2019 Taiwan Day 2: Revisiting Little Kinmen & Shuitou Old Village
Date: 15th November 2019, Friday
One good thing with staying at a no-breakfast accommodation was the flexibility to seek out local food for breakfast. And one of the food that Kinmen locals usually had for breakfast was the Guangdong congee (广东粥). A shop that served this local favourite was just round the corner from Backpack Home 497, where I stayed.
So I went to Lian Cheng Guangdong Congee (连城广东粥) and ordered a minced pork with century egg congee (皮蛋瘦肉粥, NT$60) and a fried dough stick (NT$10). It had been 7 years since I last tried the congee and I still liked the taste.
After breakfast, I walked to Jincheng Bus Station and took Bus 7 back to Shuitou Pier (水头码头). The bus would make two stops at the pier, one at the international centre for ferries to one of the Xiamen ports in mainland China, and the other one next to a 7-Eleven store for the domestic ferry to Lieyu Township (烈屿乡) or more commonly known as Little Kinmen (小金门), a smaller island off the coast of the larger Kinmen island. I alighted at the latter stop.
Seeing a short queue at a sales desk for tickets to Little Kinmen, I followed suit and bought a ticket for NT$60 in cash. I had forgotten that payment for the fare could be made using Easycard at the entrance to the ferry boarding area. Anyway, using the card was simply for convenience, there was no discount or whatsoever over paying with cash.
At 9am sharp, the speed boat named "Taiwu" (太武号) departed from Shuitou Pier. It reached Jiugong Pier (九宫码头) in Lieyu Township ten minutes later.
While Kinmen was known as "the hometown of the Wind Lion Gods (风狮爷的故乡)", Lieyu Township was known as "the hometown of the Wind Roosters (风鸡的故乡)", and a number of wind rooster statues could be found scattered across the little island.
I recalled that shared bicycles were available for free outside the pier but the service seemed to have ceased. Instead of bicycles, there were now scooters for rent but driving licenses were required. I did not have a motorcycle driving license so the local bus service was my only option to get around the island other than to walk.
In January 2013, I had cycled round the little island and explored most of the military-turned-tourist-attractions that dotted the coast and had no intentions to repeat that journey. I intended to explore a few places along Jiujing Road (九井路) as I planned to be on the island for just half a day.
A check on the local bus schedule showed that the next bus was 30 minutes away. I decided to revisit Jiugong Tunnel (九宫坑道), which was about 100 metres from the pier.
The entrance of Jiugong Tunnel was also the Visitor Centre of Lieyu Township (烈屿游客中心). It was a great first-stop for first-time visitors to find out more about Little Kinmen before embarking to explore the small island.
I also took a stroll in the ex-military tunnel that had became a tourist attraction.
Unfortunately, I spent more than 30 minutes in Jiugong Tunnel, missed the bus and had to wait for the next one. While waiting in the Visitor Information Centre at Jiugong Pier, I noticed some Taiwanese tourists queuing to have their particulars checked at a counter. They were going to visit Dadan Island (大胆岛), the bigger of two islands to the southwest of Little Kinmen. The military-controlled island opened to public from March 2019 but required registration of at least 7 days in advance for both locals and foreigners. The mandatory guided tour fee was NT$1,500.
I would probably visit the island on a future trip...
At 10:10am, I boarded the local bus and offed to my first destination. But, the bus went a little too fast and I missed the stop for Xi Fang Village (西方聚落) — despite the fact that I had asked the driver if the bus would be going to the village, he did not even slow down or stop at the village. By the time I realised I had missed and alighted at Bada Tower (八达楼子), I was about 800 metres away from Xi Fang Village. I had to put my own legs to work.
Instead of saying that it was a 800-metre-all-for-nothing hike to Xi Fang Village, I did came across some sorghum paddy fields (高粱稻田) by the roadsides. The paddies had turned golden brown under the late-autumn sun. Visiting sorghum fields was also one of my travel objectives for this trip as I had missed the season to see the fields when I was last in Kinmen 7 years back.
20 minutes later, I reached Xi Fang Village. The village comprised of both new buildings and old Minnan-style houses. Most of the old structures were unoccupied but well preserved. There was even a modern commercial street, named Huiyin Street (回音巷), to the west of the village, but it was deserted with most shops closed during the off-peak season.
