We visited Jinmen which is a small Island between Xiamen and Taiwan. Its name literally translates to 'Golden Gate'.
It is frequented by foreigners staying in China on a Tourist Visa that requires them to 'leave the country' every 90 days, because it is so convenient to hop over and back again in 1 day. We bumped into many such foreigners at the port who had all sorts of tales of the island, some good, some slightly worrying, such as ferries refusing to do the return trip because of waters being 'too choppy' (!).
We had only 1 afternoon to get there and back, for my friend to update his visa. The ferry took an hour to cover the 2 km to the island and it was eye-opening to see just how many little islands and islets there are around Xiamen.
We had to wrangle permission to sit outside on the deck of the ferry, so we were able to enjoy the view and lap up the sun with many concerned people looking on from the air-conditioned indoors. People in China are more aware of the dangers of sunlight it seems.
The ferry terminals are akin to airports, complete with passport checks and security procedures. Adam was amused by the eye glasses helpfully proffered for filling out entry and exit forms
First thing that struck me was the proficiency of English spoken everywhere, which was a nice relief, so we could procure a map of the Island and some advice right away. We tried to rent scooters so we could see more of the island with the time we had, but it turned out that we were quite dangerous drivers, so we decided to opt for bikes instead.
There is a big park in the middle of the island with bike routes laid out for cyclists of all levels of skill so we happily explored that for a few hours.
In the park we came across some old tanks from the various wars. Jinmen used to be a military base and only opened to tourists in 2001.
The park was just beautiful and it was so refreshing to experience it on a bike.
We took a bus back to the port through the town and it was the first pleasant bus ride I have had in Asia so far. I guess it is all down to this sign in the bus. Very grateful for such an all-inclusive guide on social conduct indeed.
We took back some souvenirs in the form of these biscuits that are cooked on a griddle then rolled to form a crispy type of wafer. Delicious!
All in all I am glad we discovered this place, its comforting to know we are just a ferry ride away from clean beaches, 7-11 stores, Doritos and Ice Tea!