LTL’s Guide to Kinmen Island: Gateway to the Mainland
Kinmen Island, or rather Kinmen County/Kinmen Islands are a group of islands administered by Taiwan.
They are located just 2km from the mainland’s South-East coast of Fujian Province.
The islands’ positioning meant that it played an important role in the civil war between the Nationalist and Communist forces. Kinmen still holds many remnants from this period, for those interested in the military history of the islands.
But aside from relics of the islands’ military past, there is plenty more to see in this charming place.
Kinmen Island – The Name
A quick summary of the many names for Kinmen Island.
Literal Meaning: Golden Gate (金 Jīn = Gold; 门 mén = Gate)
Mandarin Pronunciation: Jīnmén (pinyin)
Traditional Chinese Characters: 金門
Simplified Chinese Characters: 金门
Former Name: Quemoy (from Portuguese – Taiwan itself used to be called Formosa)
Getting to Kinmen Island
You have a couple of different options for getting over to Kinmen:
Xiamen to Kinmen by Ferry
If you’re heading to Kinmen from mainland China, it might be more direct to travel via Xiamen and to take a ferry over to Kinmen.
Xiamen serves flights from all over the country. Once you arrive at the airport you can take a bus directly to the ferry pier for just 10 CNY. The buses run throughout the day around once per hour/ 1.5 hours.
You can purchase your ticket (160 CNY) to Kinmen upon arrival at Xiamen’s ferry pier. If you’re planning to come back via mainland China make sure that you have another entry on your Chinese visa, otherwise you will not be allowed back in.
You also need to check Taiwan’s visa regulations to see how long you’d be allowed to stay on Kinmen and whether you should apply for a visa first.
If you’re heading to Kinmen from Taiwan’s main island or vice versa then flying into Kinmen airport is probably the easiest method of transport. There are several flights from Taiwan’s big cities, such as Taipei, over to Kinmen every day. On average a flight should cost around 1000 CNY or less if you find a good promotional fare.
Kinmen Island – Accommodation
There are plenty of hostels and cute guesthouses all around the island. If you’re planning to rent a car or a scooter it shouldn’t matter exactly where you stay, as you’ll probably want to go all around the island seeing the sights.
If you’re planning on getting to places by public transport and cycling, it might be easier to stay closer to Kincheng, the main town on the island.
Kinmen Island Top Things to Do
So you know how to get here, and whereabouts to stay, but what is there to do on Kinmen Island?
Read on to discover our top 3 suggestions for things to do on Kinmen island that really reflect the unique nature of the place.
Of course there are plenty more things to see on Kinmen, it has some great beaches, beautiful lakes and hills. You’ll definitely not be bored spending a few days here! And it’s a a great place to practise your mandarin skills, as not many of the locals can speak English.
1. Kinmen Island Top Things to Do – Drink Kaoliang Liquor
Kinmen Island’s most famous export is probably its potent ‘Kaoliang Liquor’, often also referred to as ‘Gaoliang wine’ or ‘Sorghum wine’.
Chinese Name: 高粱酒 Gāoliáng Jiǔ
高粱 literally means sorghum, and 酒 means alcohol.
Kaoliang Liquor liquor is one type of 白酒 Báijiǔ (lit. ‘white alcohol’), a term which is used to refer to several different types of Chinese liquor made from grain.
Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor is one of the most popular brands of the drink in Taiwan.
It comes in varying strengths, ranging from around 40 to 60% proof! It’s strong stuff. And it’s everywhere on Kinmen Island.
Apart from being available to buy a bottle for a sneaky drink whenever you choose, or to take home as a souvenir to give to your best buddies, you can find lots of drinks and snacks with Kaoliang Liquor in the ingredients list. For example, we found:
- A cafe selling Kaoliang Wine coffee (hot or iced!)
- Kaoliang Wine infused milk tea at Chairman Mao’s Milk Tea Shop
- Sausages flavoured with Kaoliang Wine
- Kaoliang Wine-based cocktails
If you take a trip to Kinmen island, be sure to let us know what you find to add to the list!
As well as being in all of the foods and drinks, you can tell that Kinmen Island is proud of its product because, dotted across the island there are numerous statues of Kaoliang Liquor bottles lining the roads.
There’s also a Kaoliang Wine museum you can visit, if you want to know more about the making-process.
2. Kinmen Island Top Things to Do – Military Tourism
DID YOU KNOW – Due to Kinmen Island’s close proximity to Xiamen and mainland China, it was an important strategic position during the Civil War between the Chinese Communist and Nationalist forces.
Because of this, a number of the top tourist attractions and sites on the island have a connection to its military past:
Zhaishan Tunnel (Zaishan Tunnel)
You’ll find plenty of underground tunnels on Kinmen Island. During times of fighting, tunnels were used to bring supplies on to the island inconspicuously. The Zhaishan Tunnel is the largest on the island, stretching for around 160km.
It has become a popular tourist destination in recent years, and there’s even a music festival based here in the summer time.
The bright blue water and echo-y chambers, give the tunnels a feeling of mystery. Go visit to see this interesting relic of more turbulent times. And entry is free!
Mashan Broadcasting and Observation Station
As the closest point to mainland China on Kinmen island, Mashan was a strategically very import outpost during war times. Navel operations between the mainland and Kinmen were monitored closely from here.
It was also used as a broadcasting station to send messages out over the water towards the mainland. These messages transmitted by radio were generally trying to encourage soldiers on the other side to surrender.
DID YOU KNOW – Sometimes pop music propaganda was sent out across the waters too.
Today the station is another popular tourist attraction – you can listen to sample messages, see the broadcasting station, look through binoculars over to the mainland, and even take a look at the advanced toilet systems available to the soldiers stationed here at the time.
PRICE – Entry is also free of charge.
3. Kinmen Island Top Things to Do – Find the Wind Lion Gods
Wind Lion Gods are scattered across Kinmen Island. They are icons of large beasty creatures, usually in the form of statues. Locals of Kinmen Island placed them around the island for protection, a result of the times of conflict on the island. Each statue has a different pose and different features.
Due to these varying designs, the statues have become an attraction for tourists in themselves.
You can hunt out the different Wind Lion Gods across the island if you fancy a bit of an adventure.
Or if your time is more limited, you can take a visit to the Wind Lion God Park which is home to 63 replica Wind Lion God statues.
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