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COMPASS MAGAZINE, April 2006.

The Beauty of Matzu (Part 1): Taiwan's Mediterranean-style getaway

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--By Lishea Zheng Translated by Cara Steenstra

Before I went to Matzu, I only knew the island--located just off the coast of mainland China--as a place that Taiwan's military servicemen feared being assigned to the most. Recently, however, after seeing photographs of Qin Bi Village that reminded me of the Mediterranean, traveling to Matzu became a romantic, memorable trip to a place that--in a strange sort of way--combines war history with hints of the Med.

Matzu's Qin Bi Village certainly lives up to its name, being built entirely with granite and Qingdou stone. The village is flanked by mountains and the neighboring sea, giving it some interesting, diverse terrain. It is enjoyable to take a walk along the beach in the late afternoons, strolling on the soft sand as the sun slowly sets. When the stars begin to twinkle, one can sit next to the stone wall and enjoy a light meal or a cup of coffee, basking in the twilight like you would in the Mediterranean. There are even "pirate's houses" here. If you wish to stay the night, you can make reservations for the bed and breakfast services and spend a night in the stone buildings, listening to the rising and falling tides, letting sea breezes wake you in the morning. A breath of fresh morning air will have you ready to visit all the other scenic spots nearby.

The traditional stone houses and wooden structures of Qin Bi Village alone could keep your camera busy all day long. Yet, there are plenty of other interesting geographical features in Bei Gan Township where Qin Bi Village is situated. The steep hills make any form of transportation here feel like a roller coaster, adding a bit of excitement.
When you fly into Bei Gan by plane, the runway is situated on the sand dunes between Da Wo Mountain and Bei Gan Island. As you come to land, all you can see is hundreds of meters of sand and beach, glittering like sugar granules under the bright sun. Before the Tang Wo Roadway was built, Ho Wo villagers used to venture out according to the tides--when the tide was in, the road disappeared and, when it was out, the road reappeared.

There is also a military memorial park area in Da Wo Mountain now, displaying old military vehicles, weapons and other military equipment, allowing civilians to get a glimpse of what life was like in the military. Bei Gan Beach is small but very pretty, a well-kept secret. The widest, smoothest beach, though, is Ban Li Beach, a scenic area under the management of National Scenic Area Administration. It is well equipped with showering facilities and is a great destination for a day of seaside fun.
Matzu is like a fine pearl necklace with countless little islands to explore, making you want to go back for more. Following in next month's edition is yet more information about scenic spots. For more information, also check the official website of the National Scenic Area Administration at http://www.matzu-nsa.gov.tw

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