Friday, September 05, 2014

Matsu

Instead of trying to make a perfect itinerary for Matsu, it is better to just go and be flexible. I did my homework and made a five-day schedule that would allow me to explore all of the Matsu islands seamlessly. I had all B&B and transportation reserved but I ended up trying to find a way to go to Matsu for two days and then worrying about not being able to come to Taiwan for work on time.

The tropical storm Hagibis developed on the day before my trip. It was hundreds of kilometers away from Matsu and by the time it was supposed to reach China it would be gone and I would be in the islands enjoying the holiday. Nevertheless, I got on a high speed rail heading to Taipei and waited anxiously for the sailing announcement of Taima ferry made daily at 11:00AM. A cancellation message was sent to my phone telling me that due to bad weather conditions, the Taima ferry was cancelled. I turned on my iPhone and searched for any flight available for Matsu. Luckily, I found 2 flights available in the afternoon of the next day. I tried to book the earlier fight by filling out information on the tiny screen and pushed the next button on the webpage and it returned "lost internet connection" as the train was traveling at a speed of 300km/hour. I tried to call Uni-air directly to book the ticket and I lost the signal while listening to the machine recording as the train was passing through tunnels. By the time I finally got through, the earlier flight had been sold out and I had to settle for the last flight which departed from Taipei at 17:30. The next day I headed to the airport early and soon I found out that the flight to Nangan might be cancelled due to the bad weather. The staff told me that they might fly us to Beigan instead if the fog cleared out. So I waited patiently, then I heard an announcement calling passengers to Beigan to check-in at the counter. I was happy to know that I might be able to fly to Beigan after all, even though my accommodation reservation was in Nangan. Thirty minutes later another announcement was broadcast:" due to the bad weather, the flight to Nangan was cancelled, passengers to Nangan please report to the airline counter. " Out of desperation, I checked the Taima ferry website and found that the ferry was  scheduled to sail at 22:50. I ran out of the airport and got on MRTs then transferred to a train to Keelung. By the time I got there, the room was filled with passengers and soldiers and I got the number 714 for purchasing the tickets! It was around 22:00 when I got the last ticket, first class, and set sail to the rugged open sea. After a night of being tossed up and down, left and right, the ferry finally made it to Dongyin island at 06:00.

I rented a motorcycle and started my adventure in Dongyin. The first challenge was steep mountain roads and to figure out if the sceneries were located in a military restriction area or not. Unlike Kinmen where most sceneries that are opened to the public are soldier free, in Matsu especially in Dongyin island, quite a few tourist attractions are still guarded by soldiers. Most of the time the soldiers would ask the purpose of your approach even before you see them and direct you to the destinations but there are always times when you don't know if you should march into barracks garrisoning by armed soldiers. By accident, I got clearance to a restricted area by filling out personal information and the view was picturesque. To me, the Dongyin island is like a military fortress and the civilians villages are gifts granted by the authority. Oddly enough, most of the military areas are foreigner restricted but the population of foreign domestic servants in Dongyin are so much higher than I expected. I saw no locals but the servants taking out their garbage when hearing the music of a garbage truck approaching. When night fell, I sat on the porch with a warm cup of tea, watching the fish boats in the harbor, listening to the occasional village broadcast that has been extinct in Taiwan for maybe 30 years, these were the true beauties of Dongyin island.

I was stuck in Dongyin for two days because of the no sailing on Tuesday schedule of the Taima ferry. The 2 and a half hour ride from Dongyin to Nangan was much smoother than it was from Keelung to Dongyin. To keep my deposit for the B&B reservation in Beigan, I took the very next boat from Nangan to Beigan and had the host to pick me up at the Beigan harbor. The B&B that I was staying in is a well preserved eastern Fujian style building made of wood and stones, located in Qinbi village. The Qinbi village has the best preserved eastern Fujian style buildings in all of Matsu and the renovated houses are B&B and cafe shops, a village of tourists and the weird part is that there is no restaurant in Qinbi village. The price for food in Matsu in general is much higher than in Tainan; the higher price for poultry, pork or beef is understandable, it is a remote islands after all, but seafood also, really?

All flight were cancelled before noon on the next day, my last day in Matsu. I took a boat back to Nangan and crossed my fingers hoping that my flight at 16:30 would be ok. Meanwhile,  I took the chance to explore the island soon to be the first casino in Taiwan. One particular spot that I enjoyed the most was the Furen Cafe. Located at the north-west corner of Nangan island, the cafe house is also a B&B. Dutch drip coffee is highly recommended. Back to the airport, I was relieved knowing that my flight was on schedule, especially because the waiting list had more than 1,000 names on it. Three out of five islands were visited on this trip and no sign of blue tear (blue tide) was observed, this was my trip to Matsu.

More information:
The official Matsu national scenic area website has all kinds of information needed for a trip to Matsu in Chinese, English and Japanese.
Motocycle rental in Matsu island is about NT$ 500/day, including a full tank of gasoline.
Highly recommended restaurant in Beigan: Longhe eastern fujian restaurant (龍和閩東風味館), reasonable price and taste good.

11 comments:

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Fili said...

That's terrific.
That's one part of Taiwan I haven't been to yet. Hope I'll get the chance someday.

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