Where Taiwan and China (Almost) Meet

Where Taiwan and China (Almost) Meet

I often tell people I was “trapped” in Taiwan during covid-19, which isn’t entirely inaccurate. The country’s borders were closed; when I did finally leave, I ended up being locked out for over two years. So I stayed as long as I could.

Being somewhere wonderful even partially against your will can make you resent it—and I did develop some resentment toward Taiwan during the pandemic era. But my captivity also forced me to explore places in Taiwan I probably never would’ve seen otherwise.

Is Kinmen island worth visiting? Well, thanks to a trip I took in July 2020, I can now answer that question—not many people whose first language is English can.

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Why I Visited Kinmen in the First Place

While I was of course pondering the question of whether Kinmen (which is actually pronounced jin-men) might be worth visiting in July of 2020, the reality is that I mostly just wanted to get on a plane again. By this point, more thna four months had passed since I’d left Taiwan. Taiwan’s “temporary” border closure seemed more and more permanent, and I honestly started to wonder whether things would ever go back to normal.

To put it another way, I didn’t want to visit the Kinmen Islands—I needed to visit them. I needed to go anywhere that wasn’t part of my normal routine, where a sense of discovery and newness might help me to forget, even for a second, how hopeless and pointless the world had become. The question, as my short flight from Songshan Airport descended, was if Kinmen was the place to do that.

My Favorite Things to Do in Kinmen

Explore Southern Min architecture


I’m a bit architecture buff, even though I’ve never studied it and can’t speak or write about it with much authority. I’ve also never been to China’s Fujian province, so I can’t speak to how authentic the Southern Min-style buildings in Kinmen area, namely Shuitou Village. But man, they’re pretty!

Discover local cuisine


I’ll be honest: Food was not a huge part of my Kinmen itinerary. It tends to be heavy on seafood (namely, this green barnacle called kamenote) and also one peanuts, which I like but are not my favorite food. With this being said, I did have a Taiwanese snowflake ice with a peanut topping, and it was…fine.

Face the threat head-on


As you can imagine, the Kinmen islands are replete with attractions that play up their past (and likely future) as a military crossroads. These include closer-to-town attractions like Gugang Tower, as well as the Army Museum at Mashan Observation Point, which leans pretty heavily into this.

Live the slow life


Is Kinmen island worth visiting? Well maybe not if proper tourist attractions are all you care to see. You exhaust this list quickly; past this point,  the best thing to do is to explore these rural islands more intently. Well, largely rural—walking to tranquil Jiangongyu Islet, you can see the skyscrapers of Xiamen gleaming in the distance.

Take a day trip (but maybe not to China)


I’ve mentioned “Kinmen Islands” many times in this post, but have so far only talked about the main island. That’s because while you can ride a ferry over to smaller Lieyu island to see the Jiugong Tunnels , it’s not the most exciting day trip. For that, you’ll probably need to head to the PRC—well, if you have a China visa.

How Many Days Do You Need in Kinmen?

Like Taiwan as a whole, the Kinmen Islands require more time than you’re probably planning to spend. They appear tiny on the map, but there’s a lot of detail you’ll want to dig into—if you’re here and there’s not a pandemic, it’s because digging deep is what you do as a traveler. I stayed three nights, and while that’s probably a bit more if you’re only spending a week or two in Taiwan, it’s a good number to aim for.

Presuming you can stay at least two nights, however—it’s not really worth flying all the way there just to stay a night, and certainly not for a day trip—I’d actually encourage you not to think much about how many days in Kinmen, beyond this. Rather, I encourage you to focus your energy on making sure all your days are jam-packed, since there’s no telling when you might make it back after this point.

Other FAQ About Visiting Kinmen

How do I get to the Kinmen Islands?

The only practical way to reach the Kinmen Islands from mainland Taiwan is to fly nonstop from Taipei’s Songshan Airport. However, if you are planning to be in Xiamen, China and wish to visit Kinmen, you can of course take a short ferry ride over.

Can foreigners take a ferry from Kinmen to Xiamen?

Foreigners can traveler between Kinmen and Xiamen by ferry in principle. However, do keep in mind that you’ll need to meet immigration requirements for both Taiwan and China in order to do this. Namely, you’ll need to a valid China visa if you’re going from Kinmen to Xiamen, or back to Xiamen after visiting Kinmen.

How to get around in Kinmen?

Although there are some bus services in Kinmen, the reality is that it’s best to rent a car if you want to get around. This is especially important on shorter trips, since you don’t have the luxury of time—or, more to the point, of being able to depend on skeletal bus schedules.

The Bottom Line

Is Kinmen island worth visiting? Definitely, though I hope you don’t need to be trapped in Taiwan during a pandemic in order to realize this. Closer to China than it is to mainland Taiwan, Kinmen (which is actually pronounced jin-men in Chinese) somehow manages to feel both Chinese and Taiwanese at the same time, with the islands’ iconic Southern Min architecture contrasting with fortifications and deterrents points in the direction of nearby Xiamen city. Need personalized help integrating Kinmen into the rest of your trip? Hire me to plan your custom Taiwan itinerary!


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