Taiwan’s off-shore islands redefine recreation
Blessed with a treasure fleet of adventure-and-peace-perfect, off-shore islands, Taiwan can be regarded to have given life to the term ‘Bay Tourism’. Every ‘Little Taiwan’ experience is just a skip and jump away from the big island and each is a world unto itself, even those within direct sight of another member of the flotilla. Each is an absolute hub of serenity and stillness, floating on the sea, just-right designed for a single- or two-day visit before moving on to the next. Collectively, the fleet constitutes an island “family” that is much like a big-house human family, with a startling range of divergent and distinct personalities living under one big roof.
Building up its repute further, Taiwan is implementing a four-year program with special tourism themes for each year, with 2018 being the ‘Year of Ocean Bay Tourism’. Ten offshore islands are being specially promoted as a part of this big push. Before you hit their shores in person, we offer a sneak peek to the Bay Tourism of Taiwan.
Penghu Islands (Penghu County)
What is commonly shortened to simply ‘Penghu’, the landscape is a wide-flung archipelago of low-lying islands in the Taiwan Strait’s mid-section. Locals describe Penghu as “pearls scattered on the turquoise sea.” This is a slow-moving realm of old villages, old temples, old lighthouses, and old fort ruins. Small farm plots are protected from the famed winter winds that blow down the strait by low coral walls. The three main islands (of which Yuweng is one), connected by bridges, form the outer walls of a comparatively calm inland sea. Sail sports are popular on the water, scooter/bike touring on the land.
Guishan Island (Turtle Island)
At first glance, the island pictured above might remind you of a turtle. However, the island’s shape changes depending on your vantage point. This small, solitary island located about 10 kilometres off the coast of Toucheng in Yilan County has a volcanic terrain that, from certain angles, looks like a turtle floating in the sea. Among the features of the island are high cliffs, steaming fumaroles, welling underwater hot springs, mountain peaks, sea-eroded caves, a lake, and unique cliff vegetation, as well as rich marine ecological resources. It is a perfect place to study the volcanic terrain and the natural ecology along with capturing some of the most breath-taking photos of its landscapes.
Legend says that the Tomb of the Seven Beauties, Qimei means ‘Seven Beauties’. South of Penghu’s main islands, as with all the archipelago’s flat islands, touring Qimei is best done on a scooter. Hop aboard a rental right at the inter-island ferry pier and launch on the easy-grade, very quiet plateau-top coastal road, on which meandering goats outnumber cars. Qimei’s iconic symbol is the Twin Hearts Stone Weir, made of stones laboriously stacked, which does its duty by leaving marine creatures stranded at low tide after innocently meandering in at high. The romance and scenic beauty of this place entice a steady tide of soon-to-be-newlyweds for wedding photo shoots.
Yuweng Island (Xiyu)
This is the westernmost of the three main islands and second-largest in the Penghu archipelago. In the 1500s, the Portuguese dubbed the archipelago as the Pescadores or ‘Fishermen’s Isles’; Yuweng means ‘fisherman’. Also, it is called Xiyu or ‘West Island’. It is reached from its brethren islands via the eminent 2,494 metre-long Penghu Great Bridge, perhaps Yuweng’s most prominent landmark. Underneath, the powerful sea current roars by at a speed of three metres per second. A major highlight on this island for history buffs is tourism-oriented Erkan Village, an antiquity house a history of nearly 100 years. It is an ancient ancestor of the Chen family. It was built in the year before the Republic of China. It is a fusion of sourthern Fujian style and two characteristics of sourthern Fujian. Solemn and simple, but without losing the local characteristics, it is rated as a Class II National Historical site.