Jinmen, as I’ve already mentioned, is a little Taiwanese island located just two kilometers off the coast of Xiamen. Because of its proximity to China, it was important militarily for Taiwan and for a long time was home to several military bases. In the 1950s it was heavily shelled by China and control of the island wasn’t returned to the Taiwanese civil government until the 1990s.
In 2001 the island was opened up to traffic from China and from what I saw during my visit a couple of weeks ago, it now enjoys a good deal of Chinese tourism. From Xiamen it’s only about a half an hour’s journey by ferry before you reach the Jinmen port and there are several ferries going back and forth each day. The one I took was quite full, so it seems like there are a fair number of people shuttling back and forth.
Jinmen itself is a relatively sleepy island made up of small villages without much in between except for one central part of town. Most of the tourism involves old military establishments. I only went to visit one of the military tunnels (of which there are several). A large group of us speed walked through a tunnel following the guide. The lighting in the tunnel turned on and off seemingly at random, and coupled with the speed walking that made it hard to take in any details beyond the damp of the floor. After that I stuck to temples and more scenic spots.
Food was a bit hard to come by. In the village where I stayed there appeared to be no food at all beyond instant noodles and potato chips from the convenience store run out of the front room of someone’s house. In town there didn’t seem to be a lot of variety. On my first day in Jinmen, I spent a good deal of time walking around looking for somewhere to eat lunch, before finally settling on a dumpling place.
I like dumplings a lot. Especially when they’re steamed a bit first and then fried, which I’m usually too lazy to do on my own. This place had good, homemade dumplings. Even better, though, was the dumpling sauce. Normally you get soy sauce and vinegar and mix to taste. This time, though, the man handed me something that was definitely not just soy sauce. It was sweeter and more garlicky and also delicious.
Bottom line: if your’e ever in Jinmen, go find this dumpling store. It’s run by a really nice older couple who were happy to talk to my friend and I while I ate. They even packaged up some of the sauce for me to take back with me the next day. They’re awesome.
Here’s their shopfront sign: