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  • Writer's pictureRick

Matsu Tip: Planning to See the Blue Tears in Matsu Islands (马祖蓝眼泪)

In November 2019, I did an island-hopping journey in the Taiwan Strait from Xiamen, China (厦门), to the Kinmen Islands (金门), Penghu Islands (澎湖), a brief stopover in Taichung (台中), then the Matsu Islands (马祖) and ending in Taipei for the flight back to Singapore. On that trip, I was fascinated by photographs of the "Blue Tears" (蓝眼泪) in Matsu and planned to return to the islands to witness it 6 months later (supposedly in April or May 2020).

Unfortunately, COVID-19 came onto stage 3 months after the 2019 trip and refused to get off the stage until 3 years later — they are still lurking off-stage though. With the easing of travel restrictions to Taiwan (reinstatement of free visa for Singapore passport holder, no PCR test requirement, no quarantine) in September 2022, I finally have the opportunity to make my dream comes true this April / May — hopefully. The Blue Tears is a natural phenomenon and there is no guarantee it will always appear around the same period every year.

Information Gathering

I compiled some information on island-hopping in the Taiwan Strait 3 years ago and posted them (as listed below). I will be using these information, especially those about the Matsu Islands, to prepare my upcoming trip. With some experiences from the last trip, I hope that this trip will be more thorough.

1. The "need to know" for island hopping in the Taiwan Strait:

2. The planning process for the 2019 trip:

3. Transportations to & around Matsu Islands:

My Objectives for 2023

The main objective for my upcoming trip to the Matsu Islands (马祖列岛) is definitely for the Blue Tears. All I have to do to see the phenomenon is to be there physically and hope it appears in the nights that I am there. Thus, I am allocating 9 days (8 nights) on the Matsu Islands.

My second objective is to visit Dongyin Township (东引乡), which includes both Dongyin Island (东引岛) and Xiyin Island (西引岛), which I missed in 2019 as ferry services to Dongyin were halted due to strong winds during the Northeast monsoon.

The third objective is to revisit Dongquan Lighthouse (东犬灯塔) on Dongju Island (东莒岛) of Juguang Township (莒光乡). It was under maintenance in 2019 and did not give me some good photographs. There are some spots on the two main islands of Juguang Township that I was unable to cover in the last trip too.

The 3 objectives above are enough reasons for me to go island-hopping on the 4 main clusters of islands (Beigan, Nangan, Juguang and Dongyin) in the Matsu Islands again.

If all the 3 objectives cannot be achieved, my last objective will be to eat all of Matsu's local food again, including those that I missed in 2019. Since Matsu is going into its peak travel season, there is no reason to miss any nice food this time — unless sold out due to more travellers.

I am looking forward to eating the Old Wine Vermicelli (老酒面线) again! It is one dish that is hard to find outside of the Matsu Islands.

Below is a list of Matsu food to try. (😋 = I had tried before)

😋 Old wine vermicelli (北竿乡.镜沃小吃.老酒面线)

🔎 Old wine yellow croaker (老酒蒸黄鱼)

😋 Fried rice with red wine lees (红遭炒饭)

🔎 Meat with red wine lees (紅糟肉/排骨)

😋 Sweet potato dumpling (黃金地瓜餃

😋 Oyster puff (𧋘饼)

😋 Noodle made with fish (鱼面)

😋 Mussel (淡菜)

😋 Meat dumpling noodle (南竿乡.万家香二店.扁肉狗面)

😋 Wok-side noodle (南竿乡.阿妹的店.鼎边糊)

🔎 Swallow dumplings (南竿乡.阿妹的店.燕饺)

😋 Old wine soya pudding (南竿乡.津沙聚落.老酒豆花)

😋 Crispy pancake (东莒.美华.九万葱油饼)

🔎 Soya pudding & beancurd (东莒.国利豆花、豆腐)

😋 Kompia (继光餅)

🔎 Matsu burger (南竿乡.超群继光餅.马祖汉堡)

😋 Thousand Buddha hands shellfish (千佛手)

🔎 Cellana grata shellfish (海鋼盔)

🔎 Sorghum wine ice-cream (东引乡.福哥面馆.东湧陈高霜淇淋)

My Upcoming Itinerary

For the 17-day trip in 2019, which was during an off-peak season, I created an open-itinerary and embarked on the journey with minimum reservations. There were no shortage of accommodations and flights and I had greater flexibility for changes.

