We recently went on a short weekend trip to the beautiful island archipelago of PengHu. In less than an hour after leaving Taipei, we touched town at the city’s only airport, then scootered to the island’s only city, MaGong. From Taipei city to this island paradise, it only took about 2 hours before setting out on our island hopping tour, I was impressed! The city of MaGong is sleepy and small but with a population of 60,000 people it has all of the conveniences found in Taiwan’s major cities.
The Penghu archipelago is comprised of more than 60 islands and inlets and with an arid landscape, there are no trees to shield runners from the sun or wind. The highest “peak” tops out at just 70m above sea level and it doesn’t seem like the ideal place for ultra trail running. However, in many of the places we went, we often saw a runner here or there, training on sidewalks, ocean fronts, roadsides etc. And so, after a large breakfast we were eager to check out what MaGong had to offer for running routes, before going to the beach.
We stayed in a hotel which was very close to the harbor and with no reference on where to go running in Penghu we turned out of our hotel to run along the ocean side. MaGong, we soon found out, is clean, pleasant and quite barren. We ran up and down the nearly empty piers, past the occasional fisherman or ocean liner and I realized how completely different and amazingly peaceful the atmosphere was compared to any other bustling Taiwanese city.
After a kilometer of running up and down piers, we came to a military base that blocks off a section of the coast and we faced the decision of running towards The Old Street of MaGong or trying to stick to the coast. We quickly decided to stay near the ocean side. Our curiosity led us through a historic section of the city, with old houses, brick walls and an occasional grassy path which followed the coast. Many of these tiny coastal houses have unique architecture, built low to the ground with bricks or cement. Penghu is home to notably strong winds during the winter months, so it seems practical that many of the homes lining the coast are small and sturdy-looking.
A kilometer and a half later we found ourselves at GuanYin Temple, which is one of the oldest temples in Penghu. The temple itself is cute and has similar architecture to other Buddhist temples, though the color is more subdued and it fits in nicely with the sunbathed coastline. Next, is Rainbow Bridge, which is also located in this park and is known as a defining characteristic of the MaGong skyline at night with its bright lights. At this midday hour it was all but abandoned, except for a few fisherman along the coast still vying for their morning catch.
Three and a half kilometers into our late morning run and we left Guanyin park and were making our way around the coast on a bike path that circles the area. At this point we reached MinZu Rd, and there was an option to turn back. The empty bike paths stretching to before us were very inviting, so we decided to continue. Luckily, before we left the hotel we had generously applied sunscreen, otherwise by now, we would have surely been cooked by the tropical sun. Although beautiful, there is no shade on these ocean side paths, only small palm trees and cacti, but the ocean breeze was enough to keep us cool.
After another 4.5 km we finally pulled ourselves from the ocean side path, although there were still kilometers of ocean side left to run. We headed into the city to cut across town in the direction of our hotel. It was nearly noon on Saturday but the traffic in this quiet city was almost non-existent.
A quick jaunt across town brought us to our hotel at a total of 10.5km. It was the perfect length for a morning run. Although we had gone at a relatively easy pace, it took us both a moment to catch our breath after returning to our room, the heavy humid heat left us exhausted.
- Bring water, sunscreen and maybe a hat, the heat, sun, wind and barren landscape will leave you parched.
- Head to the coast, PengHu’s notorious ocean breeze will keep you relatively cool and the views are breathtaking.
- Try running in the early morning or late afternoon if possible (we like the morning so you can savor the sunset at a nearby beach)
- Bring a good sense of direction – although MaGong is small, the curving streets make it easy to get lost.
- Tuck a couple dollars in your pocket, like anywhere in Taiwan, there is never a 711 far, where you can pick up a drink if needed.
Definitely check out this beautiful archipelago, it’s easy and relatively inexpensive to visit, boasting some of the best beaches in Taiwan.