Taiwan Day 1012: Pescadores Campaign Part 2 "Tour de Xiyu" - June 8, 2016 | Travel in Asia

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Taiwan Day 1012: Pescadores Campaign Part 2 "Tour de Xiyu" - June 8, 2016

#5yearsinTaiwan


I love wandering around Taiwan, but there is only one problem.  Visitors are expected to know how to drive a scooter! And of all the places that you need to have your own transportation, it is the Penghu archipelago.  Tourists can still enjoy the different attractions on these group of islands but the lack of English information makes the traveling here a big headache. Believe me! I checked the bus stops on this island and they have weird signs like triangles and circles that only locals knew how to read them. Thanks to my “I've Been to Hualien” series that I was able to master the skill of cycling. I became confident of exploring the attractions of Penghu without the need of riding a scooter or even boarding a bus.


Xiyu Island is one of the three major islands of Penghu and since my hostel was located here I decided to first explore this paradise to officially start my Pescadores Campaign. The terrain was almost flat with only a few portions going uphill and downhill. A 20-kilometer road runs along the island and it was Highway 203. No standard biking lane can be found on this road and I just biked along its side to keep myself safe. There were also a few cars so it was like I own the road.














Xiaomen Island was my first destination. It was a tiny island connected by a bridge to Xiyu Island and its biggest attraction was the Whale Cave. A big chunk of rock was carved by rough waves for thousands of years creating a hollow space underneath it making it look like a big whale. Be careful when you visit this place. The sea can be very inviting and you might forget that you are standing on a cliff. Large rocks add beauty to its pathway as if they were put there for aesthetic purposes. There was a visitor center in the scenic area and restaurants where you can try eating sea urchins so getting hungry here was not really a problem.






Don't assume that I had an easy biking experience as you continue to read the rest of this story. It was too hot and I forgot to apply sunblock. The nearest 7-Eleven can be found at the end of the island and I bravely faced the consequences of getting burned by the sun. I had with me at least three bottles to keep myself hydrated. I cycled and cycled until I saw a sign on Highway 203. The Chixi Columnar Basalt was almost near and I biked more to reach it faster.















It was really beautiful and I was truly amazed. The basaltic rocks were formed by a process called columnar jointing. Whatever that word means, it really sounded amazing! The rocks formation was located beside the sea and to protect the columnar basalts from being eroded by big waves an artificial barricade was constructed. If the rocks in Qixingtan Beach in Hualien were smooth and rounded, the rocks here were large and pointed so I have to be very careful in taking good photos of myself. I only had 10 seconds to pose and a simple slip on the rocks would mean the end of my life.











Another marvelous rock formation in Xiyu Island was the Daguoye Columnar Basalt. A pond acted like a mirror and reflected the picturesque columns into the sky. There were many people when I arrived here and the place was very famous for taking pictures. Ask me on which of the two columnar basalts that I liked the most. Hmmm. I would probably answer that that the two were unique and beautiful in their own way. The Chixi Columnar Basalt was gray in color, had a gentle curve and beside the sea, while the Daguoye Columnar Basalt was brown in color, straight and standing beside a carpet of grass. 




I continued my cycling adventure until I saw the Niuxinshan. It was another of those typical columnar basalts on the island but this time it was located on top of a hill. I made a short stop on the road and took myself a selfie with the rock formation behind me. It had been a tough experience at this point of my adventure. I was already running out of water and I started to feel that my skin was aching. Oh no! I already have a sunburn.












After cycling uphill, I found an old military installation. It was the Old Japanese Fisher Island East Supplementary Battery and it was constructed to protect the island colony from their enemies. Cannons were supposedly positioned on its wall but they were missing. The place was actually creepy so I decided to immediately leave the old fortress. Not far away from it was the Fisher Island East Battery and it was built during the Qing Dynasty in 1887. However, its gate was closed and I just took some pictures. Based on the description posted near the gate, it faces the Taiwan Strait and large cannons on the cliff walls can easily bombard the ship of any invader.







I didn't expect that my cycling trip would be too tiring and I took the chance to rejuvenate myself with a cold refreshing drink from a store. My stomach became bloated after drinking that juice and I biked again to reach a beach adorned with flowers. It was the Gaillardia pulchella Foug and actually a kind of sunflower. It grows everywhere on the archipelago so don't be surprised to see them when you explore the other islands of Penghu. 






Neian Beach was so enticing that I went down and dipped my feet into its waters. A family was having fun swimming as I stamped my feet and made footprints in the sand. Seashells were easily washed away by the waves and I collected them and put it on my hand. Taiwan Strait was like any sea with creatures living on it and it was a realization that I had on that day. Stories of war always dominate my mind whenever I heard the word “Taiwan Strait” but handling the seashells changed the way I think. This sea was actually a paradise in disguise and Penghu was its physical manifestation.


The Xiyu West Fort was the place the last tourist spot that I visited. There was a visitor center here and I asked first for help on how to reserve a slot for an island hopping tour in the so-called 'South Sea Islands'. Surprisingly, the lone staff doesn’t speak English. The lady called someone and the person on the other line was even expecting me to correctly pronounce the Chinese names of the places that I want to visit. “Whatever that word means”, I told the woman on the phone. I was then passed to another woman and she spoke good English with a British accent. She told me that inside the South Sea Visitor Center were different ferry boat companies that offer island hopping tours. I was satisfied with the reply of the woman from Penghu Visitor Center but I wasted 20 to 30 minutes just to know the right answer. Oh, Penghu!








Anyway, I went inside the fort and there was an entrance fee of NTD 50. I wandered its dark alleys and I was impressed with its civil works. The walls were thick and there were opening on its ceilings. The inside was just a network of tunnels but look outside and climb on to the second floor and you would appreciate more the fortress. Replicas of large cannons were there and they were aimed at the sea.




There was something in common about the military fortresses that I visited. All of the cannons of these structures were pointing in the same direction towards the South China Sea. I then remembered the map of Penghu islands. It was shaped like a horseshoe and its opening served as the gate to the seat of power of Penghu, the city of Makung. Pointing the cannons to these directions would mean protection for the whole archipelago. 


I ended my cycling trip at the fishing town of Wai-an where a 7-Eleven was located. I ate my dinner there and bought a sunblock. This trip was very tiring but it was not yet over. I have to go back to my hostel before sunset or else I would be in big trouble. Another 20 kilometers! But it was not a problem. I knew I could reach my hostel and have a rest after this challenging Tour de Xiyu.

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