For the upcoming trip, which is during a peak travel season in the Matsu Islands, I have to book all my flights and accommodations as they are running out fast — I almost cancelled the trip due to no available flights but managed to work out some acceptable alternatives. As a result of all the advance reservations, my itinerary for Matsu is fixed with no room for changes. Any changes will likely to result in forgoing of deposits and whatever that are already paid.

Travelling via Fuzhou (福州), China, and the Three Mini-Links (小三通) is the shortest path from airport to the Matsu Islands. However, due to mandatory visa requirements for China (S$86 for single-entry; S$96 for double; no free-visa yet) during the post-COVID period, it costs more to transit via China. As such, I will take a flight to Taipei, stay a night and fly to Matsu the next day — an option that is time-consuming due to non-connecting flight schedules.

Day 1: Singapore Taipei

  • ✈️ 11:30 Singapore Changi Airport Taoyuan Airport (桃园机场)

  • 🚌 Guoguang Bus 1840 Songshan Airport (松山机场); OR 🚄 Taoyuan Metro to Taipei Main Station (Purple = Express Train)

  • Check-in accommodation in Songshan area

  • Raohe Night Market (饶河夜市):胡椒饼、药炖排骨

Day 2: Taipei Beigan

  • Half-day in Taipei

  • ✈️ 15:40 Songshan Airport Beigan Airport (北竿机场)

  • Check-in homestay in Tangqi Village (塘岐村)

  • Revisit Tanghou Beach (塘後道沙灘)

  • 🌊 Find blue tears @ Beigan

Day 3: Full-day on Beigan

  • Bus to Baisha Harbour (白沙港)

  • Hike to Clam Islet (蛤蜊岛)

  • Visit Banli Village (坂里古厝)

  • Hike to Bishan Lookout (璧山观景台)

  • Revisit Luoshan Nature Trail (螺蚌山自然步道)

  • 🌊 Find blue tears @ Beigan

Day 4: Full-day on Beigan

  • Check-out homestay

  • Visit Qinbi Village (芹壁村)

  • Check-in to homestay in Qinbi

  • 14:00 ⛵️ → Sika deers on Daqiu Island (大岛梅花鹿)

  • Visit Qiaozai Village (桥仔聚落)

  • 🌊 Find blue tears @ Beigan Qinbi

Day 5: Beigan Nangan

  • Explore Qinbi Village / Qiaozai Village

  • ⛴️ Beigan Baisha Harbour (北竿白沙港) → Nangan Fu'ao Harbour (南竿福澳港)

  • Check-in Fuaowo Homestay in Fu'ao Village (福澳村.福澳窝民宿)

  • Revisit Eighty-Eight Tunnel (八八坑道)

  • Visit Jieshou Village (介寿村):萬家香二店

  • Visit Fuxing Village (复兴村):依嬤的店.马祖风味餐

  • 🌊 Find blue tears @ Nangan

Day 6: Day Trip to Juguang (莒光一日游)

  • ⛴️ 7:00 Nangan Fu'ao Harbour → Xiju Qingfan Harbour (青帆港)

  • See Kunqiu Beach (坤坵沙灘)

  • Revisit Caipu Bay (菜埔澳)

  • ⛴️ 11:00 Xiju Qingfan Harbour → Dongju Meng'ao Harbour (猛澳港)

  • Revisit Fuzheng Village (福正聚落)

  • Revisit Dongquan Lighthouse (东犬灯塔)

  • ⛴️ 15:20 Dongju Meng'ao Harbour → Nangan Fu'ao Harbour

  • 🌊 Find blue tears @Nangan

Day 7: Full-day on Nangan

  • Revisit Statue of Mazu (妈祖巨神像)

