Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My brother Jamie comes to Taiwan; Penghu pt.3: South of Magong

Accommodation - check! Hunger sated - check! Wheels - check! Let's explore.

Without really planning it we headed south from Magong towards the southern end of the island chain.

I really wish that I understood more about the temples in Taiwan. There are so many of them and some are incredibly ornate and impressive in a way that no skyscraper, no matter how tall, can be. I remember having an argument along these lines with Andrea: Do the impressive buildings of yore lose some of their impact in a modern world where people have the experience of bigger, larger structures? It's hard to imagine what what an ordinary person living in the middle ages thought or felt walking into a structure like a medieval cathedral. They were built to evoke another world or another plane of existence, a sacred realm made manifest where miracles and religious lore seem so much more real and possible. And they were huge by the standards of the time, grand in comparison and rich beyond the means of almost everyone. I still don't know who was right in that argument, Andrea or myself, but temples in Taiwan really are a kind of portal into another world and I wish I had an entry coupon so that I could understand what it's all about.

Close to the end of the arc of islands in the village of Fongguei and the Fongguei Caves. We had no idea what the Fongguei Caves were but it sounded interesting (I like caves) so we went to check it out. As it turned out, Fongguei is Chinese for "blast furnace" and the caves were actually what we would call "blow holes" back in Australia. The waves come in and push into fissures in or under the rocks and force air out of holes or cracks at high speed producing a sound like... like... a monster breathing. Or a blast furnace. We took some photos of the beautiful setting, the late afternoon sun trying to break through the clouds, lighting up the crags and rocks where the land meets the sea.

I think these particular photos are best seen large.

I think the end of the island arc (on the southern end anyway) is really Shetou Hill. Here, you are actually pretty close to Magong City as the Black-faced Spoonbill flies and when we were there the lights of the city were coming on as the day drew to a close, lighting the narrow stretch of water between here and there with a radiance of colour.

In the foreground you can see... me! In the background you can see Mt Shetou, also known as Snakehead mountain because of the shape of the peninsula and hill.

You can read about the significance of the site yourself. The important bits are that Snakehead mountain was the site of the first western-style fort built in Taiwan. The fort was built in 1622 by the Dutch and then destroyed in 1624 when the Dutch were attacked by a Chinese fleet from Fujian province. The Dutch relocated and built the second western-style fort in Taiwan in An-ping, just down the street from where we live now.

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