Offshore Islands- Penghu、Kinmen National Park、Matzu、Green Island(Lyudao)、Orchid Island(Lanyu)
Penghu is the only island county of Taiwan and consists of 64 islands, with a coastline of around 320 kilometers. It is also called “the Small Hawaii of Taiwan” because of its beautiful beaches, azure seawaters and crystal clear blue skies.
The famous sound of the waves in Penhu's Fongguei Village comes from the blowholes on the shore. Noises like drums and whistling are heard when the waves recede and suck the air in through the blowholes. Long ago, people took these sounds to be the sound of the caves breathing, and now they are one of the many attractions in Penghu .
Although Penghu is very windy, inside the Guanyin Bay the sea is usually very peaceful, which makes it a great place for wind surfing. In recent years, Penghu has become famous among international wind-surfing circles, and international wind-surfing tours and contests are now held here regularly. Wind surfers gather here from Japan , Hong Kong , Australia , New Zealand , and as far away as Europe and America to challenge Penghu 's strong winds. There are many beautiful beaches in Penghu . Shihli Beach is considered the best for swimming, water sports and scuba diving.
The Tianhou Temple (Queen of Heaven Temple) on Magong Island was built in 1592, making it the oldest temple dedicated to the goddess Mazu in Taiwan . The temple was designed and built by masters from China with elaborate wood and stone carvings, paintings, and vivid, delicate figurines. The Guanyin Pavilion, built in 1696, is another old temple of great historical and cultural value. In addition to appreciating the beauty of its architecture, visitors are recommended to stay here till dusk for the beautiful sunset over the sea .
Baisha (White Sand) Islet is named for its pure white sandy beaches, ideal for sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling. This uninhabited islet's primitive and unspoiled beauty is especially alluring. Another attraction here is the basalt columns formed by volcanic eruptions under water. The columns are sculptured by the wind, the rain and the seawater, and they present many strange shapes. Many different species of migrating seabirds use these islets or rocks as a breeding and feeding station on their migration route, making the place a heaven for birds as well as bird watchers .
The Penghu Aquarium was opened in 1998. Here visitors have a chance to experience the rich and varied marine life in the area. The aquarium is divided into seashore, reef and ocean areas. In the ocean area a gigantic glass tunnel has been installed for visitors to appreciate fish and other life forms of the deep. There are also live feeding shows and detailed information about different marine animals, something for every member of the family. The Trans-Ocean Bridge connecting Baisha and Siyu is about 2,600 meters long. It was the first sea-crossing bridge constructed in the Far East . It is not only an important transportation facility, but is also a great place to see the beautiful sunset over the sea .
The traditional laogu (coral) stone houses in Penghu are actually Fujianese-style houses made of laogu or coral limestone. Many such houses in Penghu are over 100 years old. The laogu houses of the Erkan Traditional Village , or Chen's Traditional Residence, in Siyu Township are Penghu 's best kept laogu houses.
Penghu is also the breeding ground for an endangered species: the Green Turtle. This animal prefers to lay its eggs in the sandy seashore of Wangan. A special conservation area has been set up to protect the precious Green Turtles. Another famous attraction in Penghu is the twin hearts stone weir on the north shore of Cimei . Because of its shape, this traditional fishermen's fish trap has today become a symbol of romance.
The Kinmen Archipelago consists of 12 islands and is located off the southeast coast of Fujian Province in mainland China , very close to Xiamen . Small though Kinmen is, it nonetheless possesses a rich culture and unique natural phenomena. Because of its geographical proximity to mainland China, the archipelago was the site of many great battles between China's Communist Party and the KMT troops who fled to Taiwan in 1949 — battles such as Guningtou Battle in 1949, Dadan Battle, and the Bombardment of August 23, 1958 — all of which attracted worldwide attention. Millions of artillery shells and bullets have been showered on the small islands of Kinmen. Due to its historical, natural and cultural importance, Kinmen is now a national park. Kinmen is also known for its pottery, sorghum wine, and tribute candy (sweets made of peanut and sugar) .
Traditional villages and architecture are the richest cultural assets of Kinmen. Family and ancestral shrines are the focal point of all the villages on the islands. However, due to reasons of military security, construction has been forbidden within 500 meters of Kinmen's coast f or more than 40 years. In addition, no building on the islands can be more than 3 stories high. These restrictions have resulted in slow urbanization, which in turn has helped to preserve most of the traditional architecture and unique cultural heritage. There are around 21 sites of historical and architectural significance in Kinmen today. The local architectural style is mostly of southern Fujianese influence, but some buildings incorporate Southeast Asian touches, because many local merchants traded with that region. Visitors can see the local style in the materials, decorations and layout, and also get some idea of the former wealth and cultural vitality of Kinmen.
Fongshihye (the Gods of the Wind) are a unique feature of Kinmen. These are mostly small lion-like statues made of clay or stone. Kinmen's harsh windswept climate, especially in winter, makes agriculture and life difficult. In the late-Ming, early-Cing Dynasties, local people began installing Fongshihye in the villages, believing that they would protect the villagers from Kinmen's windy climate. Over time the statues gradually took on a more general protective function, warding off evil spirits, bad luck and ailments. When you visit Kinmen, you'll notice many different styles of Fongshihye standing at village entrances, beside the roads and at residences.
