28 September 2012

Taiwan (Penghu) - Day Trip to Jibei Island

Period of Exploration : 25 - 26 Aug 2012

Visiting Penghu is like holding a packet of assorted jellybeans in your hands, each colour a different flavour. As Penghu is made of an archipelago of islets, there is no lack of places to explore as a day trip or overnighter other than the central island of Judao (菊岛 Chrysanthemum Island) where  Magong City (马公市) is located. Access to Penghu is via an airport and harbour housed within Magong.

As part of our Penghu itinerary, we visited Jibei Island (吉贝岛 Auspicious Shell Island) which lies 5.5km north of Judao. Jibei is famous for a long, unobstructed stretch of coral beach protruding from the southernly tip of the island. Known as Jibei Shawei (吉贝沙尾), the beach is a popular destination for sun lovers and a hub for seasports.

Aerial view of Jibei Island. Source : Penghu Tourism Board
Our visit to Jibei Island was almost cancelled as our trip met with the wrath of Typhoon Tembin. Thankfully, the full force of the terrible winds didn't reach Tainan (台南 South Taiwan). Other than heavier than usual rainfall and grey skies, things were pretty normal at Penghu.

However, all boat trips were suspended in fear that the unpredictable typhoon may strike. So we stayed on Judao until the ban on outbound travel by sea and air was lifted and finally made our way to Jibei Island.

As much as I try to provide accurate travel info such as prices and timings, do keep in mind that they are subject to changes according to weather as well as peak and off-peak seasons.

Getting to Jibei Island

Jibei Island can be reached via a short boat ride from Judao Island. I'm not sure if the other surrounding islands provided a direct route to Jibei or that Judao is the sole link to Jibei.

Our trip to Jibei Island started with taking a boat from Bei Hai Visitor Centre (北海旅客服务中心), which is about a 20 minutes coach ride from Magong City. Located in Baisha Village (白沙乡) The centre mainly provides sea links to the northern islets of Penghu. Operating hours : 8am - 5.30pm (Nov - Feb), 7am - 6pm (Mar - Oct).

Inside Bei Hai visitor Centre. Boats depart regularly from here to Jibei Island and a return ticket costs about NT$240 (S$10). We arrived 30 minutes before the boat's scheduled 1.30pm departure. Check-in and immigration clearance are not necessary so there's no need to be at the pier too early.

Pier where the speed boats are docked.

Riding the winds to Jibei Island!

Adding a white beaded necklace for that island 'boy' look. Yeah, boy is in inverted commas because youth is an illusion at my age. Haha.

Inside the 24-seater speed boat. The boat ride took less than 15 minutes but the ride is rather bumpy. Even though I don't suffer from motion sickness, I felt my stomach churning at some point. Going out to the open deck at the back helped ease the slight nausea.

We are here! Waterfront scenery from Jibei Island's pier.
Getting Around Jibei Island

Upon stepping onto Jibei Island, the first feeling I got was that time suddenly stood still. There were no tall buildings, no heavy lights, no imposing shopping centres, no ostentatious establishments, no glitzy urban distractions to crowd the mind.

Due to the travel alert brought on by Typhoon Tai Ping, our trip saw very few foreign and local tourists so we practically had the whole island to ourselves!

Jibei Island is the largest and most populous islet in the northern group of Penghu's islands. Key attractions here are Jibei Shawei (watching the sunset is spectacular), seasports and pristine beaches that skirt the island.

Occupying about 3.05 square kilometers, the island is very small with only a few roads so it's kinda hard to get lost here. The best, and perhaps only way to get around Jibei is on scooters. They are readily available for rental next to the Jibei Visitor Centre, which is where we alighted from the boat ride.

Speed limit on the island is 60km/h and a round-trip of the island should take about 30 minutes on a scooter.

A scooter can be rented for about NT$350 (S$15) for 1 day. But prices may vary according to tourism season.
I've rode on a scooter as a pillion passenger but never driven one before so the rental operator frowned and refused to let me drive one. During rental, driving licenses or documentary proof that you can ride a scooter is not required.

If I'd said I had rode one before and asked to be shown how their scooters operate as a refresher course, I think I could've gotten one with no problems. Learning to ride is very easy but for safety sake, honesty may be the best policy. However, without a scooter, I'm not sure how one can get around the island as there didn't seem to be any public transport or bicycles for rental.

Helmets are optional on the island. In fact, I didn't see any of the locals wearing it.

My scooter knight who saved me from the ill fate of having to explore Jibei Island on foot. He was the director who filmed us for the trip and my teacher who taught me how to master the scooter. I discovered I can be quite a hellrider!

Woohoo! First time riding a vehicle that is not an amusement park bumper car or arcade game! It took me 5 minutes to learn it and with some practise, I was a pro in no time! If a dumb guy like me can do it, anybody can. But always remember, safety first. If you have no one to teach you how to ride or lack confidence, do not attempt riding on your own.

