Penghu is the name of an archipelago situated off the west coast of Taiwan near Chiayi, in the middle of the Taiwan Strait. A very beautiful and enjoyable weekend getaway, the sea around Penghu is a saturated turquoise and the sand coral (so pack beach footwear).
Very few people, hoteliers included, speak any English, so be prepared to exercise your Mandarin, and do your research before you get there!
In the main city, Magong (Chinese: 馬公 Mǎgōng), the major sights include the Tianhou Temple, where sailors and fishermen have prayed to the sea goddess Matsu for safe seafaring for centuries. Nearby is the 400-year-old Four Eyes Well, a single well with four holes so it can be used by many people at once. It's on a picturesque old street that has been tastefully restored to its former glory.
What should I do while I'm there?
A bicycle ride from Magong's Rainbow Bridge along the bicycle path beside the seashore is highly recommended. From here you get excellent views across the water to Xiyu Island.
Tourists can take a walk along Shan-shiu or Ai-men beach, (each just an NT$200 taxi ride away) but most like to take a boat ride to see some of the many other islands.
Ji-bei Island, an island that is a short boat trip to the north has the best beaches.
A boat trip to Seven Beauty Island (Chinese: 七美 Qīměi), an island to the south, is highly recommended. The boat trip from the Magong harborside tourist center takes about 90 minutes, and you get to see several other islands along the way. Qimei Island is a great place to stay in a break-and-breakfast for one night. The island is small, but hilly with cliffs falling into the sea on the southern side. Goats may be seen grazing across the island and another interesting feature is the dry stone and/or coral fences. The best way to travel around is on bikes, and this should come as part of the B & B package. However, you will need a Taiwanese licence.
Penghu is known for many local delicacies. It offers top-notch fresh seafood, in addition to other dishes, desserts, and snacks mostly available only in Penghu. There are a few bars scattered around Magong mostly near the center of city.
It is now possible to fly to Magong Airport in Penghu from at least five domestic airports: Songshan (Taipei City), Taichung, Jiayi, Tainan, and Kaohsiung. Uni Air, TransAsia Airways, and Mandarin Airlines each provide frequent and convenient flights to Penghu.
During the summer months you can also take the ferry from Kaoshiung (3½ hours) and Putai (90 minutes).
A taxi ride from the airport to the city of Magong will cost exactly NT$300. However, if you are able to telephone and book a taxi the cost drops down to exactly NT$200. It is easier to ask a friend who can speak Chinese to telephone ahead for a taxi to meet you at the airport. Note: Taxi drivers do not speak English. Also, taxis do not use meters in Penghu (even if you can see one!), so make sure to ask the cost to your destination before you set off.
Many hotels in Penghu offer pick-up and drop-off both to and from the Magong Airport.
If you have limited Chinese ability, this trip may be a challenge for you, however, Taiwanese people are generally very friendly towards foreigners and are willing to help. If you need help, the best rule to follow is to find either a university student or high school student because they will probably have a better level of English (as is the same all over Asia).
Only those who hold current Taiwanese driver's licenses may rent vehicles. The airport is a few miles from the city, so you might need to cab around. However, if you plan to cab around to see the island, it might make sense to negotiate a one-day flat rate for someone to drive you to all the scenic locations around the island. Some scooter rental shops may be lenient if you ask nicely.
On some older signage, Magong may be spelled Makung or something similar.