Date: 1 December 2017
Words by CONTRIBUTOR : JULIA ESKINS Photos by JULIA ESKINS
Arriving in a new destination at night has a way of heightening your senses. When darkness falls, first impressions are built only on sounds, smells and moonlit scenes. It isn’t until the flood of morning light that the whole picture becomes clear. Some of these early perceptions are washed away, while others, like Penghu Islands’ seaside potpourri of salt, incense and freshly caught fish, stay with you forever.
I found myself on one of these enigmatic evening strolls on my first night in Magong, the largest city in the Penghu Islands. Only a 50-minute flight west of busy Taipei, the 90-island archipelago in the Taiwan Strait is – for want of a better phrase – a secret paradise. While Taiwanese residents are in the know, you’ll be hard pressed to see more than a handful of western tourists wandering its reaches at any given time.
On my first night, I felt like somewhat of an imposter, enveloped by the sounds of karaoke and locals chatting over cups of bubble tea and shaved ice-grass jelly. Bed and breakfast-style accommodations abound alongside upmarket options offering infinity pools and sunset views. While the islands are home to the usual holiday draws: white-sand beaches, coral reefs and killer seafood, its age-old quirks differentiate it from other sun destinations.
Wander through the villages and you’ll find relics of Japanese pirates, colonial architecture, 15th-century temples and walls built of coral. Its landscapes, punctuated by 17-million-year-old towering basalt columns and volcanic rock formations, draw eager-eyed geology buffs. The best way to soak in the islands’ charms is by spending some time on the water. After all, Penghuians are known to worship Mazu, the goddess of the sea. [FULL STORY]