Matsu

Travel Guide Asia Taiwan Matsu

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Introduction

Matsu (馬祖) is the name for a group of island's off China's southern coast, approximately 160 kilometres northwest from the island of Taiwan. The island falls under the jurisdiction of the Republic of China (ROC on Taiwan) and along with Kinmen, forms the front lines between the ROC and the People's Republic of China (PRC).

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Geography

The Matsu Islands compose of 19 islands and islets, which include five major islands, which are Nangan, Dongju and Xiju (both in Juguang Township), Beigan and Dongyin. Minor islands include Liang (亮島), Gaodeng (高登), Daqiu (大坵) and Xiaoqiu (小坵), which are all belong to the Beigan Township. Dongyin is the northernmost and Dongjyu is the southernmost.

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Sights and Activities

  • Iron fort - Built as an outpost manned by special forces near a location vulnerable to water ghosts (Chinese People's Liberation Army frogmen infiltrators), the fort has been decommissioned and opened to tourists. You must travel down a winding road. Few decide to visit this location, and it can be dark going through the bunker.
  • Mazu Temple - The religious center of Matsu, goddess of the sea. Matsu was supposedly buried here once, her personal belongings are interred in the center.
  • Folk Cultural Artifacts Exhibition Hall - Museum sheds light on life and culture on Matsu. Also has AC, so great way to escape the heat.

Andong and Beihai tunnels - Hollowed out tunnels going in for hundreds of metres. Previously used by the military, they are now open to the public.

  • Suicide cliff
  • Dongyong and Dongcyuan lighthouses
  • Bird Watching
  • Fujian architecture
  • Fuxing Village (NiouJiao). Fantastic village with stone houses build against the mountain on the sea. Can spend hours wandering. Check out the temple for some great views.
  • The Huge Statue of Matsu. Near the Matsu Temple in Matsu Village is a huge statue. Follow directions for Matsu Park and drive up, up, up. Great views of China.

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Events and Festivals

Buddha Bathing Festival

The Buddha bathing festival takes place on April 8 and is a Buddhist religious ceremony celebrating the birth of the Lord Buddha. The faithful bow three times to the Lord Buddha and then pour water and flowers of a statue of the baby Buddha.

Tomb Sweeping Day

Tomb Sweeping Day usually falls in early April and is a public holiday in Taiwan. Taiwanese people pray and tend to the graves of their departed relatives. Willow branches are used to decorate graves and doors in some areas and the flying of kites, carrying of flowers, and burning of incense, paper and joss sticks is common.

Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival is a June public holiday originating from China that is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The day is celebrated in Taiwan with dragon boat races, eating glutinous rice dumplings, drinking wine and writing spells.

Autumn Moon Festival

The Moon Festival talks place in late September or early October, on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The festival celebrates harvest time and is characterized by giving and eating moon cakes. Dragon dances, floating lanterns, fireworks and burning incense are also common.

Ghost Festival

September is Ghost Month in Taiwan with the gates of the underworld opening on the first day and closing on the last. Throughout the month, both Buddhist and Taoist religious rituals take place that include to offerings of food, drink and burnt paper money appease the dead. Many Taiwanese avoid moving house or getting married during this month.

Double Ten Day

Double Ten Day falls on the tenth of October and is the Republic of China National Day, celebrating the start of the Wuching uprising in 1911 that resulted in the defeat of the Qing Dynasty. Proceedings begin with the raising of the Republic of China flag and singing of the Republic of China national anthem. There is a Taiwanese presidential speech and celebrations include lion dances, drumming, and fireworks.

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Weather

Average annual temperature is 18.6 °C, with the average low being at 13 °C and average high at 29 °C. The daily temperature varies greatly during day and night. The region experiences subtropical maritime climate, which is influenced by monsoon and ocean currents and its geographic location. Matsu has four seasons, where during winter it is cold and wet, during summer and spring it is foggy and during autumn the weather is generally stable.

