Kinmen

Kinmen 金門 (pronounced Jīnmén, literal meaning "golden gate", also known as Quemoy) is an outlying island located near the People's Republic of China, but is controlled by the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Temple in Jincheg

Regions

There are two main islands, Greater and Lesser Kinmen, plus several smaller islands.

Administratively, Kinmen is split into six townships, four of which are on Greater Kinmen. Another has Lesser Kinmen plus its neighbouring small islands, and the sixth is a couple of more remote small islands.

Cities

KinCheng, meaning Golden City, is the main city in Kinmen, located on the greater Kinmen island. The second city, Shanwai, is also on that island. The ShangYi airport is between the two cities.

Understand

Propaganda sign facing the mainland

In 1949, the Communists won the Chinese civil war, defeating the Nationalists (Kuomintang) who had governed (most of) China from the 1911 revolution until '49. Since then, there has been a Communist government in most of China (the People's Republic of China or PRC) while the Nationalists hold Taiwan (still officially called the Republic of China or ROC).

The islands of Kinmen and Matsu are near the Chinese coast Kinmen is about 10 km (under 6.5 miles) from Xiamen but held by the ROC. They are symbolically important, and arguably strategically as well, and were often actively fought over from 1949 into the 1970s. The "Artillery Battle of 823" was one of the key battles that kept the PRC from invading Taiwan. It involved artillery bombardment of Kinmen and Matsu, beginning on August 23 (8-23) 1958.

In recent decades relations between the two governments have improved greatly; there is extensive Taiwan investment in China and travel in either direction is much easier than it used to be. However, Kinmen and Matsu remain sensitive areas and both the PRC and the ROC maintain substantial military forces in the area. Travellers should exercise caution, avoid political discussions and avoid photographing military installations or even pieces of infrastructure (bridges, dams, etc.) which might be military targets.

Talk

The local language is Minnan Hua (also called Taiwanese), but Mandarin is also widely spoken.

Get in

By plane

Kinmen can be reached by air from the main island of Taiwan; three of Taiwan's four domestic carriers fly to Kinmen from the three bigger cities on Taiwan several times a day. One way tickets cost a little over NT$2000.

By ferry

There are ferries from Xiamen in mainland China to Shuitou on the main Kinmen island, and this link is now open to foreigners. Boats are NT$750 (as of June 2013) from Shuitou to Xiamen and ¥160 from Xiamen to Shuitou and run once an hour between 0830 and 1900 in each direction. There is also a ferry from Quanzhou, but it allows only Chinese and Taiwanese passengers.

If you are arriving by ferry, the ferry terminal has a tourist information desk that can help find you an inn. There are also money exchange counters, but they will only exchange RMB to NT$; they will not exchange other currencies.

Get around

There are taxis on the island, though you need pretty good Mandarin or Taiwanese skills to negotiate a rate with the driver. They are also concentrated mostly in the city center, so you can't count on finding one just anywhere. If you can speak Mandarin, or the local dialect, most of the drivers are quite friendly, so one shouldn't worry about bargaining super hard. Most of them aren't looking to rip you off.

Taxis from the Shuitou wharf to Jincheng city's downtown are NT$250 flat rate, and roughly NT$200 to return to the wharf.

There are a few buses that run around, but they are not frequent and bus stops aren't particularly convenient.

It is easiest to just rent your own scooter. You can get a 150 cc for about NT$550 per 24 hours. There is a rental shop in the airport. There is also a rental place in downtown Jincheng near the northern entrance to Mofan St (模範街).

Roads are all paved and there are good maps at every village and in every hotel. Road signs are written in both Chinese characters and pinyin (Chinese words in the Latin alphabet), so it is hard to get lost.

See

Do

If you can find all 63 "official" wind lion god statues, the ones that are represented in the park, and present proof to the park office, they will give you a special gift.

Buy

Chinese style cleaver

Cleavers are Kinmen's best-known tourist product. They are famous for making excellent quality cleavers; the steel is obtained from the hundred of thousands of shells that the Communist forces fired at Kinmen, in a failed attempt to take the island away from the Nationalist troops. The most authentic knives, and the best place for a factory tour is Maestro Wu's Knives.

It is claimed that a single shell casing can make approximately 60 blades; this is doubtful. Also doubtful is the claim that current blades are made from shell casings, since shelling stopped in the late 1970s.

Finishing quality for cleavers has dropped a lot since the mid 90s. Even for Maestro Wu's Knife's top selling special-designed cleavers, the words "Made in Kinmen" are barely visible and/or badly engraved. Salepersons were taught to toe the line that "its because the steel's quality is so good that the engraving machine cannot carve the words properly". This is a bad sales tactic and a sorry excuse for a once famous knife brand that was built on quality.

Sleep

Eat

While Kinmen lacks the high price fancy fare of more populated locales, cheap delicious snack shops are everywhere in the downtown area of Kincheng. Taiwanese favorites such as fried chicken cutlets, fried oyster balls and chow mein can be found without much trouble. Prices average around NT$50 per item which is quite reasonable considering the quality.

Drink

Kinmen is the home of Taiwan's distinctive "Kaoliang" liquor, a tequila-like hard liquor popular all over Taiwan. The factory is located right in the middle of the island, not far from the airport and is hard to miss with it's distinctive smell and two two-story liquor bottles guarding the front gates. This is one of the upmarket brands of the widespread Chinese liquor bai jiu; see China#Alcohol for background.

Stay safe

Though formal hostilities with the PRC ended by the early 1980s, Kinmen is still very much a front line area. Visitors are strongly advised not to wander off paved roads when exploring the island due to the possibility of running across old unmarked minefields. It is also advisible to avoid traveling to certain sensitive areas after dark, such as coastal areas or areas near military installations. Visitors should also obey all orders given by military personnel and avoid entering or photographing sensitive areas.

Go next

There are two choices; the main island of Taiwan is easily reached by plane, and Xiamen in mainland China is accessible by ferry. To go to Xiamen, holders of most passports need to already have a Chinese visa; there is no office to issue them on Kinmen.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, September 26, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.