Beigang, Matsu Islands: The Asian Mediterranean
After spending 4 days exploring military forts and experiencing the iconic blue tears on the island of Nangang, our eyes were set on our next adventure on another of the Matsu Islands. Thankfully, we wouldn’t need to go too far!
Our next stop was within sight and would only take a short ferry ride to get there. The question was, would the island of Beigang hold up to the very high standards set by our previous Matsu experience? Thankfully, we wouldn’t be disappointed!
The first task of the day was to head to the Nangang’s port and hop on a ferry! Jess wasn’t too happy with the prospect of going on the water, but thankfully her ordeal was over before it began. I didn’t even have a chance to let my coffee cool down!
Another Island, Another Scooter
I LOVE scooters! Whether it’s the chaotic streets of Bali or the winding mountain roads of Thailand, there’s no better way of travelling than on the back of these revving little beasts! They give you such a sense of freedom! You’re not trapped in a non-airconditioned bus or have to adhere to poorly scheduled trains. You have a license to roam over much more ground; the possibilities are endless!
That was the case back on Nangang, and it would be the same here. Sadly though, the equipment wasn’t quite up to standard. Turns out pretty much every scooter rented on the island came from the same vendor, and they seemed to be used until they would inevitably fall apart. Ours was just a couple of miles away from that.
If the pitiful helmets and exposed battery weren’t enough, we only figured out one of the brakes didn’t work as we approached a corner at high-speed. Slowly does it for the rest of the journey.
Time to put the scooter to the test! While popping from one temple to the next, we searched for a better view of the island. We made our way along a back road which led towards the coast of Beigang and met a common foe, the poor choice of roads of the Matsu Islands.
Rather than having an even paved road throughout, instead, the backroads of Matsu and Beigang alike consist of two rows of paved slabs with cobbled stones in-between. You’re essentially forced to adhere to a motorcycle exam as you stick within the narrow-paved road. You’re inches away from veering into the cobbled madness and a spinal shattering.
Not only that, but the surrounding landscapes had begun reclaiming the roads as the plant life began to arch over and whip us as we drove along! Thankfully, the view was worth the effort.
The ultimate guide on visiting the aboriginal volcanic island off the coast of Taiwan, Lanyu.
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Arriving in the Mediterranean
Next, we headed to the next and final village of our trip, and what a way to end things. We were heading to Qinbi Village, the epitome of a traditional fishing commune.
Though Nangang has the occasional authentic cottage that stood there since fishermen ruled these lands, the entirety of Qinbi was made up of these traditional stone buildings. Much like anything you’d find on the coasts of southern Italy, the houses were stacked upon each other along the coast with cobbled alleyways leading in-between them.
It was easily the most photogenic village across Matsu, and just like other places on the islands, it had avoided any real tourist influence. Apart from a few very local restaurants and a single 7/11 which was beautifully camouflaged in authentic stone brick walls, it was as traditional as could be. A great base for the rest of our trip.
Patriotism At Its Best
As was the case with all the Matsu Islands, China was within an unnervingly close view of Beigang. In fact, it was even closer than before. Before you could only see the rough misty outline of villages, now we could make out individual buildings. We could see whether or not the wind turbines across the coast were turning, or when the local fishing boats decided to set sail.
As such, the people of Matsu have a much closer affinity to their mainland counterparts. They have an untold amount of sympathy for their compatriots stuck under the rule of dictators, and they weren’t afraid to share their opinions on the matter.
Against many of the houses carved out in stone were several slogans such as “save our mainland compatriots” or more terrifyingly “kill the mainland leaders and dictators”. Kinda put an ominous tone to this otherwise heavenly village.
The Problem with Taiwanese Desserts
While making our way through the winding alleyways, we stopped off at one of the most famous snack spots for some traditional Taiwanese desserts.
Asian food is amongst the most delicious, vibrant and mouth-watering cuisine you will ever hope to try. From Indian and Thai to Chinese and Korean, there are hundreds of incredible dishes to choose from.
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But sadly, Asian desserts fucking SUCK! I don’t care what anyone has to say on the matter, Asian’s are not the masters of the sweet tooth by any means. Yes, of course, we in the West live off of sugar-infused diabetic delights, but that’s what desserts should be!!
We stopped at a spot that served a Taiwanese classic, shaved ice. The premise isn’t that bad, you can do a lot with shaved ice. Bang some sweet syrups on there, maybe some chocolate sauce and a couple of enticing toppings, but noooo. These are traditional Asian toppings that, quite frankly, do not have any place on top of a dessert!
Red beans, sweet potato balls, mung beans, chia seeds, I mean what the fuck?! Where’s the tooth-rotting sweetness?! I found myself limited to the brown sugar syrup that they sparingly drizzled over the top. There are plenty of things I love about Asia, but their desserts isn’t one of them.
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This whole Matsu trip had a military theme running through it which continued during our time on Beigang. As much as Jess couldn’t be less interested, I was playing army each time we visited a new place. I love any site related to war history or the military in general. That was the case when exploring caves in Okinawa or the abandoned bunkers on Gili Trawangan. This next site however might be my all-time favourite.
We were headed to the peak of a nearby cliff which apparently had some military forts, not too uncommon for these parts. What we found though was an artillery gun, with a twist. You might have come across some deactivated ones with a “do not climb” sign attached…but this one was different…it fucking WORKED!
Of course, it wasn’t able to fire shells (sadly), but it moved!! Like your grandad would have done in those old black and white military films, you could sit on the adjoined seats and crank the handles to reposition the gun! It was fucking amazing!!
For a good 20 minutes, Jess sat on the side with a grumbled look of an inpatient mother as I repositioned the gun to fire at imaginary targets and unleashed a myriad of sound effects. A little boy’s dream come true!
The Island of Deer
Sadly, for Jess, our second day wouldn’t be her cup of tea either! First, we started with another short boat ride which dropped us off at our third and last island of the trip, Daqiu. The island is completely uninhabited, though it is home to one notorious group of cuties, sika deer.
So, how did the deer find themselves on this tiny island? Well, Daqiu also used to play host to the military, who established a few bases and forts across the coast. To feed the hungry soldiers, they brought over sika deer which were indigenous to mainland Taiwan. Once the army left, the sika were left to their own devices and have since thrived on their own.
Unfortunately for Jess, she despises every sort of animal on God’s green earth and is convinced that even a fluffy antlered little deer’s sole purpose is to murder her on-site.
Nevertheless, I had the time of my life feeding the adorable little bambis with the leaves we had been provided and took my opportunity to get as many cuddles as I could.
A Fitting Farewell
After a whole week of exploring, for our final evening we took the opportunity to kick back and enjoy the sunset fall over the horizon. We sat in the upper courtyard of our BnB (check it out here!) in clear view of the rest of the village, which all came into itself with the vague orange glow of the sun against the brick stone village.
Not only was it a fitting farewell to Matsu, but as the sun disappeared over the distant mountains of China, it was also a fitting farewell to the place I once called home, the place that I never thought I would see again. Goodbye China, goodbye Matsu, and hello to my next adventure.
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