Beigan Island is a one of the two largest Islands in Matsu (officailly Lienchiang County, Taiwan), and has some of the best preserved traditional stone made fishing villages on the islands. There are also many historical military sites, as the islands were part of the front line during the Chinese Civil War. It is easily accessible via airplane or boat from Taipei.
Thousands of years ago, stone aged peoples once inhabited the Matsu Islands, including Beigan Island itself. These stone aged people later disappeared.
The Matsu islands were inhabited again around the Song Dynasty (990 - 1200 AD) by Chinese Fisherman, the descendants of whom still inhabit the islands today.
During the Chinese Civil War, Matsu was used as a military outpost for the retreating ROC. During the years that followed, it withheld shelling and threats of invasion from China, helping to keep Taiwan free of communist control.
In 1992 after cross straight relations had warmed up, martial law was lifted on the islands and tourists were allowed to visit.
In 1994 Beigan Airport was opened, and was the only airport in Matsu for 9 years. In2003, the Nangan Airport was opened, which significantly lowered the number of travelers to Beigan. However fast and convenient boat travel has made it so that most tourists travel to both islands.
Beigan Island is the second largest island in Matsu (behind Nangan), and a population of about 2,500.
How to get there:
By Boat: There are boats from Nangan Fu'Ao Harbor (南竿福奧港) to Beigan Baisha Harbor (北竿白沙港) every hour from 7 AM to 5 PM. There are no daily routes to Beigan from other islands (except Daqiu).
By Plane: There are flights to and from Taipei Songshan Airport three times a day via Uni Air.
By Boat: 160 NT per person (one way from Nangan)
By Plane: About 2000 NT (one way from Taipei)
How to get around on the island:
Beigan is a large, hilly island and it would be very hard to get around on foot or bicycle. We recommend one of the following
By Scooter: We recommend riding a scooter as your #1 choice. It's fast, convenient, and there isn't much traffic on the island. A scooter will cost about 500 NT per day to rent.
When braking on hills, use both brakes, otherwise you could lose traction on one tire and skid. Don't stop or park on a slope. Also, some hills that are too steep are closed off for scooters.
By Car/Taxi: You can rent a car or hire a taxi for 200O NT per day.
By Bus: There is a bus that goes around the island, but wait times can be 30 minutes or more.
When to go:
We recommend going between April and June when the "blue tear" phosphorescent microbes in the water will be the most visible at night. Also, winters can be cold and windy and summers very hot, and there could also be typhoons in the summer and fall.
Please see below:
In this blog, we will cover the following:
We flew into Beigan from Taipei's Songshan Airport. It turned out well because we didn't have to go back forth between islands, Once we were done with Beigan, we went straight to Nangang and flew back from Nangan. Flights to Beigan are usually less crowded; there were quite a few empty seats on our way there. In the photo above you can see Beigan in the foreground and China in the background.
Beigan Airport sits right on the ocean next to Tangqi Village. The airport is pretty small, it only has one main room for arrival and departure, about the size of a small train station.
Tangqi Village next to the airport is the most populated place in Matsu and has the most restaurants, post office, 7-11, and a large sports facility.
Qiaozi Village 橋子聚落
From the airport, our hostel owner drove us directly to the hostel at Qiaozi Village. It's normal in Matsu for the hostel owner to pick you up from the airport and take you from the hostel.
The room was nice and the A/C worked well.
Our hostel owner also provided scooter rental for 500 NT a day.
There is a giant statue of Mussels (淡菜, literally known as fresh vegetables in Chinese) in front of Qiaozi Village, a local delicacy. More on that later.
Our hostel had been newly built right next to some very old traditional stone houses.
Right at our front door was a military fort on the beach, closed off to civilians.
The main village square in Qiaozi Village.
Some abandoned stone houses in the village. There are a lot of these in Beigan. It seems the roofs easily collapse, probably because of rotting wood.
Another abandoned stone house in the middle of town.
I can't tell if this is a storage pit or old army bunker.
It seems some of these stone houses light up at night, but I have no photos of that.
More old stone houses in the village. Some of these houses can only be reached via stairs.