I used to think pigs could fly before I learnt to drive a vehicle of any kind. Jibei Island would always be the place I first tasted the shiokness of driving my own ride.
Lunch with the Grim Reaper

After getting our scooters, the first order of business was lunch, which was at this blue container-looking restaurant less than 5 minutes ride away.

So why would this meal be a lunch with death? Well, read on and check out the delicacy with a bad name that was served on our table...

The restaurant had a very simple set-up and decor.

Part of our menu - Fried Cuttlefish Cake, Stewed Pork, Pumpkin Fried Bee Hoon, Baby Squid in Sauce and... Raw Pufferfish Skin!

I was surprised that they served pufferfish skin here. It is supposed to be poisonous isn't it?

I thought the restaurant owner was joking but no, she pointed to this pufferfish (a.k.a. blowfish) specimen hanging above her head.

Taste of death. Fugu, a puffer fish sashimi available in Japan, is a controlled dish with chefs requiring special licenses to prepare and serve it. Quite a few people had died from eating puffer fish as it contains powerful neurotoxins. I was a little apprehensive eating the raw skin but seeing that my companions didn't foam at their mouths after eating, I had my share. It tasted rather bland and kinda chewy.

Another delicacy was Sea Urchin (uni) Fried with Eggs. In Singapore, uni is very rare and pricey but at Penghu, it is widely available on menus although they are still not exactly cheap too.

My favourtie had to be these steamed fish. Cannot remember its name but the meat is very sweet and soft.
Down-Home (德芬渡假旅馆)

Following lunch, we made our way to our island crib which was another short ride away. Our stay was at Down-Home (德芬渡假旅馆), a new resortel that sits on a restive and secluded part of Jibei Island surrounded by nature.

The convoy of scooting explorers all ready for adventure on Jibei Island !

A less than 5 minutes ride from the restaurant brought us to Down-Home. The stamp-sized resortel looked so immaculate and beautiful on a slight hill with no other buildings around it.

Our ride to Down-Home cuts through a short forest path. The feeling was rather magical as the curtain of trees suddenly open up to reveal this lonesome building on a slope.

Simplicity at its best. The handsome lodge had a calming and contemporary zen effect on me. The light beige-brown 'sand' circling the resortel is actually composed of pieces of corals and shells. It was as if the owners brought the seabed here!

Down-Home has a frills-free concept to its decor with a homey appeal.

Welcome to my room on the second floor! I found the natural wooded furniture and minimalistic accessorisation of the spacious room very relaxing.

The room was very clean and the bed brought on sleep the moment I touched it. Really comfortable.

Our room's balcony is separated from a larger roof patio shared by two rooms next door by a short wall. This configuration would be a great place for a large family of big party of friends to stay.

Room with a view. The balcony overlooks an undulating field that reaches out to the sea. The pocket of blue with a long stretch of sand is the island's most famous attraction, Jibei Shawei.

A closer view of Jibei Shawei from my room's balcony. *Excited!*
Jibei Shawei (吉贝沙尾)

Jibei Shawei is a 200m wide sandspit formation that stretches 800m long from the southwestern coast of the island. A sandspit is formed when waves from two opposing sides of an island meet at the tip and deposit particles from the seabed along the stretch where the waves intersect. As more deposits accumulate over time, the underwater ridge rises above the water, forming a continuous landform extending from the coast. Wind will determine the direction of the sandspit. The longest sandspit in the world is the Arabat Tongue in Russia which measures over 110km!

Riding from Down-Home to Jibei Shawei took less than 10 minutes.

A lone red temple marks the entrance to Jibei Shawei.

Panoramic view of the sandspit.

From afar, the beach looked biege but on closer look, the sand is tan-brown. That's due to the refraction of light off quartz deposits that made the beach appear white. Sand particles here consisted of corals, shells and rock bits eroded from surrounding cliffs.

Even at only 800m, it's a long walk to the tip. It's quite an experience walking on a beach with the sea on both sides.

At the tip of Jibei Shawei. We were really lucky that the beach was deserted because all sea transport was suspended yesterday due to typhoon alert, which led to a drop in visitors number. Normally, this place would be crawling with people and seasports operators.

Human crap crab. The water is pretty rough at the tip.

人生长路有我陪你一起漫步走,不在乎脚印的深浅,只庆幸有缘同渡。So emo! Wahaha.


The expanse of sand, sea and sun is mind-boggling! We are but small wanderers.

The biggest NO-NO on Jibei Island is picking corals and bringing them home. If you're leaving the island with corals, you will be fined.

