March 25, 2008
Matsu - Beikan
The boat trip from Nankan only takes 10 to 15 minutes and isn't as prone to cancellation due to high seas. There is a regular service from Fuao Harbor.
Beikan immediately strikes you as being smaller, quieter and in general more beautiful. The Beigan Visitor Center is located fairly close to the port and is situated by a lovely stretch of beach. This is also the first beach I had been on guarded by several tanks and personnel carriers.
The beaches on Beikan are actually the best I have seen in Taiwan. Soft golden sands and with little development, they were very clean and on most you are allowed to swim, taking the normal precautions obviously.
Probably the biggest attraction - apart from the beaches - on this small island is a little village called Qinbi (or Cingbi depending on your map).
This little village perched on the side of a hill overlooks the ocean and is called the Mediterranean of Matsu. Perhaps a slightly grand title, but sipping a good cup of coffee in glorious sunshine, surrounded by old stone buildings and staring out to see was as pretty close.
Like Jinsha Village in Nankan, there are a lot of deserted buildings here, but again they are being refurbished very nicely as homestays with all the home comforts. Matsu does get as hot as Taiwan in the summer, so it was reassuring to see the air conditioners. So much for the deserted cottage I had set out to find!
This does mean though that this is a great destination for families. It's quiet, picturesque, clean and very comfortable. It's easy to get around via the many taxis on the island, but everything is reasonably close anyway.
And I think that best sums up the two islands we visited.
Was this the deserted island getaway I had in mind before I left? Well, no, but there was enough of the rugged mixed with the less so to make it a very memorable trip.
We had really wanted to visit Dongyin Island on this trip, but you will have to plan your trip carefully to do so. You can only get there via the Keelung ferry, which stops at the major islands before Dongyin, sometimes. If the weather is rough however, it might not sail at all, or go to Dongyin first, so it's part luck part planning. You can take a helicopter but that is not cheap.
Lastly, I have to mention the birds. Matsu has become an internationally renowned birding spot, due in part to large numbers of migrating birds stopping off on the islands, including the endangered Chinese crested tern. Some of the smaller islands are now protected sanctuaries, but the abundance of bird life on the islands was evident even in March. You can find a lot of info on the web about this, but here's an official link. http://www.matzu-nsa.gov.tw/english/discover06.asp
So in conclusion, I will certainly be going back to Matsu. I am looking forward to bringing the family to Qinbi for a weekend and to visit Dongyin Island, so I hope to see you there!
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