The fishing harbor at Qiaozi where we took the boat to Daqiu Island.
Daqiu is an island just north of Beigan with hundreds of wild deer. See our full blog about it here.
View of Qiaozi Village at night.
Our free breakfast from the hostel, featuring the famous Matsu Hamburger.
Original style Matsu hamburger. It's actually really good.
The Matsu Hamburger is Actually called "Jiguang Bread" in Fujian, and was used as food for soldiers because it has a hole in it, making it easy to carry around. It is named after Qi Jiguang, a successful Ming Dynasty General who drove out the Wokou Pirates that had invaded Fujian in the mid 1500s AD. During the fighting, he invented what is now the Matsu Hamburger by commanding his men to make a portable salty bun with flour because he needed to move quickly. Now the people in Fujian all make this "Jiguang Bun" in remembrance of Qi Jiguang who drove the pirates out of Fujian. The bun is also made in Matsu, which was once part of Fujian, and has been known to mainland Taiwanese as the Matsu Hamburger.
Qinbi Village 芹壁聚落
Right next to Qiaozi Village is Qinbi Village, which might be the most beautiful village in all of the Matsu Islands.
"When the seas are calm in the bay at Qinbi, the water is clear as glass; this gave the place its old name of Jinggang meaning "Mirror Harbor." Now the village has become a popular tourist site known as "A Mediterranean Village in Matsu." In the bay is a huge stone that protrudes from the water in the shape of a turtle. Qinbi has the most representative traditional architecture in all of Matsu, with well-preserved houses that are the focus of attention buy architecture, art, and culture circles in Taiwan and overseas. The village, backed against the mountain and facing the sea, was developed by the Chen clan from Fujian Province in the late Qing Dynasty, the granite houses built in terraces along the contours of the mountain slope. The finest workmanship is to be seen the residence at No. 14, Qinbi Village which was built during the period of Japanese occupation by Chen Zhong-ping of the Japanese collaborationist "Army of Peace and National Salvation," later on, locals came to call it the "Pirate House." With the decline of the fishing industry the villagers began to move our in large numbers around 1970, leaving the village in desolation and disuse. Then the spirit of village preservation arose and, with government subsidies, the old houses were renovated beginning in 1997 and turned into home stays and restaurants. In the village today, with the houses packed closely together in orderly chaos in the mountain slope layers, you can stroll along the twisting, winding lanes and alleys and see, on the sides of the buildings, anti-Communist slogans such as "Recover the Mainland" and "Liberate Our Mainland Compatriots" that take you back in time to when Matsu was on the front lines in the struggle against communism."
This village does have a Mediterranean feel to it, but it is not the same. The architecture is unique, coming from Fujian province of China. Also, this island is also a military outpost. And there are blue tears here. Does the Mediterranean have blue tears? No!
The tile roofs here are held down by stones to keep them on the house during strong winds, which are a common thing during winter, and during typhoons.
A view of the village looking south.
The beach and pier at Qinbi. Some people are going Kyaking.
Many of the houses here can only be reached on foot by walking up stairs. Truly an ancient village!
Blue Tears 藍眼淚
View of Turtle Rock and the beach at Qinbi at night. Can you see the blue tear in the sand? Yeah it was a hard undertaking trying to photograph them this late in the season. We went in late July, but the high season for blue tears is April to June. We could see them with the naked eye, but they don't show up well on camera.
Here are some that I captured in a tidepool away from light.
This is the best photo that I got of the blue tears. The best photos are those that are far way from light sources. You will need a trip and an SLR camera that can adjust for a long shutter speed. Also, you will need another light source to make sure you have the right focus.
Last view of Qinbi Village from the elementary school.
Mastu Broadcasting Station 馬祖廣播站
Much like the famous Beishan Broadcasting Tower in Kinmen, the Matsu Broadcasting Tower is a tower with many megaphones that broadcasts anti-communist propaganda and popular Taiwanese music to China, only a few kilometers across the water. Now there is an artsy display on the side of the road.
There is a small path that leads from the roadside down to the tower.
It is hard to get the whole tower in one shot. I guess I could have made a pano, but I did not think of that at the time.