Cannot pick corals, but stones are okay. Felt a connection with this lava pebble that caught my eye amongst a little of small stones. Its wrinkles are like the deep lines etched on my hands. I wanted to bring it home but thought about what's it going to do sitting at a forgotten corner in my room so decided to just bring back a photo. Nature has a better use of it.

After about an hour being the only people on Jibei Shawei, we continued our exploration of the island into the waterside town and surrounding landscapes.

Wide Fields & Restless Waters

The township on Jibei is very compact with most of the urban establishments gathered near the waterfront where the visitor centre is. Life here seem to move at a leisurely pace without a nary of bustle. The only things that get any action here are the busy winds and restless waves.

Locals fishing by the pier under the retiring sun.

Such an adorable father-and-son team.

This is not a re-enactment of Wong Kai-wai's Happy Together movie. Took this photo because my cap says "Penghu" and the other cap says "Taiwan". 澎湖靠台湾。The leaning simply means Penghu is a part of Taiwan.

We heart Penghu!

H-block breakwaters line the easternly coast of Jibei Island, creating a formidable stronghold against 海龙王's tempraments.

This is the most eastern tip of Jibei Island and the best location to catch the sunrise. The bowl-shaped sculpture is a sort of religious totem believed to possess the power of eliminating evil and protecting the islanders. This area is called the East Dragon-Horse because strong winds causes huge waves to crash ashore like the sound of thousands of galloping horses.

The rowdy waves behind the East Dragon-Horse totem.

A quiet and peaceful body of water on the western side of the island. A huge contrast to the noisy eastern coastline.

Well paved roads cut across the island and offer a scenic ride through miles of green pastures. This photo with stylised colour is taken with Casio Exilim ZR200 HDR-Art mode.
There are no traffic lights on the island and road signs are few. Few rules, more freedom!
So free... Eken can fly while striking an uber cool pose!
The funsters. It's therapeutic to just ride aimlessly and stopping to take in the sights.
Some of the roads are more challenging. As I rode across the fields, I keep thinking about spreading a groundsheet in the middle one and have a frolicking picnic with a love one. It would be so romantic to come out at night and camp here.
But watch out for the occasional fat cow grazing the fields.

The spaciousness outside opens up the space within too.
Fire clouds over Jibei.
BBQ Dinner & Island-Style Karaoke
Our day at Jibei Island ended with a sumptuous barbeque dinner and impromptu karaoke session. Although the speaker system wasn't 5.1 surround sound, no special acoustic controls, air-conditioning and choosing of songs was done manually, I haven't had so much fun at a karaoke session in a long, long time.
Despite coming from different countries... Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan... we broke all geographic barriers and had a blast singing in our native languages and dancing. Yes, dancing. We did cha-cha, para-para and some popular Taiwanese group dance. It was a sweaty, exhilarating, breath-catching explosion of energy! I'm smiling as I write this paragraph and relived the fun that night.
The set-up felt like we walked into someone's porch and started BBQ-ing while the sea serenaded our appetite with its frothy night sonata.
Giant top shells. I didn't know they can grow so big and are edible!
Bon appetit! I think if I'd cook them just right, they would've been more delicious than the rubber I was chewing the whole night. I had about 6 of them.
Yuca getting the night's karaoke started with some familiar tunes that cut across cultures. She's always such a livewire.
Another I learnt on this trip was opening beet bottles with the butt of a lighterall thanks to Vian. No bottle opener when out drinking? No problemo!
What an unforgettable night of fun with friends I'd just got to know 8 days ago. Love you peeps and thanks for such an incredibly fun trip!
It was my last night of the Taiwan trip and the night's seaside BBQ party added a high wrap to the whole journey of exploring the heights and depths of this fascinating country. Penghu was nothing I expected it to be in more good ways than one and Jibei Island had been a soul liberating visit.
There are still many islands I haven't explored in Penghu so that's a date to come back again someday. For taking me on this extraordinary cultural and natural expedition, I would like to thank all the conscientious folks of Bysan Marketing Ltd (百昇传播事业有限公司) and Yusan Guide Public Relations Consultant Ltd (羽晟加得公关顾问有限公司), the gracious and welcoming directors of  Southwest Coast National Scenic Area Administration (雲嘉南滨海国家风景区管理处) and Penghu National Scenic Area Administration (澎湖国家风景区管理处), all the hoteliers, shopowners, sponsors, tour guides, drivers and service staff whose friendliness and warmth showed me the real Alishan, Southwest Coast, Penghu and Taiwan!
Related Post : A Day at Jibei Island

1 comment:

  1. I left my footprints in Penghu in 2017 too. Since then, Penghu becomes one of my favourite place in Taiwan. It's a pity that not many Singaporeans know and put it in their travelling plan. Go there during their annual fireworks Festival (澎湖花火节), I think you will like it! You can take a ferry from Budai, Chiayi (布袋,嘉义)in summer.
    Next in line for me is Kinmen (金门) ;)


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