  • Revisit Jinsha Village (津沙聚落)

  • Visit Yuntaishan (云台山)

  • Visit Iron Fort (铁堡)

  • 🌊 Find blue tears @ Nangan

Day 8: Nangan Dongyin

  • Check-out Fuaowo Homestay

  • ⛴️ 9:30 Nangan Fuao Harbour Dongyin Zhongzhu Harbour (东引中柱港)

  • Check-in homestay on Dongyin

  • See Northern-most point of Taiwan (国之北疆)

  • 2-5pm Buy ferry ticket back to Nangan

  • 🛍 Buy wine @ Dongyin Liquor Factory (东引酒厂)

  • See Dongyin Lighthouse (东引岛灯塔)

  • 🌊 Find blue tears @ Dongyin

Day 9: Dongyin → Nangan → Beigan

Option 1: Sail from Dongyin to Keelung (基隆) — 10 hours on sea, but no ferry

Option 2: Fly from Nangan to Taichung / Songshan — all tickets sold out

Option 3: Back to Beigan, stay a night and fly the next morning — my last option

  • ⛴️ 6:30 Dongyin Zhongzhu Harbour Nangan Fu'ao Harbour

  • 🛍 Buy wine @ Matsu Liquor Factory (马祖酒厂)

  • Jieshou Village (介寿村)

  • ⛴️ 13:00 Nangan Fu‘ao Harbour Beigan Baisha Harbour

  • Check-in same homestay in Tangqi Village

  • 🌊 Find blue tears @ Beigan

Day 10: Beigan Taipei → Chiayi

  • ✈️ 8:20 Beigan Airport Songshan Airport

  • 🚆 Train from Songshan to Chiayi

  • Check-in accommodation

  • Alishan Forest Train Garage Park (阿里山森林铁路车库园区)

  • Wenhua Night Market (文化夜市)

Day 11: Chiayi → Fenchihu

  • 🚂 8:30 Forest Train to Fenchihu (奋起湖)

  • Fenchihu Old Street, eat train bento

  • Check-in homestay

  • Fenchihu Old Old Street

  • Starry Starry Night (星空小木屋), Bamboo Forest, Train Garage, etc

Day 12: Fenchihu → Chiayi → Miaoli

  • Fenchihu Old Street, shop, eat train bento again

  • 🚂 14:30 Forest Train back to Chiayi Train Station

  • 🚆 Train from Chiayi to Miaoli

  • Check-in homestay

Day 13: Miaoli

  • Cafes, shopping, etc

  • 🛍 Buy bottarga (乌鱼子), beef jerky (牛肉干), etc.

Day 14: Miaoli → Taoyuan → Singapore

  • Miaoli Taoyuan Airport (桃园机场)

  • Submit SG Arrival Card!!

  • ✈️ 15:55 Taoyuan Airport Singapore Changi Airport

* Sunrise is around 5:35am and sunset is around 6:15pm in April ~ May.

* See Taiwan Central Weather Bureau for tide information.

How I Plan Trips

I have never joined a tour group in my life — except short tours when on the trips — and have been planning all itineraries myself. I prefer to travel with an open itinerary, usually around 2 weeks. If I can help it, I will avoid peak travel seasons since I have to make advance bookings that fix an itinerary and I have to keep to it — just like this upcoming trip.

To me, a plan is not meant to be followed strictly. It is a means to "anticipate" what may happen on the trip and to be mentally prepared — sometimes, physically too. Information that are gathered from the Internet may not always be correct or up-to-date and will need clarifications when on the ground. There should be some allowance to alter a plan based on new information, especially from locals who know better. However, this is usually not achievable during peak seasons.

Lastly, I travel to experience local cultures, try local food and see scenic landscapes —landmarks, natural, agricultural, etc. I am not really keen in visiting museums, unless they have something that can greatly interest me when on the trip, but not during the planning stage.

I hope to see the blue tears on this trip so I don't have to go back to the Matsu Islands again during a peak season. In fact, I like the Matsu Islands and will want to go back again and again — hopefully without itineraries.

My actual itinerary

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