I guess in theory, all of these holes would have a loudspeaker pointing to China across the water.
The speakers on the lower levels have been dismantled.
There are stairs that lead up to the top of the tower.
Some live speakers and a hole in the wall.
There is an air conditioned room in here that I assume houses some soldiers that control the sound going to China.
Looking across the water to China (can't really see it because of the haze).
View of the broadcasting tower entrance.
Another view of the broadcasting tower from the road.
There are only two stoplights in Beigan, one is permanent and this one is temporary for road construction.
View of Banli Reservoir in Beigan (板里水庫).
In the middle of the Island on the southern side there is a roundabout with a statue of Chiang Kai-Shek and some of his propaganda sayings written on a wall behind him.
Past the statue roundabout you will find the only gas station on the island. One tank of gas should do for a two day trip, but there are tons of hills in Beigan. Also note that this gas station only takes cash.
Mt. Bi 壁山
Mount Bi is the highest Island in the Matsu Islands and has great views to the east. You can't get a 360 view because there is a military base on the tip top and taking photos there is not allowed.
There is a nice viewing platform on the east side of the hilltop.
View of Beigan to the north and Gaodeng Island and Daqiu Island in the distance.
View to the east of Tangqi Village and the airport.
View to the southeast.
A map of places you are looking at.
Closeup of Beigan Airport.
View of Gaodeng Island looking west. China can't be seen in the haze.
There is also a barraks on Mt. Bi called Juguang Fort.
Part of Juguang Fort.
Tangqi Village 塘崎村
The sports facility at Tangqi Village. Tangqi Village is the largest and most modern village on the island. Traditional stone houses have largely been replaced by modern buildings. This town has the airport, post office, government buildings, and lots of restaraunts, not to mention 7-11, one of only two on the island.
The Yingbin Hotel in the center of town seems to be the largest and most modern building.
View of the main street in Tangqi Village.
A mural of the village on the side of the road.
Of course we tried the food at a little restaurant there called "假日小館 Jiari Xiaoguan." We had some thick noodles that were pretty good.
I also had a fried fish patty rice bowl which was amazing.
And of course we had the Beigan delicacy, steamed mussels (淡菜).
These mussels were delicious, but a little expensive at 200 NT for just one plate of them.
The 7-11 at Tangqi Village is huge. It was the only 7-11 on the island until a few years ago. You can tell it is the go-to hangout spot for the people in the village and for all of the military servicemen.
Between Tangqi Village and the airport is a boat graveyard.
I didn't wander beyond this wall, but I imagine exploring those abandoned boats would be interesting.
There is a tunnel that goes under the airport to Houwo Village.
Houwo Village 后沃村
Houwo Village sits on the other side of the sandbar, which has double beaches. The beach here is one of the best places in Matsu to see blue tears, if you come from April to June. We did go out here at night and saw a stray blue tear or two, but not enough to catch on camera.
View of the other side of the sandbar.
Map of Houwo Village.
Traditional stone house and modern stone house in Houwo.
Small alleyway in the village.
The only permanent stoplight in Beigan is here. You have to wait because there is only one lane up to the war and peace memorial.
War and Peace Memorial Exhibition Center 戰爭和平紀念公園主題館
We got to the museum at 1:00, but it opens at 1:30 after closing for an hour and a half for lunch. Entrance is free.
View of the other islands and rocks in southeast Beigan. There seems to be a trail that goes all the way out there, but we didn't go that far.
Map of landmarks in Beigan.
While we were there, we also saw an airplane take off from the airport.
And a helicopter flew by. There is a helicopter service between all the islands in Matsu.
Main war collection in the memorial.
3D map of Matsu.
Weapons and equipment for amphibious soldiers.
"Located at the back of Houwo Village, the War Memorial Peace Park displays weaponry, strongholds, and military tunnels. The park was constructed in 2004...we hope that by exhibiting the war history of Matsu, tourists can experience the awesome and solemn military atmosphere and local culture of the "Front Line Matsu," while enjoying the beauty of the ocean view in Beigan."
"Matsu Islands used to be non-military areas until the ROC Government relocated to Taiwan in 1949. Afterwards, the East China Sea Troops garrison Matsu Islands. In July, 1956, Matsu Military Administration Committee was founded. Matsu Islands were thus designated as "Administrative Supervisioned Area" and imposed military governance for over three decades. Thus, military buildings, underground tunnels, and military facilities were constructed all over Matsu, including military harbors, strongholds, cannon platforms, training bases, and military hospitals. Matsu had thereby become the front line to protect Taiwan from invasion of Mainland China. Many military events were derived at that same time, which stuck a military label on Matsu."
"The 831 Paradise"
"Established in 1950, the state-run 831 Military Brothel was intended to satisfy the sexual need of soldiers...alleging that the 831 Paradise violated female human rights, then legislator Chen Shui-bian made an inquiry to the Ministry of Defense and fought to abolish the brothel in 1990. Complying with popular demand, the Ministry began to close down the brothel within Jinmen and Matsu region in 1991."
"War on Odd Numbered Days Only - A Tacit Understanding"
"War on Odd Numbered Days Only was the continuous bombing strategy employed by the PRC after the battle of 823. More precisely, bombing would only happened on odd numbered days, if at all; and it could start as soon as the clock ticked midnight. Thus technically speaking, bombing could happen at every opportunity during the dark hours.
After the battle of 823, the smaller-scaled Battle of 617 and Battle of 619 happened in 1960. Then the war on odd numbered days only strategy was carried out until, the PRC and the U.S. established official diplomatic relations in 1979. The PRC made a declaration to cease the 21-year long bombing on Taiwan's remote islands. "
"Fueling the Spirit, War Zone Slogans"
"Be on your toes, work with the locals, dedication and sacrifice, take back the motherland, save the compatriots in mainland, long live president Chiang, and eradicate Chu and Mao the traitors were among the patriotic slogans that could be seen on walls, posts around Matsu's outdoor space and the seaport.
To take these slogans to heart, some veterans even tattooed them on their arms, wrists, and the abdominal area to for educating the youth."
"Oral History and Witness, Wang Hsi Tiesn Captures a Water Ghost"
Story of an ROC officer that one a hand to hand fight with a PRC frogman amphibious soldier, and captured him.
"Oral History: Firing into the Sky: Anti Aircraft Artillery on XiJu Island Secured a Victory"
Story of the ROC anti aircraft unit shooting down a MIG-17PF and killing its pilot Wang Wenbing, and gave him a proper burial.
Some ordinance left over from China's bombardment.
"Key Historical Events in Matsu"
"Matsu had not been important in the past. The first stationed troops were deployed during the Northern Song Dynasty. Upon uniting the Fujian Province, Zhu Yuan Zhuang, the founding emporer of the Ming Dynasty garrisoned the upper and lower Gantang by building port villages.
In the 20th year of Hong Wu era, Zhou de xing, the Jiang Xia Marquis, deemed that the coast defense around Gantang (Fujian Province) was unreasonably difficult, thus removed the garrison, ordered the evacuation of the port village, and foced the villagers to migrate inland.
During the reign of Jiajing and Daoguang (Qing Dynasty), local residents of Fujian and Guantang continued to suffer from pirate intrusion.
After the establishment of Ganxi Defense and Security Bureau in 1935, Matsu went through the occupation of Japan and five battles with the mainland, and finally found peace when the PRC and ROC ceased fire upon the establishment of diplomatic relations between the PRC and U.S. in January 1979."
"Oral Witness: Hitting Kinmen or Matsu"
The PRC feigned an attack on Matsu on August 23rd, and acutally attached Kinmen, creating the 823 battle.
A little after 1:30, bus loads of tourists has piled into the building, most of them in tour groups.
View out the window on the bottom floor.
War and Peace Memorial Park 戰爭和平紀念公園
If you keep traveling past the exhibition hall, you will find a park filled with all kinds of retired war machines. Above is an abandoned turret in the War Memorial Park.
M1 57mm Anti-tank Gun. Used by the USA in WWII, and sold 400 to Taiwan in 1950. It is used for anti tank and sea defenses.
Entrance to a bunker along the road.
