Thursday, July 30, 2009


Three days were not enough. Of everywhere I've been in Taiwan, Kinmen is the place I most want to revisit.
From Kinmen

I feel lucky to have gone now: Kinmen is like a storybook Chinese island. It's quiet and clean. There weren't many cars. 7-11 was the only chainstore we saw. The buildings are old, and not very tall because of military regulations.
a Kinmen cultural village
Little Kinmen Street
The old village in front of our guesthouse
As China and Taiwan's relationship improves, I suspect Kinmen will continue to grow - it already benefits from economic ties to Xiamen.

But for now it's still a ways off the beaten path. We didn't spot any other Westerners during the trip.
No boats on this beach

We spent three days immersed in the testaments to an amazing part of Taiwan's history. We stayed in a refurbished 80-year-old guesthouse. The old man running the place showed us the blast scars in the home's inner courtyard from bombing. It was located just behind a six-hundred-year-old Fujianese village. We were told the village was designed to confuse pirates. That made James and I feel a little better when we got lost on our way home the first night.
The view from the second story of our guesthouse.

On our first night we sat outside sipping Kaoliang, a very strong liquor which I believe is only made in Kinmen and Matsu (another outlying Taiwanese island). To help wash down the kaoliang, we ate Kinmen peanuts and local clams marinated in oil and basil picked from our host's garden.
Our host serves James

Our first tourist stop was Maestro Wu's knife shop, where they make knives out of old PRC shells. Today most the knives are made out of propaganda shells - the PRC continued to send pro-communist messages to Kinmen long after the bombing stopped.
Maestro Wu knife shop
raw materials
making Kinmen knives

We spent most our time running around from monument, to museum, to observatory, to giant supply tunnel - trying to soak up all the history, but we definitely didn't get all of it.
Beishan, one of the first places to fall to the PRC in 1949.
The Nationalists later recovered it, and today Beishan is an important patriotic memorial for Taiwan.
supply tunnel for boats
We went through a lot of tunnels.
old underground barracks.
me + plane
Life was rough on Kinmen for a Commie in 1949, painting at Guningtou Museum
General Chiang Kai-Shek's Jeep
If you don't have a flame thrower handy, best find a flameth rower.

There is still military presence on Kinmen, though significantly reduced. However, James and I were given the mad-dog by an m.p. when we turned the car around in the wrong driveway.
Also, there are still quite a few minefields on the island. We even saw this guy clearing one.
"He's playing the live-action version of minesweeper," James.

Poor fella, out there by himself, I thought. But then I saw an ambulance parked nearby just in case, so that's nice for him, I suppose.

On our second night, at our host's suggestion, we went clam digging. And let me tell you - little Taiwanese clams are SO much easier to catch than Oregon razor clams. We didn't even need shovels. You just dig in with your hands, paw around, and come up with some tasty treats.

So fun - everybody was doing it.
I think this little boy didn't know what to make of me.
Taken early on, we filled this bucket up.
jelly thing. jellyfish?

Besides terrific military history, Kinmen has many beautiful villages. Here are just a few pictures of the lovely places we went.
Lots of good James pictures on this trip
driver playing traditional Chinese fiddle
We took a boat to Little Kinmen and attempted a brief bike ride.
Sights along the way
Look closely, I have a sunscreen/sweat moustache. Too hot for bikes.

A caution to anyone thinking about a trip to Kinmen: We did all our business in Chinese. We couldn't find an English map of the island. I'm sure Kinmen can be done if you don't speak Chinese, but our trip was definitely made easier by the fact we do.

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