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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I love Kinmen (金門)

I arrived in Xiamen yesterday and decided to take a ferry to visit the Taiwanese Island of Kinmen (金門). Although Kinmen is officially under Taiwan's jurisdiction, it is much closer to Mainland China than it is to Taiwan, as you can see from my iPhone's GPS below (which apparently also has a facial recognition feature :P).  I took this picture on the ferry from Xiamen to Kinmen. The island in the middle, Lieyu, is called Little Kinmen in Chinese.  It is clearly visible from Xiamen, about two miles away.
Jinmen Huan Yin Neng! (Kinmen Welcome You). Upon arrival, I hired a local taxi driver/guide to drive me around the island for a few hours...
Here is the former residence of a Kinmen native who made a fortune in Indonesia about one hundred years ago, then returned to build schools and hospitals to help his fellow Kinmen kinsmen. You can clearly see the western influence on the architecture.
Close up of the entrance.
The most interesting part of the trip, however, was a tour of a tunnel that Chiang Kai-Shek's government dug to aid the island. Apparently during a period of strong animosity, Mao Tse Tung instituted a blockade on the island and supply ship had to be sent secretly from Taiwan, about 170 miles away. To avoid shelling from the Red Army, they dug a tunnel so that the supply ship could dock and unload safely... here is the entrance to the tunnel.
I was surprised at how wide the tunnel was... according to my guide, they had to make it wide so that trucks could go through.
The tunnel/canal is shaped liked a U, with an opening at each end so that ship can enter from one and exit from the other.
I had no idea it was a watery canal until I saw the reflection.
This is not a reflection but the bottom of the sea. The water is very clear.
The other end of the tunnel.
Tanks! In August 1969, Kinmen was heavily shelled by the Red Army. Reminders of the hostility are still scattered all over the island. In fact, they have become the island's main tourist attraction.
Yours truly at I think the highest point on Kinmen Island. From there, on a clear day, Xiamen is clearly visible. According to my guide, when they used binoculars to look at Xiamen, they could even see people walking on the streets!
I wish I had taken more pictures of the charming villages in Kinmen instead of documenting its military history. It is truly a beautiful island. People are laid back, the air is clean, the land is lushly green... just lovely. Nearing the end of my tour, my guide recommended this beef noodle shop popular with locals to me. I saw several happy Kinmen cows grazing the lush meadows on the island and figured the local beef must be very good, and not hormone infested. And it was true.  The beef was so tender, the greens so fresh. Before I left, I bought nine bags of Kinmen beef jerky for family and friends. 
Ferry back ... will definitely return.