Hua Island (花嶼), with no airport and only three weekly boats connecting it with the outside world, is probably as far off the beaten track as you can go in Taiwan, short of walking several days into the high mountains. It’s the westernmost island in the Penghu archipelago (and is often quoted as being the westernmost point in Taiwan; in political talk Matsu and Kinmen belong to the ROC but are not part of Taiwan itself – look it up!). Quickly moving away from a highly sensitive subject, I think we can all agree that given it’s lack of connections with the rest of the world, Hua Island is something of a backwater.
Since the island is one of the places in my upcoming book, I can’t really spill all the beans and give the complete info on getting there on this blog. In any event, it’s now too late in the year to enjoy a trip, since all of Penghu gets pretty cold, rainy and (especially) extremely windy from November until April, and there’s a big chance of being stranded on-island for days if the wind picks up. Some basic info though. Small boats depart from Magong three times a week (presently on Monday, Wednesday and Friday) for Hua Island. The trip takes about an hour, and boats leave Hua Island around 9 am and return from Magong to Hua Island around 2 pm (as you can see, they’re laid on so that islanders can go to the city for the day, rather than for tourists). There’s no official accommodation on the island at preset, so you’ll have to stay with an islander. The island Head rents out a couple of simple rooms (with A/C – absolutely essential during the killingly hot summers on the island) for the occasional tourist. Food is eaten at the village store (which has basic provisions and a fridge with cold drinks including – yessss! – cold beer!). The village Head’s wife will cook cook three tasty meals (which always seem to include fish), or you can put together survival rations for lunch if you head off round the island for the day. It was so hot when we were there in August though that we returned to our A/C-cooled room for a long siesta each day.
The island has just one small village, 5 minutes’ walk from the harbor. It’s a picturesquely shabby kind of place, from where narrow concrete tracks radiate out to other parts of the island. It only takes about 20 minutes to walk across the island, but there’s loads and loads to explore. Away from the roads, paths are few, and it’s rough-going around the rocky coastline, but absolutely beautiful, and on the shortest possible, three-day stay (in which case you’ll actually only get one full day on the island, and two nights) it’s a challenge to explore even the main ‘sights’. One thing you probably won’t see during your exploration though is other tourists – Hua Island is still rarely visited by tourists, and as a foreigner you’re likely to become a figure of great curiosity, and will get to know many of the villagers, even during a short sojourn!