Xiaoliuqiu or Little Liuqiu is a small island located in the southwest of Taiwan. To reach there you must go down to Pingdong and take a ferry for 30 minutes from Donggang harbour. During the weekdays Xiaoliuqiu is a sleepy little island. But on the weekend it transforms into a tourist trap. The fact that the island is very near to Taiwan’s main island makes the tourists flocking this area for weekend retreat and the way the ferries are used are similar to how city buses operate. Meaning it’s crowded and takes forever to wait.
The best way to go around the island is by renting a scooter. It only takes you approximately 30 minutes to go around the island. But due to the numbers of tourists in the weekend, it is best to rent scooter from Pingdong instead of Xiaoliuqiu. The reason is because it takes hours to queue for the ferry, but scooter riders only need to wait for few minutes as they are prioritized to get into the ferry. Plus, when you reach the island you don’t need to queue for scooter rental, you can immediately whizz away with the scooter you get from Pingdong.
Downtown of Xiaoliuqiu is located precisely in front of the harbour. It is not that big, tiny even. The streets are jammed with souvenir shops, restaurants, 7-11, and of course tourists. It is the stereotypical urban beach retreat that is easy to reach and offer the fun much needed by the city population. The good thing about Xiaoliuqiu is the price of goods is not hiked up like in most tourist places, so there is no need to worry about finding affordable food.
port of Xiaoliuqiu
my favourite finds: Johnny Depp flipflops. Barnabas Collins & Jack Sparrow
The most common thing you can find in in the island is máhuā quān (麻花棬), which is the island’s favourite snack made of deep fried dough. It’s crispy and it’s everywhere. There are hundreds of brands offering different tastes; sweet, sour, salty, spicy, sesame, anything! You can’t avoid it, you’ll stuff your face with those sinful treats eventually.
máhuā quān are handmade by the local ladies. they usually twist the dough outside under roof of a temple
Usually in Xiaoliuqiu tourists go to the beaches or ride scooters around the island. This leaves the small streets and alleys empty, which makes it the perfect opportunity to sneak in and see how the locals live. Behind the chaotic downtown lie sleepy streets where locals sit in front of their houses chatting or simply enjoying the sun. Patches of small gardens are scattered between 2 storey buildings. Cabbages grown in styrofoam boxes and orchids grown in coconut shells are lining neatly. The locals don’t seem to care when they see a foreigner walking around their neighbourhood, they smile at you and then return to whatever they are doing.
the pleasantly sleepy back streets
chatting in a hot afternoon
There are plenty of decaying old houses in Xiaoliuqiu. These houses have the characteristics of Fujian traditional houses. Sadly many are abandoned and largely are destroyed in order to build modern yet boxy 2 storey houses.
it’s only a matter of time until these charming old houses are flattened and replaced with modern buildings
What else to see in Xiaoliuqiu? Beaches. The island is famous for them. Snorkeling is the most recommended activity to do here as Xiaoliqiu has pretty good coral reefs. But the view down under depends on the weather and the clarity of the water. If you’re an expert in snorkeling you could just rent the equipment from one of many snorkeling shops, it costs around NT$100 and you could go snorkeling by yourself. The shops also offer guided snorkeling, in which a group of people go snorkeling with a guide. But usually the guides only take you around 10metres away from the shore where there are not many reefs or fish and it only lasts for 1 hour.
Travel around the island and just stop at any beach you see. Some of Xiaoliuqiu’s tourist attractions are caves and natural rock formations. Riding scooter around the island with the coast on one side and Chinese cemetery on the other. The east and south coasts are the most beautiful with lush hills and bright blue seawater. The west coast has more caves and cliffs, so it takes more effort to trek. In general you can finish trekking all spots within a day.
the ‘Indian Rock’. notice that it looks like a profile of a Native American chief wearing a headdress
Goddess Guan Yin’s profile
the mouse rock
the hill trek & Holy Guan Yin spring
Accommodation is not a problem because the island is sprawled with inns and hostels. But if you want to camp outside, that could be quite problematic. You cannot just settle anywhere you want because the locals will approach you and tell you not to camp there. The reasons may vary from public property to bad fengshui. Locals are very superstitious, especially to the idea of camping nearby a temple in which they consider a big no no. A very nice friend even offers me to camp on her backyard, which I have to politely refuse. You can go to official camping grounds instead, I would recommend you Samaji (沙馬基) camping ground. It’s an affordable resort that also has a grass field where you can camp, plus bathroom and shower are included.
Samaji camping ground
Like other islands with strong fishermen culture there are loads of temples in Xiaoliuqiu. There are temples for famous deities such as Mazu, Guan Yu, and Cheng Huang, but there are also many temples dedicated to deities indigenous to the island. The colours of the temple in Xiaoliuqiu are much brighter and more vivid than in mainland Taiwan. The roof ornaments are also much more elaborate and festive.
Leaving Xiaoliuqiu is another painful experience because you need to queue for hours. Technically the last ferry comes at five thirty pm. But due to so many tourists need to go back to Taiwan, many end up taking the eight o’clock ferry, and that is after waiting for 3 hours.
children playing while waiting for the ferry to come
Despite the heat and the long queue, in the end Xiaoliuqiu gives a decent weekend sojourn experience. Maybe I have to practice my snorkeling more, so the next time I return I’ll know what I’ve to do in the island.