The journey by boat from Xiamen to Kinmen.
The ferry terminal was packed, which I didn’t expect. Taking boats from a city as modern as Xiamen seems a little out of fashion, but as the distance to travel was only a few kilometers and there was no bridge, there is no better transportation option. Tour groups, business people, foreigners on visa runs, and me were all going to Kinmen, Taiwan.
I moved through the crowd and went up to the ticket desk. “I want a ticket for the next ferry to Kinmen.” I was told that I’d have to wait on standby. I said OK. Apparently, the ferry company needs to make sure all of the tour groups and packaged air travelers who get ferry/ flight combos get seats first. Then the rabble can be admitted. I asked if I could just stand on the boat without a seat. I was told no. How civilized.
The lady took my passport, placed 50 RMB in it, and then sent it into a back office. It looked like baksheesh — currency in a passport being discreetly taken into a rear room — but only wild speculation would procure any reasons why this would be. More than likely it was just some convoluted Chinese bureaucratic protocol. I hadn’t paid anything yet, and my fare would be the standard no matter what the deal was. A few minutes later the lady at the desk told she could take my money. I paid 140 RMB ($23). Ten minutes later my passport was returned to me with a ticket in it.
I went through a weak security check and an even weaker immigration inspection. Both sides of the China/ Taiwan political rift claim that Kinmen is part of Fujian province. Both sides claim each other, so acknowledging a border at all invalidates both positions equally. Though this seems not have been lost on both the PRC and the ROC. The immigration and customs inspection when passing between both governments of China is a mere formality that probably mostly results from the fact that both sides have drastically different immigration policies. Though what’s created is a much appreciated easy border crossing for travelers.
The ferry ride took around a half hour. I had a friendly Taiwanese businessman sitting next to me. He ran a serious of gyms and rehabilitation centers on the mainland. He told me that it was no problem at all for him to go over to China and start his business. I got a video of him explaining the difference between Taiwanese and mainland Chinese culture. He told me about his difficulties living in Shanghai temporarily. He complained about how everyone pushed each other on the buses and spat everywhere. The difference of social behavior between mainland China and Taiwan is stark — you can see it just from crossing the 6000 meter straight between Xiamen and Kinmen.
The ferry moved through the waves. The water was an icy, platinum color which seemed to eat the rays of the sun. Scattered sprouts of green peaked above the surface of the sea. This combine with the towering skyscrapers of the Xiamen in the background created a scene that didn’t seem completely real. Something about it seemed Photoshoped — which is perhaps suiting due to the surreal political arrangement of the two countries this stretch of water divides. If the Kinmen story was fiction nobody would believe it.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3657 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York