M48A3, a US tank used to fight the Russians in the Korean War, which became Taiwan's new generation battle tank.
M41 Light tank, developed by the US after WWII. 700 were sold to Taiwan in the 1960s, and used for over 40 years.
M108 Self-propelled Howitzer, bought from the US by Taiwan in the 1970s, they have recently been retired.
View of the row of tanks along the road.
Someone's way nice house nearby.
Reef off Mt. Da'ao.
View of the reef in real life.
A stronghold or barracks now converted into a military themed hostel!
There is a park on top of this hill outside of Tangqi Village called "Zhongxing Park" with a few trails, but we didn't explore it.
More propaganda slogans alongside the road.
Another roundabout with Chiang Kai-shek in the middle.
"Persist to the end."
Beihai Tunnel 北海坑道
Beihai Tunnel lies just outside of Banli Village, follow the sign to Stronghold No. 37.
"Banli Section, Beihai Tunnel (Beigan)"
"Construction of the dark, deep Beihai Tunnel on Beigan started in 1968, the same time as tunnels with the same name (meaning north sea) on Nangan and Dongyin. The tunnel is 560 meters long and 9-15 meters wide. Its size may not be as impressive as that of the Beihai Tunnel in Nangan, but like that tunnel it was dug, bit by weary bit by through hard granite with the blood and sweat of soldiers using only such simple tools as pickaxes, shovels, and rakes. The digging rook three years and cost the lives of more than 100 soldiers, showing the magnitude and difficulty of the task. A lot of the deaths were caused by careless blasting, and stories of haunting deepen the mystery of the tunnel and make locals reluctant to enter it. The tunnel was originally designed to dock small landing craft, but it was never used, and lay idle for more than 30 years. After the Matsu National Scenic Area Administration was established, it took over the tunnel, carried out renovation work on it and nearby sites, and built access roads and guardrails. With the rising popularity of canoeing in recent years, a ride on a boat in the tunnel has become the best way to do some exploring and feel the atmosphere of the battlefield. Unfortunately, the tunnel in now closed because rocks frequently fall due to the unstable structure of the stone."
So it seems the tunnel is closed for good.
Some pictures around Matsu, like Daqiu Island.
The gate to the tunnel is closed. You can't go in. But the Beihai tunnel in Nangan is open.
Some fortifications in the rocks nearby.
Military drills in Matsu.
Military graveyard nearby.
Iron Helmet Rock 鋼盔石
There is a rock that looks just like a soldier's head near Chiang Kai-shek's roundabout (the one where he is sitting in a chair), the rock is southwest of the roundabout.
Banli Village 板里村
Banli Village may be the second largest village in Matsu. It has the tourist information center, and appearently the only speed camera on the island.
Stone arched entrance to a house in the village.
One of only two 7-11s in Matsu. This one is newly opened.
A traditional themed hostel in town.
Lion Head Rock 獅頭石
Our hostel owner specifivally told us that we had to go see this hill that is roughly the same shape of a lion statue on the side of the road. Whoopdeedoo.
Playground near the beach at Banli.
Desterted beach at Banli.
Swimming is prohibited here.
More forts along the beach.
Statue of the White Horse King (白馬尊王), a Doaist deity worshiped in southeast China and Matsu.
Sunset over China.
Baisha Village 白沙村
The last village we visited was Baisha Village, which has the largest fishing harbor, and the main ferry that goes to Nangan.
View of the small vilalge and large street in front of the harbor.
Signs introducing Beigan and Daqiu.
A large tourist map of Beigan.
View of Baisha from above, with some abandoned houses.
Another angle of the village above.
Sunset at Baisha Harbor.
Now that we had seen pretty much everything in Beigan, it was time to move on to Nangan.
Timetables to Nangan.
Pictures of Beigan, including blue tears in their full glory.
Saying goodbye to Baisha.
Last view of Beigan.
That's it for now. Stay tuned for our soon to come blog on Nangan!
We saw pretty much all the major sites in Beigan, except for Wusha Village (午沙村) because our hostel owner said not to go there because it is a military village. I am not sure that I believe that, maybe that's one place we can explore when we go back someday.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living and working in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.