Seven Beauties and Two Hearts
An early start as we were going on a boat trip to see a couple of the smaller islands in Penghu Archipelago with Seven Beauties and Two Hearts.
Our friendly host Jason drove us to Magong Harbour and kindly took us to the ticket office. Boat sticker and two bus tickets later, we were guided to the boat. We could have hired a scooter on both islands, but with the weather being somewhat unpredictable, we took the safer option of bus tours.
After about 45 minutes, we arrived at the small Island of Wangan and hopped on our bus which took us first to Tiantai Hill on the west coast. 1.74 million years ago crisscross dolerite was formed, which I read, gives an appearance of a flower. Really? All we noticed was a few flowers on the clifftop, some giant snails and a great view of the ocean. It was too cloudy to see China on the other side of the South China Sea. Wow, it was windy up there, but at least it wasn’t raining.
Back on the bus and our next stop was Jhongshe Village. Sadly many of the houses are abandoned. I expect the younger generation don’t want to live on a sleepy little island now. We enjoyed wandering around, seeing small plots growing vegetables, including peanuts, surrounded by walls built from big chunks of coral.
This old Chinese architecturally designed village was one of my favourite places of the day. Despite its small size, it was charming: pretty murals on walls, narrow pathways to peer down, crumbling homes, fascinating door and window designs and an old well in the centre of the village.
We got chatting to two lovely couples who were visiting from Taipei and spoke excellent English. They met in Sri Lanka, so we reminisced about our time there. During the day, they helped us translate instructions from the guide, such as when to return to the bus.
After a couple of hours on Wangan, our boat headed another 45 minutes to Qimei Island. (pronounced “Chee-May”). I was a bit surprised to see a small bus waiting for us and glad to get a seat. A few people had to stand. The bus only took us 100 m down the harbour, then stopped for us to have a 40-minute lunch break. We could have walked that! The majority of the group piled into a nearby restaurant, and our new acquaintances invited us to join them, but we declined as we’d brought our picnic. It was a shame as it would have been lovely to chat some more.
We climbed on a bigger bus this time with seats for everyone. Our next stop was at the Tomb of the Seven Beauties. It cost to enter, so we all stayed outside the complex and looked in at a large overgrown well and a tomb of rocks built behind.
Legend has it that when Japanese pirates invaded the island, they burnt local houses and raped the women. Seven young ladies escaped, but when the pirates chased them, they flung themselves into the well, preferring death rather than being violated. Afterwards, the villagers filled the well with soil to bury their bodies, and miraculously seven Indian Bean Trees grew out of the earth. A monument was then built to remember these seven beautiful girls, and in 1949, the name of the island was changed from Dayu to Qimei which means “Seven Beauties”. What a poignant story.
At our next stop looking over the ocean, I didn’t realise until later that I was looking at the “Wife Waiting for Husband” Rock. Another legend is that after a young man went fishing and never returned, his pregnant wife waited for him at this spot and finally died, with her body turning to stone. If you look at the picture, perhaps you can see the outline of a pregnant woman lying on her back with her hair floating in the water. Come on now, use your imagination!
Next, we visited the Great Stone Lion and Dragon. No legends here, just basalt rocks that through sea erosion formed the shape of a lion looking out to sea, and some rock veins extending out into the water like the spine of a dragon. Ah, I’m sure they could have created a great story about these beasts.
A little while later, we stopped again to see a different type of rock formation. It was a flat platform called the “Little Taiwan Rock” as it is a similar shape to the mainland.
Our final destination was the one we were all waiting for. This iconic image is included on many marketing photos of Taiwan. It is the “Double-Heart of Stacked Stones”.
The local people of Tungu Village built these not for the tourists but a practical purpose. It is an ancient fishing method constructing corals and stones into walls shaped like hearts, and the direction of the waves draws the fish into the trap. When the tide goes out, the fishermen can easily catch the fish. It would have been fascinating to watch the fishermen in action.
Our returned trip was more like a rollercoaster ride. The only seats left on the boat were down in the bow with no windows. The sea was quite chopping, and every time we caught a big wave, we were lifted into the air and then crashed down the other side correlating with screams from many of the passengers. I think some of these shrieks were of sheer excitement and others were of utter terror. Tim slept through the whole thing!
It was a long 90-minute journey, but we did get some relief when the boat slowed down for us to take photos of basalt columns on the island of Tongpanyu. These were created when a violent eruption of hot lava rock cooled quickly. I find it fascinating that this resulted in such neat columns. I wished we’d got a better view. They remind us of Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa, Scotland, we visited years ago, and the iconic Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, a place that we’ve never been too – one day.
Our wonderful host Jason was waiting for us at the port. After saying farewell to the friendly couples we met, we headed back to our hotel for dinner, a game of cards and a glorious sunset. What a great end to a lovely day.