National Scenic Area (IV)-Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area, Penghu National Scenic Area, Matsu National Scenic Area
| Continuing our round-the-island tour from last month, this month we finish with the remaining three national scenic areas in Taiwan. One is located in the southwest of the main island, while the two others are offshore.
1. Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area
Let’s start with the Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area, which is located on Taiwan’s southwest coastline. The scenic area includes Little Liouciou, a small islet off the coast.
The area is rich in fauna and flora. About 95 different species of birds are found here, including migratory birds. These birds mainly feed on the various crustaceans, shellfish, and mollusks living in the wetland. Dapeng Bay used to be famous for its oyster and fish farming. Nowadays these farms have been converted into water sports facilities.
The Dapeng Military Camp was founded in 1937 by the Japanese, who intended to use it as a hydroplane training center and a base for their further southern invasion. After Taiwan’s restoration, a few more military facilities were installed here. However, since 2003 the military camp has been converted into a tourist attraction where barracks, tunnels, the control tower, the hydroplane landing and docking area, guard posts, and many other old military facilities can still be seen. On some of the buildings, visitors can still find traces of bullets and bombshells from the attacks by U.S. fighters during the Second World War.
Southwest of Dapeng Bay is a long stretch of sandy beaches, called the Cingjhou Recreation Area. Its well-planned recreational facilities and fine beaches are recommended to visitors. Other nearby attractions include Donglong Temple and its famous “Burning of the Plague God Boat Festival” held every three years; Huaciao Market where cheap, fresh produce and seafood are sold; and the Donggang Fish Market with its many seafood restaurants.
Little Liouciou is Taiwan’s only coral islet. There are only about 13,000 people living here and over 80% of them work in the fishing industry. There are eight villages on the islet, which is surrounded by clear azure sea water and coral reefs. Its seashore is dotted with many spectacular rocks and caves. On the islet’s west side is Habenwan Beach, which is the most beautiful sandy beach on Little Liouciou. Visitors can enjoy shell picking here, lots of different water activities, or simply watching the sunset and stars.
For more information about the Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area, visit: http://www.tbnsa.gov.tw/ .
2. Penghu National Scenic Area
One of the few nesting places of the endangered precious Green Turtle, Penghu is an archipelago of 64 main islands, often described as a string of pearls scattered in the middle of the Taiwan Strait. Among the islands, only twenty are populated. The Penghu Archipelago consists mainly of basalt, a result of the volcanic activities in this region.
In addition, Penghu is most renowned for its pure, heavenly sandy beaches, sand spits, and sandbanks. White sand and deep blue sea glittering in the bright sunshine is Penghu’s trademark image. Shihli Bathing Beach, Shanshuei Beach, Lintou Park Beach, and beaches on Jibei Island are some of the most beautiful beaches in the archipelago. Dongan Village Beach, designated as the Green Turtle’s conservation habitat, is off limits to visitors. Jiangjyunyu (Jiangjyun Islet), Dongyuping, Dongjiyu (Dongji Islet), Sijiyu (Siji Islet) and Pengpeng Beach also boast beautiful beaches.
Except for Huayu (Hua Islet), Penghu’s islets are comprised of layers of volcanic basalt and sedimentary rock. The oldest basalt rock in the region known so far is on Wangan, which dates back some 17 million years. The basalt lava escaped from cracks on the seabed and then cooled to form columns, which then underwent thousands of years’ weathering and erosion. In consequence, the basalt columns have spectacular-looking forms.
Dinggouyu (Dinggou Islet), Little Baishayu (Little Baisha Islet), and Jishanyu (Jishan Islet) are designated the Penghu Basalt Natural Reservation Area. In addition, these three islets are also the nesting grounds for many migratory terns, among which are the precious black-naped tern, bridled tern, roseate tern, and common noddy. In 1991, the Big and Little Maoyu (Big and Little Mao Islets) were designated conservation areas for seabirds, Taiwan’s first wildlife conservation areas.
3. Matsu National Scenic Area
Like Penghu, Matsu is also an archipelago, of around twenty islets, and it is also home to many migratory birds, some of them extremely rare. In fact, the precious Chinese Crested Tern, which is so rarely seen that it was once considered extinct, was first sighted again in 2000 in Matsu after its last recorded sighting in the world ten years ago.
Matsu 's islets are mostly comprised of granite. There are four main islands: Dongyin, Beigan, Nangan, and Jyuguang (Dongjyu and Sijyu). The archipelago is located just off the coast of China 's Fujian Province and has been a famous fishery since early times. The islands' rocky seashores are dotted with strange and spectacular rocks that have been eroded and sculptured by the forces of nature.
Martyred Maiden Pit (a cliff of over 100 meters high) and Chaoyin Cave (a sea cave where sounds of sea waves splashing onto the rock are rhythmically transmitted from one end of the cave to the other) are, among others, two famous tourist attractions on Dongyin Island.
Beigan’s Cinbi Village is a beautiful small village of about one hundred granite houses built on the slope facing the ocean. Today there are no more than ten families living here and most of the empty stone houses have been converted into B&B, restaurants, or cafs. On some of the house walls visitors can see anti-communist slogans, which serve as a reminder of years gone by.
Nangan’s Tunnel 88 is another spot worth visiting. Originally a wartime tunnel for tanks, it is now used by the Matsu Winery to store its liquors. The entrance of the tunnel is decorated with terra cotta wine urns and the air is permeated with the scent of liquor.
The Dongjyu Lighthouse was built in the Cing Dynasty. About 19.5 meters in height, the lighthouse was built of granite and painted white. These days, even though most fishing boats are equipped with global satellite positioning, the lighthouse is still in operation.
For those visitors interested in folk architecture, Dongjyu’s Dapu and Fujheng Villages are two great places to visit. Most of the villagers here have long since moved out, leaving behind their Fujianese-style stone houses on the sea-facing slopes. The houses are now being restored and maintained by the county government in recognition of their architectural and cultural importance. A stroll down the narrow alleys is nostalgic and romantic.Matsu is also famed for its great sorghum liquor, yellow rice wine, and delicious snacks like Matsu and Furong pastries, fish noodles, and fish balls. Make sure you sample some when visiting Matsu.
For more information about the Matsu National Scenic Area, visit: http://www.matsu-nsa.gov.tw/.