Kinmen 金門 (pronounced Jinmen, literal meaning "golden gate", formerly known as Quemoy) is an outlying island located near the People's Republic of China, but is controlled by the Republic of China on Taiwan. It has a large number of traditional Min style buildings and military sites that are open to tourists. Price levels are similar to Taiwan and thus high compared to mainland China, but admission to temples, museums and other sites is free.
KinCheng, meaning Golden City, is the main city in Kinmen, located on the greater Kinmen island. The secondary city is Shanwai. The ShangYi airport is between the two cities.
Kinmen means "Golden Gate". It is considered as part of Fujian Province by both the PRC and ROC. Its status as a territory controlled by Taiwan is therefore somewhat complex, being part of the ROC on Taiwan, but not of Taiwan province.
Kinmen has traditionally been a gateway from mainland China to Taiwan. It has been the basis of many Chinese emigrants and of Chen Chenggong's resistance to the Qing dynasty and military campaign to Taiwan to oust the Dutch.
China's communist People's Liberation Army attacked the main island in 1949 and was defeated. It was only able to land around half of the troops it had planned for the campaign and severely underestimated their opponents, who were more numerous and fortified than the PLA had thought. The defeat resulted in the PLA putting its plans to attack Taiwan on hold. Since the battle, there have been several exchanges of artillery fire, the biggest of which was in the late 1950s. The ROC heavily fortified the island and used to station up to 200,000 troops there, but this number has been reduced significantly.
The economy of Kinmen is now based mostly on tourism and the famous Kaoliang liquor (高粱酒). Dried meat from Kinmen is also sold in Taiwan's main island.
Access is by air from Taiwan or by boat from Xiamen to Shuitou on the main Kinmen island (this link is now open to foreigners). You can take a flight on 3 of Taiwan's 4 domestic carries from the three bigger cities on Taiwan several times a day. One way tickets cost a little over 2000 NT dollars, or as little as around 1200 for promotion fares.
There are ferries to Xiamen in mainland China. Boats are NT$700 from Shuitou to Xiamen and 160 RMB (130 plus 30 tax) from Xiamen to Shuitou and run once an hour between 0830 and 1730 in each direction. Departure in Xiamen is from the International ferry terminal at Dongdu Road (东渡路), the same complex as Xiamen International Cruise Center (厦门国际邮轮中心), just north of Bay Park. There are also ferries from Wutong (五通客运码头) in the east of Xiamen. This terminal is far from the city center, but slightly closer to Xiamen airport and also to Kinmen (30 minutes to Kinmen instead of one hour from Dongdu). There are also ferries from Quanzhou.
If you are arriving by ferry from Xiamen, the ferry terminal does have a tourist information desk that can help find you an inn. There is also a free wifi network around the terminal. There are money exchange counters in the departure hall, however they only will exchange RMB to NT$. They will not exchange US$.
A public bus connects Shuitou ferry terminal to Kincheng town once every 30 minutes, departing opposite the departure hall. There are also buses from the airport to Kincheng and Shanwai.
Kincheng town is small enough to get around by walking, but most of the interesting sites are outside of the town, requiring a bicycle or motorised transportation.
Kinmen has a bus service specifically for tourists. Day tickets are NTD 200 and include bus rides and guided tours at all destinations (Chinese only). Departure is from the bus station in Kincheng at 8:30and 13:30.
Public buses also go to all parts of the island, including the major sites, the ferry terminal and the airport (red 1 line, 紅一). Bus fares are NTD 12 or NTD 24 for long distances (such as from Kincheng to the eastern half of Kinmen).
There are taxis on the island, though you need pretty good Mandarin or Taiwanese skills to negotiate a flat rate with the driver. They are also concentrated mostly in the city center, so you can't count on finding one just anywhere.
By scooter or bicycle
You can rent a scooter or bicycle in various rental shops, including in Kincheng near the bus station and in the airport. Bicycles can also be rented right next to some attractions. You can get a 150CC for about 550 NT dollars per 24 hours. Roads are all paved and there are good maps at every village and in every hotel. Road signs are written in both Chinese Characters and English / Hanyu Pinyin, so it is hard to get lost.
The late President of the Republic of China, Chiang Kai-shek, left a calligraphy inscription in Kinmen, urging the ROC troops to fight on and to one day re-take the Mainland from the Communist bandits.
Wind Lion Gods
The Wind Lion Gods of Kinmen are unique statues all over the island, you can either see the originals in the villages (this can take some patience and hunting skills) or just go to the new Wind Lion God Park near the ShangYi Airport.
Culture and architecture
If you can find all 63 "official" wind lion god statues, the ones that are represented in the park, and present proof to the park office, they will give you a special gift.
There are two main categories of accommodation in Kinmen. Hotels that are mostly located in Kincheng town and traditional houses outside of the town. Both usually charge 1400 or more. The tourist offices in the ferry terminal and airport can help you to arrange staying in a traditional house.
Small eateries line the main streets of Kincheng. Kinmen is famous for a sticky peanut candy that can be found in various shops along the side streets.
Kinmen is the home of Taiwan's distinctive "Kaoliang" liquor, a tequila-like hard liquor popular all over Taiwan. The factory is located right in the middle of the island, not far from the airport and is hard to miss with its distinctive smell and two two-story liquor bottles guarding the front gates.
Though formal hostilities with the PRC ended by the early 1980s, Kinmen is still very much a front line area. Visitors are strongly advised not to wander off paved roads when exploring the island due to the possibility of running across old unmarked minefields. It is also advisible to avoid traveling to certain sensitive areas after dark, such as coastal areas or areas near military installations. Visitors should also obey all orders given by military personnel and avoid entering or photographing sensitive areas.