consists not only of the main island and a few off-coast smaller islands (such as Green Island
) but also two archipelagoes lying close to the Chinese mainland and far from the rest of Taiwan, namely the Matsu group of islands ca. 130 miles (210 km) north of the main island, and Kinmen, 170 miles (277 km) to the west of Taiwan but only a few miles from the territory of its arch-enemy, the People’s Republic of China
From the late 1940s until about the mid-1970s China frequently shelled Kinmen from the mainland … and the Taiwanese shelled back. Large underground fortifications were hence hewn into the rock of Kinmen to provide shelter not only for soldiers but also tanks, communication centres, ammunition depots and even harbours for boats.
Today many of these military installations have been opened to the public and museums have been added too. These include Zhaishan Tunnel
, a ca. 1200 feet (360m) long sea-level bomb shelter for boats to safely bring in supplies and reinforcements, the Qionglin Tunnel
, a complex shelter system underneath the narrowest part of the larger of the two Kinmen islands, the Guningtou Battle Museum
, the August 23 Artillery Battle Museum
, the dodgy-sounding Military Brothel Exhibition Hall
, and a particular curiosity, the Mashan Broadcasting and Observation Station
, from where Taiwan used to blare propaganda at the PRC through huge stacks of loudspeakers (cf. Hien Luong Bridge
The smaller island of Lieyu (aka Little Kinmen) has two more such sites, the 0.5 miles (790m) long Jiugong Tunnel for patrol boats and cargo vessels, and the Hujingtou Battle Museum.
All these places are open from 8.30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and have free admission, except for the free Brothel Museum, which is only open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the Qionglin Tunnel, which charges 10 NT$ admission.
You can also see plenty of military installations along the coast, with landing craft barriers and tanks (especially at the “Triangle Fortress”, outside of which a row of tanks still, symbolically, aims at the PRC). There is even a military-themed hotel on Kinmen.
To get there you can catch one of the frequent flights from Taipei
’s Songshan domestic airport which take about an hour (less frequent flights are also operated out of Taichung, Kaohsiung, Tainan and Chiayi). When tensions are not running so high between Taiwan and the PRC, there are also ferry services to/from the Chinese mainland. For getting around most people use bicycles (free rentals) or (e-)scooters (cheap), but proper hire cars are also available.
Travel between Kinmen Island and Lieyu used to be by ferry only, but a new bridge connecting the two islands was under construction when I last checked and was scheduled to be completed by mid-2021.
On Lieyu (Little Kinmen):