penghu
Yes, Penghu was the first officially recognized island of the Taiwan province during the Yuan Dynasty while still under Mainland Chinese control. But Penghu has been under the control of many a country, much like Taiwan’s main island, and thus displays influences from Chinese, Dutch, and Japanese occupations.2
Fishing is the primary economic drive for the island as the flat, barren lands and windy atmosphere make for poor agricultural growth.2 Laver, a type of edible seaweed, is also picked around the island which doubles as a tourist activity.3
Penghu has close ties to the sea goddess Mazu(媽祖), with the Tienhou Temple (天后宮) being a must-see for visitors. A great deal of festivities also take place around the temple.
Stone protectors are common in Penghu, with their custom being rooted in keeping away evil spirits. There is a strong belief in ghosts amongst the people of Penghu, who also hold ghost food-giving festivals. This is largely due to the number of people who die from accidental deaths due to their lives on the sea.
There are a number of craftsman on the island, including those creating stone protectors, coral crafts, other stone crafts, bamboo weavings, and folklore crafts.4
Food of Penghu
Naturally, seafood is quite common in Penghu. Sea cucumber, balloon fish, shellfish ,and other sea fish are common specialties of the region.
In addition, the area produces a number of unique dishes such as melon rice flour, laver bean noodles, fried jujube, and many more. Peanut snacks and specialty cakes like rice cake and squash cakes are other delicious treats.
Looking to cool down on a hot day? Ice cream in Penghu comes in a variety of unique flavors like cactus fruit, flower flavors, aloe, and hami melon. 4
If you are looking to eat out while visiting, the Penghu Tourism Bureau has a number of excellent recommendations on their website as well. There a too many great options to list here, but I will (eventually) create a guide to Penghu with even more delicious selections.
Penghu’s Scenic Highlights
Penghu is a truly unique archipelago. With it being a largely flat landmass which funnels through heavy winds and harsh waters as well as seismic activity, the landscape has been formed through an unusual combination of erosion and eruption. Tectonic movement has allowed hot lava to bubble to the surface before hardening into rock, while harsh waves brush through, taking rock sediment with them to create some incredible scenery.5
The results of these natural phenomena create some of the most beautiful places in Penghu, from the Columnous Daguoye Basalt (大菓葉柱狀玄武岩) to its most famous site: the Twin Hearts Stone Weir (七美雙心石滬). These are far from the only scenic locations the islands have to offer as well, with the flowers of Neian Recreation Area (澎湖國家風景區), The Wale Cave of Xiaomen Islet (澎湖逍遙遊), and the white sands of Shihli Beach (蒔裡沙灘) being only a few more of the natural landmarks that make Penghu an ideal location for the scenic traveler.
Landmarks of Penghu
The fantastic views aren’t the only things Penghu has to offer. If you are looking for more things to do, why not visit the Penghu Tianhou Temple for a spiritual experience? While you are in the main city of Magong (馬公), you may also want to visit a museum, or two, such as the Penghu Living Museum (澎湖生活博物館) or the Ocean Resources Museum. Make sure you leave time to stroll through Zhongyang Old Street (中央老街) for some local snacks and souvenirs.
Looking for a historic experience? There are forts scattered throughout Penghu that can feed your interest in the area’s background. Take a trip to Siyu East Fort (西嶼東臺) Military Historic Park to see the living quarters of officers and soldiers in the late 1800s and visit the Siyu West Fort (西嶼西臺) to understand how the island was defended. Other military history sites include Nanyu Castle (南嶼城) and Military Dependents Village Cultural Park (Duxingshi Village 篤行十村).
Jhongshe Historical house (中社村) and Tongliang Great Banyan (通梁古榕) are two more must-sees in Penghu. Both landmarks have local legends surrounding them, and are homages to the area’s culture and history.
On your next visit to Taiwan, take a few days to visit this incredible archipelago of culture and history. Enjoy the local treats and see some of the most beautiful natural land formations Taiwan has to offer.
If you are planning a trip to Taiwan, consider booking with me, and I will help make your trip unforgettable.