I don’t know if there is an actual word for what we planned to do next. I call it a vacation within a vacation, if that makes any sense. China is an incredible place, full of history and culture, natural beauty and the urban high life. But China is also the most overpopulated place on Earth, and as the saying goes, “good things come in small doses.”
So for our final stop on our trip, we decided to (technically) leave China behind and go to the island of Kinmen, two kilometers from the port city of Xiamen. Although it is nestled right in the heart of a bustling Chinese port, the island is officially part of the country of Taiwan. As such, the island has a distinctly different culture and history than the nearby city of Xiamen. And for the foreign traveler, it is prudent to remember that Kinmen is a separate country from China – be sure to apply for a multiple-entry Chinese visa if you plan to go to Kinmen and return to China, or you may find yourself stranded at the ferry dock. Additionally, Taiwan has its own visa policies that must be taken into consideration as well. It should go without saying that Xiamen and Kinmen also use different currencies; you may exchange Chinese yuan (¥) for Taiwanese dollars at the Wutong Ferry Terminal in Xiamen.
For me, this was the best part of our entire trip. We had traveled to mainland Taiwan a year earlier, and it was an incredible trip. I have never had a bad time in Taiwan, and that still holds true. If you’re looking for an international destination, I highly recommend it.
The plan was to spend two days in Kinmen, and then two days in Xiamen before returning to South Korea. That plan lasted all of about 20 seconds once we arrived in Kinmen. We ended up extending our stay there, and only returned to Xiamen to catch our flight back to Incheon.
We booked our stay at the W Guesthouse, located in the center of the island. It was by far the best choice of accommodations we made throughout the entire trip.
The owner/operator Mr. Weng is incredibly friendly, and will go the extra mile to make your stay perfect. When we arrived at the guesthouse, he set us up in a newly renovated room. The guesthouse is actually Mr. Weng’s home, and includes a traditional-style Taiwan house. This house was our room for the three days, and we had the entire place to ourselves.
Every morning at 8am Mr. Weng would come to the courtyard of our guesthouse with breakfast. He did this on his own, and we never had to pay for a thing. He would also offer to drive us anywhere on the island we wanted to go, even though we had rented bicycles for the duration of our stay. Yet another great thing about Kinmen: bicycles are free to rent from the island’s Visitor Center at the main bus station in Jinning county.
For a break from the extreme hustle and bustle of China, I’d highly recommend a side trip to Kinmen. However, after speaking with Mr. Weng and his son (who attended high school at Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania – a rival school from my Valley View alma mater), plans are in the works to build a bridge between Kinmen and Xiamen. This will bring a lot of new tourists to the island, and land has already been purchased to construct casinos. So in short, this hidden treasure won’t stay hidden for much longer.
LOGISTICS: To get to Kinmen, you can catch a ferry from the Wutong Ferry Terminal (五通客运码头) in Xiamen, China. Ferries between Xiamen and Kinmen run on a regular schedule between 8am and 6:30pm. The ferry ride will be about 20-30 minutes. Tickets cost ¥150 ($24 USD) from Xiamen to Kinmen; slightly less from Kinmen to Xiamen. Remember that Kinmen is not part of China, so make sure your Chinese visa allows for multiple entries. More information can be found here.