The Magical Islands of Matsu, Taiwan

When you mention Taiwan, the first thought that crosses your mind would be the city of Taipei. This is not at all surprising since it is the capital of the country. However, what you may not know is that Taiwan is in fact surrounded by numerous islands that are categorised by archipelagos.

The archipelago of Matsu is gaining interest from tourists that are seeking to explore the remote islands and learn about its history and culture. Matsu consists of 36 islands and islets, making it one of Taiwan’s smallest archipelago.

The islands are divided into four townships. Up north is Dongyin, famous for its wild flowers, military emplacements and lofty granite cliffs. Beigan and Nangan in the southwest region are the two most populous townships which are only separated by less than two kilometres of ocean. Both townships are populated with picturesque villages and have their own airports that takes in direct flights from Taipei. At the south of Matsu Islands lie Juguang township, home to two inhabited islands Dongju and Xiju.

Previously named as Dongquan (eastern dog) and Xiquan (western dog), the islands were renamed Dongju and Xiju in 1971, referring to the slogan employed by President Chiang Kai-shek, which translates to “Don’t forget you are in Ju!”

On the islands of Dongju and Xiju, the growing season is short and there is limited flat land. Despite that, the uneven land has grown to become a breathtaking asset for both islands and encouraged an increase in tourism.

Image credit: Shoestring

A few centuries back, the islands were often subjected to pirate attacks and when the confrontation between Taipei and Beijing arose, the threat of a full-scale war loomed as well. As the confrontation eases in the late 1970s, the civilians of Matsu were already outnumbered by the military presence on the islands. Between 1981 to 1991, the townships population was halved to almost 550 people.

Over the years, tourism has fortunately helped Matsu bounce back. Population has sprung up to 1,500, the highest it has been in 40 years. Individuals who has strong family ties to the islands have come back to the houses they grew up in or were owned by their parents.

Image credit: Shoestring

In comparison to all the other islands in the archipelago, Dongju has topped the ranks as a popular tourist destination in recent years. Residents of the island are especially friendly and you’d be able to experience a relaxing vibe on the island all thanks to the slow and peaceful way of life. Taking a walk along the east coast gives you the opportunity to experience the full magical spectacle of the Matsu archipelago.

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