Sunday, September 7, 2008

My brother Jamie comes to Taiwan; Penghu pt.2: Magong City

The flight from Tainan airport to Penghu was a short one, less than 30 minutes. It was fascinating seeing familiar areas of the mainland from the air. We touched down at Magong airport and then wandered into the terminal to try to get some kind of transportation. Unfortunately neither Jamie nor I possess an international or Taiwanese driver's license so the woman at the car-hire desk wouldn't let us hire a scooter. After a messy bit of negotiation and explanation in broken English and Chinese we got a taxi into town to a scooter rental shop. The first question from the woman at the shop was some form of "Do you have an international license?". My negative reply was met with a negative look. And then she let us rent a scooter anyway. And then we were free on two wheels in the main city of Penghu, Magong.

(from Wikipedia:

Makung (Chinese: 馬宮) is the county seat of Penghu, in Taiwan Province, Taiwan (Republic of China). Makung is on the western part of the main Pescadores island.

The earliest temple in the country to the goddess Matsu is found on Makung. Makung is therefore also known as "Magong Ao" (馬宮澳 or originally, 媽宮澳), or "Matsu Palace Seaport". The first character of the name was changed from "mother" (媽, mā) to "horse" (馬, mǎ) in 1920 under the Japanese Occupation. There had been proposal from the Executive Yuan to revert the character, but there was little support.


Our first two priorities were food and accommodation. Just down the road from where we rented the scooter we found a buffet restaurant with an array of trays scantily clad in an assortment of mediocre-looking comestibles [I used the word "comestibles" here in honour of my friend Richard].

Jamie looks happy with his buffet meal but would later regret it perhaps. It put him off buffet meals.

With our bellies full of food, some familiar and some not so, we took a short tour of the city by way of finding a hotel for the night. We noticed this lovely little park where children may slide down the slide, swing on the swing, and imagine they are fending off waves of attacking Japanese or Dutch soldiers intent on sweeping over the island and subduing any resistance. You have to understand that Penghu, like the rest of Taiwan, has had several masters including pirates, the Dutch, Koxinga (son of a Chinese merchant father and Japanese woman born in Japan and loyal to the waning Ming Dynasty), Chinese Qing (Manchu) dynasty, the French, and the Japanese, apart from the Taiwanese themselves. With a history of being conquered it is not surprising that references to island defense are not hard to find in the landscape or the cultural imagination.

We found this beautiful house constructed of various kinds of bricks, coral rocks, stones, tiles and ceramics. Indeed, coral rock proved to be a very useful building material on the island.

Down by the water side we found several of these boats, unusual for their arrays of huge, incandescent light bulbs. They are squid-fishing boats and the lights draw the squid up from below.

After enquiring at several hotels near the downtown area of Magong, we settled on the rather unassuming Hsinyi Hotel. Being a Thursday, they were not terribly busy and offered us one of the better rooms at a great rate. This photo describes the view from the window of our hotel room. Note the clouds in the sky, reminders of the recent typhoon and how close we came to not being able to travel to Penghu at all.

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