About Me

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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mad about Matsu

I recently read an article in the Features section of the Taipei Times about Taiwanese American Lin Wei-Kou and his experience filming "100 Days"  on Matsu. ("Hollywood to Matsu") I began to reminisce my April and thought I'd post a blog before 2013 becomes over.

My longtime friend and language exchange buddy Vicky (鄭鼎宸) and I, had planned on going to Matsu a year before and our schedules just couldn't flow together until April of 2013. We had a 3 day weekend or I took a day off, I can't remember. I had suggested we go to Matsu because neither of us hadn't been there before and Vicky is always up for an adventure. Our families and mutual friends had gone up to Alishan together and other various BBQ get-togethers before. Vicky and I used to meet every Sat afternoon at McD's so our kids could play in the indoor playground and we could do our "language exchange" (basically both of us mutually making fools of ourselves and having fun doing it.) She opened 2 successful guesthouses (The Flower House) in the beginning of summer this year and our Sat exchanges weened out to zilch. I know she is super busy, but I miss her!. ( If you ever need a new, modern decorated, cheap place to stay from visiting friends or family, they have a location in Anping across from Shi-men Elementary school and one by the train station.

Matsu  (馬祖列島 Mǎzǔ Lièdǎo) is made of 18 islands divided into townships. I counted almost all of them from my cropduster window. Our departures from Tainan high speed station was rife with strange energy. The train before ours had stopped because of a bomb, which rarely if ever happens here. Of course we didn't  find out until lunch later in Beigan, eating local handmade fishball noodles, the freshest I've ever tasted. (See 600 Evacuated from Taiwan Trains...)

We arrived Friday afternoon at Beigan 北竿, and spent the night in the stone village in Cinbe Cun across from Turtle Beach and Turtle island. Fujian, Mainland China out in the near distance called out like a casual, impulsive invitation  How strange to be closer to China than Taiwan. I could see the fishing villages and windmills.

Our accommodation was rustic, stone and wood, just perfect, with all the windows and doors overlooking a small beached bay and near little Turtle Island, The night was cool, we were bundled up, the big airy bathroom was freezing just for a piping hot bath. Wine mixed with the sound of breaking waves, lulled me to sleep, cozy in the cold.

At 芹壁村25號「Chinbe No. 25 Guesthouse」. 全海景宅所/全海景套房 (Panoramic Sea View Villa/Suites)  半海景多人雅房/半海景套房   (Partial Sea View Rooms/Suites)
Room rates include traditional Matsu breakfast. 住宿費用包含早餐 Online Reservation 

We toured Beigan on rented scooters on Saturday The island was dotted with pristine, empty beaches, innocent from any evidence of human footprints, except mine. There were tiny villages here and there, mosly old people and young soldiers, the old people living as time hadn't stopped. They were all fishermen, drying seaweed and tiny fish out in the day sun, drying themselves off from early nocturnal catches.

We parked our scooters and checked out a few trails. The most remarkable started from some Soldiers memorial museum (the Iron Fort) where they had displays on Comfort Ladies, bombs, stories of armed Chinese scuba spies (water ghosts Chinese People's Liberation Army frogmen infiltrators) that swam to Matsu's shores and occasionally killed locals. The trail went away from the island towards the sea and was a dangerous one person dirt trail that went occasional along the edge of a precipice (Suicide Cliff). One slip and it was certain death, which I suppose was crazy stupid since we had kids, but for some reason it seemed safe and doable they have been avid hikers/backpackers for years, and well same here. We moved slow and cautiously when needed, there was rope nailed into some of the rocks to help out. Mostly the trail went down the spine of this island's reaching arm, surrounded by some tropical kind of heather, island scrub, thistle flowers everywhere courted by darting lizards. We all certainly felt lucky to be there in fine weather enjoying the finer views in all directions, enjoying a clean perspiration that quickly cooled in the aquamarine breezes.

Saturday late afternoon we took a 20 minute boat to Nangan 南竿, the bigger island. We stayed in another picturesque coastal town with stone Fujian style homes in Jinsha, Village, Nangan.  This time instead of stone we stayed in a wood guesthouse and it seemed even colder. 

Saturday night minsu
After we arrived we quickly hopped on our scooters and started our exploration. It was definitely bigger, more villages. The biggest city had a famous distillery of which we had a few samples. The local dishes were flavored with locally made fermented  red rice yeast, that was added to the  rice. We ate a lot of seafood of course. There was a massive Matsu statue, a well placed garden cafe and lots of military things we stopped to see, Vicky's husband had done his military service here and we saw the museum he helped built (Folk Cultural Artifacts Exhibition Hall).

Tunnel 88 brand kaoliang (38 and 58 proof) sorghum liquor, as well as aged laojiou rice wine (around 30% alcohol). 

Would I go back? Of course! If only because the plan of developing the island is spoiling it into some second rate gambling wanna-be Macau.

Click here for all my Matsu photos.

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