Kinmen Island, Penghu Archipelago, Matsu Archipelago, Orchid Island, Green Island
Several islands off the coast of Taiwan, already an island off the southeast coast of China far from Taiwan but not part of China.
Mention a beach holiday in Asia and typical destinations that roll off the tongue include Bali and Phuket. Taiwan? Not likely. Synonymous with earthquakes, PC manufacturers and “word/ war games” with mainland
China, it hardly rates in the world of glossy, well-packaged island getaways.
But who needs pseudo Five-star resorts, vendors hassling you for a massage every time you set foot on the sand, and other tourists everywhere? These islands off Taiwan offer a perfect alternative to the more popular destinations in Asia.
WHEN TO GO
Try June or September to avoid the masses of domestic tourists, but to still get warm weather. Check the news, there have been frequent flare-ups of tension between Taiwan and China so you might not want to go if things are tense.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
Fly from the mainland to all of the islands. Carry your passport. It is needed as ID even for domestic air travel.
EVA Air: Tel: (02)-2501-1088 (Best choice!)
TransAsia Airlines: Tel: 080-066880
Uni Air: Tel: (02)-2515-5166
Sorry to disappoint, but dried seafood, local liquor and cheap trinkets are the main souvenirs on all of the islands. Save your money for Taipei and enjoy the scenery.
Don’t expect a Full Moon Party on any of these islands. You have to make your own entertainment. The locals will no doubt approach you as the number of foreign tourists are minimal. Invites to dine in people’s homes are not unusual.
This may be one of the most laid back, but rewarding, holidays that you will ever have. VISAS AND DOCUMENTS
Check with the nearest Taiwanese consul for visa requirements. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months fr
om when you intend to leave the country.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Taiwan is a relatively hassle free country to travel in health wise. Hepatitis A and B as well as tetanus injections are recommended and drink bottled water.
MONEY AND COMMUNICATIONS
ATMs are widespread in Taiwan but carry cash to some of the more remote islands. Purchase a few domestic Taiwanese phonecards to make onward arrangements via phone.
Official Government Tourism site
links and info on culture, arts, travel, and more.
Islands in the Taiwan Strait:
In the middle of the action between Taiwan and China (just 2 km off the coast of mainland to be precise).
To see how 45 years of martial law and a heavy military presence has transformed a once barren, sandy island into a heavily forested national park. With wide roads, little air pollution and seemingly endless avenues of trees, it is easy to get lost in the beauty of this potential war zone. Don’t worry — visitors are welcome and you are in no danger.
BEST MAJOR ATTRACTION
Mashan Observatory in the Kinsha District.
Take Bus no. 32. Leave your passport at the guard box (a requirement, not a suggestion) and follow the dimly lit tunnels to an observation deck where you can peer through binoculars at the enemy! It’s all very calm these days with fishing boats bobbing in the waters and the growing urban sprawl of a mainland Chinese town visible in the distance.
BEST UNUSUAL ATTRACTION
Take a glimpse into a bygone era at the abandoned mansions in the Shuitou area. No doubt glorious in their heyday, they were reportedly built by wealthy folk who returned home after making their fortunes overseas.
BEST ACTIVITY OR TOUR
Rent a moped in the capital, Kincheng, from Laiwang Motorcycle Rental (92 Mintsu Rd.,Kincheng) and tour at your own pace. The traffic is fairly tame.
Hotels on this island are quite generic.
The Six Brother Hotel
164 Chukuan Rd.
Clean and comfortable and centrally located in Kincheng. Rooms range from NT$1200-1400.
For breakfast snacks head down to the market in Kincheng and sample fried bread twists. Return to the same street later in the day if you crave something Western.
118 Mintsu Rd, Kincheng
Swimming is possible but not great on Hsibien Beach. Of interest though is the sunset at low tide. Masses of anti-amphibian craft spikes to repel the enemy are visible (not in the swimming section). This is an island holiday with a difference. Palm trees and pina coladas are not the go here.
Formerly known as the Pescadores (Fishermen’s Islands) to the Portugese, the Penghu archipelago consists of 64 islands in total in the Taiwan Strait.
Don’t expect Internet cafes, beach bungalows or Full Moon parties, but look forward to a dramatic landscape that is windswept and barren in winter and a sun lover’s paradise in summer.
On the main island of Penghu, coral windbreaks crisscross the landscape with many traditional Hokkien-style homes lying deserted as their former occupants have moved to the mainland in search of work or opted for a more modern alternative. There is a lot to explore.
BEST MAJOR ATTRACTION
With 63 other islands to choose from, deciding on a day trip may be a little difficult. It is possible to rent a boat and cruise at your own pace (enquire at the major hotels about arranging this), but take a ferry to the Chipei Island if you want to relax on a stunning stretch of golden sand.
Note: the lifeguards are a little too keen to show off their militant Baywatch skills! All swimmers are made to wear buoyancy vests and the bathing area is restricted to their whistle blowing range!
Ferries leave from Chihkan Pier, Paisha Island (which is connected by bridge to Penghu).
BEST UNUSUAL ATTRACTION
Stroll around the quaint capital, Makung, and explore the many tiny alleyways. It is reportedly home to the oldest temple in Taiwan. Approx. 376 years old, Matsu Temple is dedicated to the goddess of the seas and is well worth a visit, even if it is just to catch a glimpse of the fortune vending machine within!
BEST ACTIVITY AND TOUR
A rented scooter is the key to exploring the many tiny villages, sidetracking along the way to visit idyllic, isolated beaches.
Try the rental shop on the corner of Chungcheng and Chungshan Rd, opposite the Pao Hua Hotel.
The Penghu Youth Activity Center
11 Chiehshou Rd, Makung
One of the more interest
BEST LODGINGS ing places to stay. A terrace café overlooking the foreshore is a great spot for a nightcap. Private double rooms on the top floor (NT$1400) with a sloping ceiling have an attic feel about them, while cheaper dorm rooms (NT$2500 for groups of 10) are available. Book ahead in summer though. It is popular and there will be kids!
Seafood is, of course, a must. Outdoor dining by the fish market at the end of Sanmin Rd. is also a must. Order by checking out what your fellow diners are eating and indicate your preference.