Also not to be missed are the museums and monuments, the fortresses, tunnels and enforcements attributed to Kinmen's glorious military history. On top of Taiwu Mountain , Kinmen's highest point, four huge red Chinese characters “Wu Wang Zai Jyu” were engraved in 1952. The four characters were originally Chiang Kai-shek's calligraphy and signified the KMT's resolution to regain mainland China . As time passed, it has become a famous tourist site and a testament to that turbulent period. The Guningtou Battle Museum commemorates the victory at Guningtou in 1949. Outside the museum are three bronze soldiers depicted in battle readiness, and actual tanks used in the battle are placed on either side of the statues. Weapons and military equipment used in the battle, as well as documents, photos and sketches, are displayed inside the museum.
The Mashan Broadcasting and Observation Station is located at the northernmost tip of Kinmen Island and is now open to tourists. Visitors can see the broadcasting station and go into the underground tunnel where the observation telescope stands. On clear days you can see the mainland coast with the naked eye.
The Matzu archipelago consists of 10 islets, including Nangan, Beigan, Dongyin, Siyin, Dongjyu and Sijyu. Among the islets, Nangan is the largest, and therefore the economic and political center of Matzu. Nangan's Fuao is the main port for ships sailing to Taiwan and all other islets of Matzu. There is a fairly extensive network of roads on Nangan, making it very easy to get around.
Matzu has many tasty local snacks, such as jiguang cake, Matzu pastry, and furong pastry. Because of its fishing culture, the local cuisine is based on seafood of all kinds. At some restaurants visitors can see the chefs making the noodles and fish balls as they order. Freshness is guaranteed!
There are two wineries in Matzu: Dongyin Winery on Dongyin Island and Matzu Winery on Nangan Island . Matzu Winery was established in 1956 and is most famous for its sorghum (kaoliang) wine. In recent years it has branded its sorghum wine “Tunnel 88,” which is the name of a wartime tunnel built to store weapons and other equipment, and to shelter soldiers. The tunnel is 200 meters in length, 18 meters in height and 10 meters in width, and today has been converted into a cellar for wine-making and storage.
Another famous tunnel in Matzu is Beihai Tunnel, whose total length is about 700 meters, including an underground waterway about 640 meters long. Beihai Tunnel can accommodate several naval vessels or dozens of smaller boats, and as it is bored deeply into the granite of Matzu, it provides indestructible protection. It's not hard to imagine the difficulty of its construction, which was over 3 years and cost many lives in the making.
Green Island (Lyudao)
Green Island was formed by an undersea volcanic eruption and rises steeply out of the water. The island is small and only takes around one hour to tour by scooter. Mountainous terrain, green plains and white sandy beaches characterize the island.
The Lyudao Lighthouse stands near Lyudao Airport . In 1937 an American cruise liner, the SS President Hoover , ran aground on Green Island . It was en route from Kobe , Japan to the Philippines . The villagers of Green Island helped rescue passengers from the wreck under terrible weather conditions. To thank the people of Green Island , the US Government raised the money to erect a lighthouse here. The lighthouse was severely damaged in the Second World War, and the one we see today is a partial reconstruction.
Orchid Island (Lanyu)
Orchid Island , or Lanyu, was also formed from an undersea volcanic eruption. The island is covered with mountains and lush rainforests. The name Orchid Island comes from its indigenous Five-leaf Butterfly Orchid. Orchid Island is also home to the endangered Birdwing Butterflies.
The aboriginal inhabitants of Orchid Island are a tribe called the Yami, which has a population of only 4,000 and is the only oceanic tribe among Taiwan 's aboriginal cultures. Unique features of Yami culture include elaborately decorated fishing canoes, the loincloths worn by Yami men, the Flying Fish Festival, and traditional semi-subterranean dwellings.
Yami fishing canoes are decorated with meticulously carved patterns each with its own meaning. It usually takes two to three years to complete a new canoe because these canoes are fashioned, using the most primitive of tools, from 27 different pieces of wood cut from living trees and held together with pegs. The launching of a new canoe is an occasion for great celebration and ritual. Through this we can see the Yami's high respect for the sea and the canoe they depend on. It is every Yami man's dream to build a canoe of his own.
From March to June is the season for flying fish. The Yami hold their famous Flying Fish Festival as a ritual in celebration and expectation of a great harvest. The festival is composed of 13 different rituals. Another famous Yami festival is the Millet Harvest Festival, whose highlights include the dance of Yami soldiers in loincloths, and the Yami women's Hair Dance. The sheer power and beauty of the performances is beyond description, and unforgettable to anyone who has ever witnessed them in person.
A round-the-island tour of Orchid Island takes about three hours. In northern Lanyu, you'll find the Wukong Caves, which are 5 large caves created by sea erosion. The forth and fifth caves are connected and today hold a local church. The walls of the caves are decorated with traditional Yami pottery figurines.
If you are interested in the traditional Yami dwellings, the semi-subterranean houses, go to Langdao in northern Lanyu and Yeyin in eastern Lanyu. Dongcing Bay at Dongcing Village on the eastern shore of Lanyu is a beautiful white sandy beach accompanied by an azure ocean and sky, ideal for watching the sunrise. Nearby is the Lovers' Cave ( Cingren Cave ), considered by some to be the most beautiful scene in Lanyu. Inside the cave is a serene pool. It is especially romantic at night when it reflects the starry sky.