Facts About Kinmen (Jinmen)
Kinmen, except for maybe Hong Kong or Macao, is the closest you can get to Mainland China without actually stepping foot on the landmass. In spite of being a mere 2 kilometers from Fujian Province’s Xiamen city and 280 kilometers from Taiwan, the Kuomintang (KMT) Party managed to hold on to it during the Chinese Civil War, to the behest of Mao and the People’s Liberation Army.
With tensions relatively cooled in these more peaceful times, Kinmen has adopted an economy mostly for Taiwanese and Chinese tourists, and also foreign businesspeople looking to take advantage of proximity to China without entering its political borders.
The island archipelago of Kinmen is quite small – about half the size of Taipei City (or one-fourth the size of Chicago). The tourist attractions are focused heavily on both Kinmen’s natural attractions, such as beaches an interesting geology, and its military history. It is also a popular spot for purchasing high-quality knives and cleavers.
Take note that Kinmen is still, regardless of its recent calm, a military outpost. Signs on beaches warning you to be careful of undiscovered land mines should be heeded. Military officers should be listened to, but they are used to tourists so barring some kind of big crisis, you won’t be bothered.
- Kinmen is also known as Quemoy, and is often spelled Jinmen.
- The archipelago has a population of around 85,000 people.
- Kinmen is recognized as a Taiwanese national park.
Things to do on Kinmen Island / Attractions
823 War Museum
Named after the 823 shelling campaign that the Chinese Communists launched on August 23, 1958, this museum remains to document aspects of the war. War history buffs will appreciate the displays of tanks, artillery, fighter jets, historical documents and more from the era.
Knife and Liquor Shopping
The above-mentioned 823 shelling of Kinmen lasted 44 days, leaving hundreds upon hundreds of metal shell casings scattered around the island. True to Chinese industriousness, locals figured out that these casings can be fashioned into superior knives and cleavers.
Their hard work is now paying off as tourists commonly make it to the island to purchase these objects, converted from one murderous device into another. The most famous brand of knives is done up by Maestro Wu, who also provides tours of the knife-making process. Visitors can select a bomb shell and watch it get transformed in 20 minutes, give or take.
If you’re starting to get weary about the safety of Kinmen, try taking sharp knives, bomb shells, fighter jets, tanks, and adding absurdly strong liquor to the mix. Gaoliang (Kaoliang), the famously potent grain liquor widely consumed in Taiwan and China, is produced and sold hand-over-fist from Kinmen. Varieties range from 38 to a whopping 63 percent alcohol. Buyer beware; the labels don’t lie!
Wind Lion Gods
Scattered around the island are a variety of Wind Lion God statues, supposedly there to protect inhabitants from China’s famed and feared sandstorms. The statues are said to fend off the worst of the wind, always remaining stoically facing the sea. They come big and small, and are great photo opportunities.
Getting Around Kinmen / Local Transport
By far the easiest way to bum around Kinmen is renting a scooter. The rates are pretty low (around 300NT$ per day) and the clean roads and small size of the island will make this the most convenient mode of transport. The only other viable alternatives are walking, which is doable if you don’t mind a few hours on foot, or paying the premium for heavy use of taxis which are not hard to find.
Eating on Kinmen / Restaurants
Kinmen has some specialties of Fujian province that might not be readily available elsewhere in Taiwan. Also, its famous Gaoliang liquor features in a few dishes, such as cabbage soaked in the stuff. Restaurants are all over Jinmen, but here are some specialties you might take a crack at:
Kinmen Fish Balls – Fish ball soup gets a bit of a twist with slightly harder, “al dente” balls in Kinmen.
Gaoliang-Flavored Cabbage – Cabbage is one of the essentials of Chinese cuisine, and here it gets a sweet and sour treatment with the use of Gaoliang liquor in pickling.
Kinmen Local Beef – The island has its own cattle industry, which aims to use every part of the animal in cooking. Garlic flavored ox knuckle, cattle testicles in sesame oil, fried bone marrow; this appetizing list continues unimaginably.
Kinmen Accommodation / Hotels
Accustomed to tourists, Kinmen houses no small number of hotels, homestays, guesthouses and BnB.
Comfy, clean beds with complimentary breakfast, good location and a convenient airport shuttle.
No. 85, Minquan Rd., Jincheng Township
European House No. 25 Bed and Breakfast
A quaint, clean bed and breakfast with a cool and distinctly non-European design.
No. 25, Oucuo, Jincheng Township
Visit HotelsCombined.com to find hotels and hostels in Taiwan. You can check discounts, room rates, availibility, and make a reservation in under 5 minutes on this website. That’s how I always book my hotels in Taiwan.
Getting to Kinmen
Planes regularly make trips from mainland Taiwan, mostly Kaohsiung and Taipei. The tickets aren’t exactly cheap; it’s about NT$2,000 each way. If you happen to want to go from Mainland China, ferries from Xiamen are also available.
Visit Other Islands Around Taiwan
World-class scuba diving and snorkeling, decent hiking, one of the most beautiful lighthouses on Taiwan, cheap seafood…
Ninety little islands make up the Penghu archipelago, off the Western coast of mainland Taiwan. The heavy winds draw surfers and windsurfers from around the world each year.