I am going to walk around Taiwan’s Kinmen island.
I’ve been to Kinmen before. In 2012 I visited on a trip to the south of China. It was one of the more amazing places I’ve visited on this 15+ year, 50+ country journey. Though my stay was a short one — less than a week — the impression the place left was indelible. I made one of those little promises that a traveler makes to himself when blowing through completely enthralling places: I will return.
I will return and walk these little islands of Taiwan off the coast of mainland China.
There is no better way to truly experience and understand a place than to walk through it. It’s the most direct way to learn about a place and to observe the gradual transitions. Walking offers the ability to stop anywhere you please, whenever you wish to; it allows you to go and check out little roadside intrigues or even to step off the path altogether if that’s what you wish to do. Walking allows you to meet people, sit and rest, enjoy the view, love the journey; it gives you power over your place and time — the two dimensions of travel — as you decide exactly where you go, for how long, when, and how fast. It also gives you access places that you would otherwise just fly right through via any other means of travel. And access is primarily what travel is about.
I call this complete path travel. This is where you control all stages of your journey by taken control of your own transportation. This is opposed to point-to-point travel, where you board a bus/ train/ plane and are whisked away from one set of geographic coordinates to another, without the ability to fully observe or access the massive swaths of the planet that lie in between.
Each day Kinmen sits outside my window, calling: there’s good walking over here. Something about the place just begs to be walked. It’s mostly all small fishing villages, dotting a hilly, rural expanse. Jincheng is the biggest city, but with only 39,000 people spread out over the entire country, it could hardly be considered urban. The roads are narrow, wide open, and are not in the least busy. The air is clean. The views are that of a China which never underwent rampant development.
Lesser Kinmen island is just 5,000 meters from my desk, I am looking out at it right now. It’s another place, another country. Though it is still technically “Chinese” it is very different than what you will find anywhere on the mainland of the PRC or anywhere else in Taiwan for that matter. It is its own place. It’s just Kinmen.
I will leave for the walking trip within the next couple of days. I will take the ferry across the narrow straight to Jincheng, then cross the bridge to Lesser Kinmen island, spend a night there, then return to the bigger island and circumabulate it. I expect that this walk should take around 10 days.
The biggest problems that I foresee on this trip are landmines and the Taiwanese military. Apparently, there are still unexploded ordnances on some of the remote beaches, and though the tensions have been drastically deescalating over the past decade this is still a very militarized zone. Though during my last trip there I walked freely over the countryside, and I didn’t get the impression that this place is so hot that the Taiwanese military is going to fool too much with a foreign tramp setting up a tent on the side of the road.