Kinmen or Jinmen is a small achipelago of several islands located 210km west of Taiwan; the closest distance to Chinese territory, Jiaoyu, is only 1.8km. The Han Chinese immigration started as early as the Jin Dynasty (317) when 6 families fled from a war in mainland China. The first administrative machinery was setup during the Tang Dynasty (803) when Chen Yuan was assigned as the administrator to supervise horse raising in this wasteland with 12 families. In the Ming Dynasty (1387), the formal name of the island, Wuzhou, was changed to Jinmen, the golden gate, as a fortress was setup to guard the east-south coastline of Fujian. The islands were used as a base for military training by Koxinga in the mid 16th century and it was one of the front-lines of civil war R.O.C against China after WWII. The islands were a military reserved for 21 years, and it was returned to the civilian government in the mid-1990s, after which travel to and from it was allowed. Given its geo-location and history, Kinmen developed a unique fusion culture that is reflected in the architecture, scenery, dinning and life style.
At first glance, I was amazed by the well preserved traditional southern Fujian building style houses in each village that is rarely found in Taiwan today. I walked into the village and spent time looking around, the western extended windows, angel sculptures on walls, baroque style architecture with stone lions in front, etc that is like looking at a giant Xmas tree being decorated with glinted balls and a bagua on the top, weird but somehow in harmony. And the fusion of Chinese and western styles was not an influence by outsiders but the residents who went to south asia for business and brought back money and the local culture.
There is a car rental service in the airport. GuanCheng car rental tel: 0933278713 , opening hours: 07:30-19:30. Price: motorcycle: NT$400/day; car: 1cc for NT$1/day. There bus information can be found here: http://ebus.kinmen.gov.tw/KinmenE/index.html
The Kinmen national park headquarters singed a contract with the owners of traditional southern Fujian building style houses in the villages. In the contract, the owners give rights to the organization to use the properties for 30 years and in return the houses will be renovated and returned to the owners when the contract is expired. The renovated houses will be listed in a public bidding and the winning tenderer can operate the houses as a museum, restaurant, bar or B&B, based on the bidders' presenting proposals. It's a shame not to stay in one of these houses overnight. The list of B&B can be found at http://guesthouse.kmnp.gov.tw/ (Chinese only). My recommendations: Piano Piano, in Zhushan village, tel:082-372866; 0988-182-832; Visit Kinmen Guest House in ShanHau, tel: 082-352058. If you prefer to check in a hotel, Haifu is my recommendation.
Eating in Kinmen could be a problem for backpackers who are traveling alone. A lot of restaurants are still used to serving dishes in large proportions because they became used to serving large groups of soldiers. For example, you have to order at least 30 pan-fried dumplings in Chengkong dumpling. There is no nightlife in Kinmen, the only pub is the White Lion that is owned by a wonderful Irish couple. In fact, it is the only place I know of that serves home made french fries with vinegar.
As some of the beaches are currently being cleared of mines, especially in Lieyu, do not wander off into areas that have barbed wire and "Danger Mine" signs. I spoke to one of the people working on mine sweeping, a nice guy from Mozambique, who said they should be finished clearing the area in about 2 years.
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