Penghu: The Hawaii of Taiwan?
Lonely Planet Taiwan calls the Penghu Islands the “Hawaii of Taiwan.” Might Penghu be like an old-time Hawaii? And as a place known for its fishing industry, Penghu seems like a destination far from the tourist trail, a place with a major Matsu festival and therefore a tantalizing prospect for exploration.
In search of the festival and the Matsu temples, we set off to a temple and to the Fenggui Blowholes by bus. Several soldiers from Taipei and other cities are onboard but looking for “hot girls in bikinis” at the Shanshui beach. After saying dooh shiah or thank you, and Wan ahhn or good evening, we have to rely on their English; our few measly words in Taiwanese hardly suffice for a conversation.
We plan to get dropped off on Shuli Beach and walk to the next patch of sand at Shanshui, but greatly underestimate the gigantic size of the island. Thank goodness we are traveling by bus and not bicycle! Further adjusting our itinerary, we decide to walk around the grand Matsu temple. The soldiers are no longer nearby but I know they will find us on Facebook.
In the old town, we wander cobblestone streets and find the “first-class historic site” of the Empress of Heaven Temple, the oldest Matsu Temple in all of Taiwan. At this site many people are burning paper money for luck. Searching for the formal pilgrimage, we explore Aimen and Lintong Beaches, both of which are lovely and clean. Everywhere in Taiwan, the locations are spotless and the people friendly and quick to offer assistance if we seem lost; one man even turns his motorbike around in traffic to stop and chat and help us find our way, clearly inconveniencing himself to make sure we are assisted. The people are interested in us as tourists and as English-speaking Americans. They are just plain friendly; this place almost rivals the Bulas of Fijians!