Early Friday morning my Rotary host parents drove me and two other exchange students to Taoyuan airport. All of the exchange students in Taichung's Rotary district met there and soon we were on a propeller plane together - destination Penghu. Penghu is an archipelago, made of 64 small islands, off the west coast of Taiwan. We landed in Penghu and it was a gorgeous day, with white clouds adorning the deep blue sky.
In our district, there are 25 of us Rotary exchange students. We were all very excited to finally visit Penghu since we had heard how nice of a place it was. Lonely Planet describes it as Taiwan's "Hawaii" and our classmates seemed more than a little envious. After a bus ride, we arrived at a buffet restaurant and ate lunch with many other exchange students (from all over Taiwan).
After lunch, we all got on a yacht and travelled to a floating man-made island where oysters are harvested and barbecued for tourists. I met some other American exchange students along with a few from Germany and one from Finland and we learned how to cook oysters over a fire until their shells pop open and are ready to eat. While we were there, we "fished" for cuttlefish (a very peculiar looking creature which sprays you with water if you try to pull it out of the water) - the downside was we couldn't actually take them out of their tanks and we didn't use hooks (it was just for fun). We just tied small fish bodies as bait to the end of our lines. It was a lot of fun! While there, we were also able to pet and feet manta rays in another tank. Before we left, we tried cuttlefish soup. It was edible but kind of bland and hence, not too memorable.
Later, near dusk, we watched a beautiful sunset at Guanyinting. The last rays of the sun shimmered gold over the sea. After a typical Taiwanese dinner (with the food in the middle of the table on a lazy-Susan), we returned to our hotels in the city of Magong. We talked for a while and played some card games before going to sleep.
Saturday morning, we woke up and went downstairs for breakfast. Soon we were all on our way to Ai-men beach and had a great time in the water for two hours. After earning lobster-style sunburns, we went back to Magong and explored the city. We came across an old park with framed, old Chinese movie posters, walked through the Shun-Cheng gate of Magong and along the ancient city wall, and saw the 400-year-old Four Eyes Well.
I saw another great sunset before joining all of the exchange students for another dinner together - this time, a BBQ outside. The night sky had many more stars compared to the large, sprawling cities of Taiwan (Taipei, Kaohsiung, and Taichung) due to almost no pollution being created in Penghu.
Sunday morning marked our last day in Penghu. We spent most of the day in a bus touring the rest of the island's sites. We crossed a really long bridge which links Pai-sha & Hsiyu Islets. Once we crossed the sea bridge and drove under the famous arch over the bridge's entrance, we stopped for Prickly Pear cactus ice cream. We tried more of it after we stopped at the Old Chinese Banyan at Tung-liang. We also tried some snacks being sold at the famous fish factory near there.
Our last stop was a very large and impressively adorned temple. On first glance, it was just a really grand temple; however, on descending down a set of stairs inside, we found a tunnel like maze and pools of water in rooms. In the water there were sea turtles being cared for. These are an endangered animal, so it was very neat to be able to see them on our trip! We also saw horseshoe crabs in a different pool. We passed some of the large white wind mills which generate clean power for Penghu's use. It rids Penghu of the necessary nuisance of nuclear power plants.
We took a late flight home Sunday night to our respective cities after saying hard good-byes to all our our newly acquired fellow exchange student friends.