Upon setting foot on the Pēnghú archipelago, a profound sense of ocean culture immediately embraces you. It’s clear from the outset that the ocean has weathered and shaped this place and the people who live here. Catching and gathering the ocean’s bounty has been the staple livelihood for generations of Pēnghú rén (Penghu people). The ocean continues to play an integral part in daily life here, as seen in the baskets of fish, shrimp and squid that lay drying on the wayside and traditional coral walls that dot the landscape, sheltering the little food that grows in the islands’ arid soil.
The archipelago is made up of more than 90 small isles that lie to the west of Taiwan, in the Taiwan Strait. While Penghu has around 90,000 residents, only 20 of the islands are inhabited, some of which are home to as few as 10 people. Owing to the increasing pressure on ocean habitats, many of Penghu’s islands are now protected marine reserves.
In the centre of the archipelago, 3 main islands – Húxi, Báishā and Siyu, are joined by bridges and are home to the vast majority of Penghu residents. Magong, a bustling fishing port and tourism hub on Húxi island, is the only city. Relaxed and running on island time, Magong’s streets are lined with mom ‘n’ pop shops, tea and coffee joints, so-called ‘everything stores’ and little hole-in-the-wall restaurants, not to mention a chain store or two. Scooter rental places, a few hotels, snack stands, games arcades, local delicacy stores, 7-elevens, temples and much more make downtown Magong an interesting patchwork of life and commerce.
Despite extreme wind from October – April and hot, humid summers from June – August, Penghu attracts a large number of visitors each year, from Taiwan and abroad. It has become well known for its pristine beaches, local delicacies, countless temples and sleepy atmosphere.
Summer in Penghu is all about hot sunny days and beautiful beaches. Swimming, surfing, snorkeling, windsurfing, camping, fishing, barbecues, fruit shakes and day trips around the islands characterize summer life. Magong is busy with visitors and locals alike, enjoying the weather and treats like cactus ice cream and shaved ice that come with summer. Cycling in Penghu is an increasingly popular summer activity for enthusiasts from Taiwan, as the landscape is relatively flat and offers cyclists wide stretches of quiet coastal road to journey down with hidden villages to find.
In the winter months the islands are quieter, with noticeably fewer tourists and a few businesses that usually close up shop. The locals go about their business, waiting for the wind to die down and the warmer days to return.