Okay, so I’m back, and I survived a GREAT trip to Matsu! Thanks everyone for the advice, especially “Rascal”, whose tips were spot-on.
Early Saturday morning I took a short flight to BeiGan ($1850, and I think it’s about one hour away from Taipei, but I can’t be sure ‘coz I was snoozin’ after about 2 minutes on the plane). There wasn’t much to see around the airport, so I took a taxi to the other side of the island and sailed off to NanKan.
From the boat, the view around the islands was quite beautiful, and it was a short trip (20 minutes) so there wasn’t much chance for “Ol’ Salty” to get seasick. At NanKan I was picked up by one of the staff from the “Coast of the Dawn” hotel who drove me to the other side of the island (gratis, since I’d made the booking) to the hotel. Now this place is quite special - very modern and beautiful beach views. Good value too, at $2100/night. Check it out at http://www.coasthotel.com.tw
From the hotel it’s a short walk down the road to the underground / underwater military tunnels that are open - at low tide(!) - for public view. It’s quite amazing; a huge tunnel system designed for ships to sneak in and dock, while being protected by the mountain above. Apparently it took more than 3 years to build, using dynamite and hand tools… and it’s huge; takes about 40 minutes to walk all the way around, though I couldn’t quite make it 'coz I was about to get flooded by the rising tide.
Nearby too was the Matsu GaoLiang (rice wine) Distillery, where I picked up half a dozen bottles of the bad stuff. I was able to get some “drug wine” - a man’s bottle and a woman’s bottle, which apparently has a medicinal value… I’m still a little scared to taste it.
On the island there’s some amazing views. I rented a motorbike ($500/day, with a free taxi pickup) and drove around most of NanKan. From many areas of you can actually view the beaches on your left AND right sides. The sad thing is that they’re nearly all the exclusive domain of the military. Come to think of it, it’s hardly any different than when on the main island of Taiwan, as all the best beaches are privately owned, anyway… So you have to be careful when you’re driving around. I tend to get a little carefree and curious, so that when I see a little track running through a forest (and especially when I’m on a rental bike), I like to race down it. Problem is that in Matsu, they ALL lead to army bases… Nevermind, all the soldiers I met were quite friendly!
There’s also a couple of good lookouts and temples worth seeing, and plenty of walking can be done. I copped a view of China from the top of a hill, farted in their general direction, and then ran back down the hill to the temple to pray for forgiveness…
Okay, so that was how I killed a day on Nankan. I’ll drop a story on BeiGan (it’s a little more interesting) as well as a couple of pictures later in the week, if I can work out how to do it…