I was here in search of a little Hundred-Year-Old Wind Lion God (百年风狮爷), situated just beside the village's main temple (释迦佛祖玄天上帝宫). There were also the Deity of North Wind (北风爷) and a wind rooster to the northwest of the village. An hour later, I had combed the village and decided to have lunch here.
Eager to try only local food, I came to a bento (or lunch box) shop in Xi Fang Village — named Jingzhan (京站小吃) — at around 11:40am. It was probably the only eatery in the village that was opened during this time of the year. For just NT$80, I could pick one main and any three sides from a range of selections. And I picked a chicken thigh, three sides and a bowl of minced pork rice (卤肉饭). It was delicious — the Taiwanese-popular minced pork rice was really good — and cheap! The portion was rather large too and I almost could not finish it.
After a full lunch, I walked back the way I came, passed the sorghum fields and eventually returned to Bada Tower (八达楼子), with statues of soldier aiming with their rifles on top of the stone tower in the middle of a roundabout. It was a small landmark, but I was more interested in the factory besides it.
Little Kinmen's famous peanut crisps wrapped in bamboo leaves (竹叶贡糖) was the main reason why I revisited the island. I really missed its taste. Jin Rui Cheng Factory (金瑞城竹叶贡糖厂) had a new garlic-flavoured peanut crisps that I liked very much too. I bought two packs at NT$100 each.
After getting what I had came for, I decided to head back to the pier. But I chose to walk and continue to check out sights and shops along Jiujing Road. 30 minutes later, I came to Luocuo Mazu Goddess Park (罗厝妈祖公园) on a small hill. The large stone statue of the Chinese sea goddess, Mazu (妈祖), stood on the hill glazing over the sea between the two Kinmen islands.
It was just 8 minute's walk from the park to Jiugong Pier. And I made it just in time for the 1:30pm ferry back to Kinmen. This time, I paid for the NT$60 ticket with EasyCard.
Another 10 minutes and I was back on Kinmen. Based on the bus schedule, the next bus to Jincheng Bus Station would be at 2pm, I decided to walk to Shuitou Village (水头聚落), which was about 1Km from Shuitou Pier. I reached the village at 2pm.
The preserved houses in Shuitou Village were largely similar to Xi Fang Village, with traditional Minnan-style architectures. In addition, there were oriental-western-combo-style mansions built by wealthy merchants too. One of the more notable ones was Deyue Gun Tower (得月楼), which was a defensive measure against robbers in the olden days. The compound was opened to public for free.
Next to Deyue Gun Tower was another mansion that had been setup as a Wind Lion God Cultural Museum (风狮爷文物坊). It had a little cafe that served specialty beverages such as Mao Zedong milk tea (毛泽东奶茶), Chiang Kai-shek special brew (蒋介石特调) and Kaoliang wine coffee (美酒加咖啡). I ordered the wine-coffee (NT$80) and also bought a moghania root herbal egg (一条根药膳蛋) for NT$20 to try.
After resting at the cafe for an hour, I headed to the bus stop outside Shuitou Village and took Bus 7 or 7B back to Jincheng Town. I reached the bus station at about 4pm. It was way too early to end the day, so I headed to Jincheng old town again. I wanted to try the oyster puff from the stall next to the Chastity Arch, which was closed on Day 1. I queued for almost an hour for one oyster puff (NT$35) despite it being an off-peak season. The oyster puff still tasted as good as 7 years ago.
After the little snack, I headed back to Backpack Home 497 to have a rest and shower. Then I joined other solo travellers and chit-chatted in the inn — exchanging information — until it was time to go for dinner some two hours later.
It was already 7:30pm. I did not go very far for dinner. There was a Zhongli beef noodle shop (中坜牛肉面) just 50 metres from the inn. Taiwan beef noodle was also one of my favourites. At NT$120, the bowl of beef noodle was completely covered by braised beef shanks. I liked the tender beef and the nice soup, and I cleaned up the whole bowl.
After dinner, I took a short walk and then back to the inn to rest for the day.
In just two days, I had re-tasted all four of Kinmen's specialties that I identified 7 years ago.