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Getting There

By Plane

Matsu is serviced by Beigan and Nangan Airport with domestic flights from Taipei and other cities in Taiwan but mainly from Taipei. Nankan has a larger landing strip, so more frequent flights, from Taipei and Taichung touch down here. Beigan is served by only one carrier, few flights daily from Taipei. Fog can often delay flights, particularly between March and May. Ticket prices are set by the government, but travelers are advised to purchase the tickets a few days in advance (particularly over weekends/holidays) as the aircraft are small and the flights are often full on departure.

Purchasing a package is the best way to travel to Matsu. Eztravel offers great deals that include hotel, flight, and breakfast. It seems travel agents buy out summer tickets, so it may be the only option to travel there in the summer on a weekend.

By Boat

Regular ferry service used mostly by military personnel runs between Matsu and Keelung. The Tai-Ma Ferry (tel. 02-24246868) takes ten hours and departs nightly from Keelung at 11:00pm, calling at Dongyin after eight hours and then arriving two hours later at Nangan. The return journey is an hour later, but only calls at Dongyin on alternate days. Tickets vary between NT$630 and NT$1890, depending on the bed (seat, dorm, quad or twin). One-way ticket can be reserved within 7 days before the ferry departure date.

There is also a boat to mainland China, specifically Mawei, a suburb of Fuzhou.

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Getting Around

Nangan's Fuaogang (Fuao Harbour) is the central terminal for all inter-island ferries. Main routes departing from Nangan include:

  • Beigan's Baishagang (Baisha Harbour): NT$110. Regular, hourly service starting at 07:00 and ending at 17:10.
  • Dongyin (via Taima Ferry, ever other day): NT$350.
  • Jyuguang: 3 sailings per day, departing from Nangan at 07:00, 11:00, and 14:30. The first stop at from Sijyu (even numbered months) or Dongjyu (odd numbered months) at 07:50, 11:50, and 15:20. The other Jyuguang island is the second stop at 08:10, 12:10, and 15:40, returning to Nangan. NT$200.
  • Dongjyu and Sijyu: 4 sailings per day, both directions. NT$80.

Scooters are the best way of transportation around the islands. On Beigan's FuAo harbour contact 0933933124 for scooter rentals, or ask at any of the shops/hotels a few hundred metres from the docks. On Nangan, there are rental shops within walking distance of both Baisha Harbour and the airport. At the airport you can ask them to order one for you and they will pick you up.

Rent is usually NT$500-600 per day, but you can negotiate for multi-day discounts.

The islands are relatively small, but very hilly. If you are in good shape, it is possible to hike around the islands within 6 hours or so (not including stops at attractions), but sunscreen and lots of water are highly recommended during the summer. No bicycle rentals exist (as of 2012), but it is possible to bring a bicycle with you on the ferry.

The Tourism Bureau provides excellent backpackers maps free of charge at airports and visitor's centers.

Regular public bus service is provided on Beigan and Nangan by Lienchiang County Bus during daylight hours. The fare is NT$15 per boarding, payable by cash or EasyCard.

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Eat

Matsu is famous for its fantastic seafood. Be sure to try superb authentic northern Fujian cuisine at East Fujuin Pearl (22 Matzu village, Nankan) - the specialty is "Buddha Hand clams".

Fish noodles (ground fish meat combined with potato starch and salt to form a dough, which is then cut into noodles) is a local specialty - best place is Qinbi village on Beigan.

Jiguang pastry - Made from flour and baked in charcoal urns, these pastries resemble bagels in appearance (and slightly so in taste). They were used by General Chi Jiguang in the Ming Dynasty, so that his soldiers could carry their food on strings on their chests during long marches.

Golden dumplings: Made from sweet potatoes, with sweet peanut and sugar filling. Served cold with sweet pea soup.

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Drink

Matsu distills Tunnel 88 brand kaoliang (38 and 58 proof) sorghum liquor, and aged laojiou rice wine (around 30% alcohol). Free tastings and a video about the process at the Matsu distillery on Nangan Island.

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This is version 2. Last edited at 15:09 on Mar 11, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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