Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Apr 04 2008

Matsu -Friday

hotel viewIt was about 11am by the time I got a text message from Prince Roy that he was awake and ready for lunch. In the intervening time it had started to rain outside, with my hotel room doing a decent impression of the Water Curtain Cave, complete with a small waterfall running down one window. Downstairs, the hotel owner said Mark’s flight would surely be canceled. “We can’t see Beigan island,” he said, pointing. “When we can’t see Beigan, the planes can’t land.”

We set out for the cultural, commercial and economic center of all of Matsu: Jieshou Village, the county seat. The County Government building overlooks a large field full of small gardens that used to be the local harbor before it was silted in, making for very fertile soil. Indeed, it seems that all the flat land here is used for planting something or another. The one main street that makes up the town was lined with mostly closed shops, some KTVs, a pool hall full of soldiers, and the huge old KMT headquarters, covered with ROC flags, a large banner of Ma Ying-jeou and Vincent Siew holding hands, and the blue-and-white party symbol on the front facade.

old man blue houseMost of the restaurants were closed, but we found a place down by the current former harbor, also silted in and being made into a park, that sold beef noodles and the like. It was also mostly full of soldiers, but we got a table by the kitchen. At one point an MP officer came in, and the place got very quiet until he left. The dumplings I got weren’t anything special, but enough to fill me up. PR had beef noodles, adorned with the magic sauce he’d brought along, courtesy of his mother-in-law. I tried some and kind of liked it, even though I usually don’t like spicy food.

As we ate, Mark called and said his flight had indeed been canceled. He didn’t seem interested in taking the ferry, either, so it was just me and PR. After lunch we walked around the neighborhood, visiting a local temple that was completely empty inside except for a large population of birds, and then walking up the hill behind to some fields and huge grave sites. PR spent several minutes in an Iwo-Jima-esque effort to unravel a political flag planted in a garden, apparently to scare away the crows. Our shoes sunk into the dirt, loosened by the rain. The grass under the wind-bent trees was bright green.

We walked down to the village again, stopping by an interesting little red temple by the soon-to-be park, and then back to main street to visit the 7-Eleven, which was doing an extremely brisk business. While waiting to use one of the two ATMs, I chatted with a soldier. I could tell from his rank and his disposition that he had not arrived long ago, and he confirmed this was true. Although the government buildings proclained that we were in Fujian Province, none of the cars’ license plates reflected this, and just read “Lianjiang County”.

godlistFortified with snacks and water, we walked back to Fuxing Village, where our hostel is located, and down to the waterfront, where a brand-new Taoist temple with bright red walls flanked the small harbor. The light inside was very nice, illuminating all of the religious figures inside. We kept walking up the hill to a guard post, posing with the cactii for PR’s camera, which was wrapped around a dead plant. Around the corner was an empty military emplacement that looked like a seaside villa painted dark green. Though the door was locked, the windows were not, and we spied yesterday’s menu taped on the wall inside. It was deserted, though, and half of the wall looked like it was ready to tumble into the sea below. We looked at the surrounding defenses and the views of Beigan to the north as we reminisced about our own experiences in the military. Across the water, China lay shrouded in clouds, invisible.

caught in the actIt had stopped raining by this point, but it was still cool and cloudy. We headed back towards the village, passing a military fueling point whose camouflage efforts (pink) were dismally inappropriate, and ended up at a century-old restaurant called Yi-ma’s Old Shop, run by Mrs. Chen, a woman with a bubbling personality and a love of telling stories. We sat down for some tea after getting a tour of the place as a couple of girls came in looking for accommodation advice. Mrs. Chen helped them find rooms at the same hostel where we were staying. Soon after a group of soldiers came in for dinner. Mrs. Chen provides social services for soldiers, helping the ones that have trouble dealing with military life here.

It was getting dark outside, and after seeing the sumptuous dishes coming out of the kitchen, we ordered mostly what the soldiers had had. The food was really good, and not just because it was different than Taiwanese food. Mrs. Chen brought out a couple of glasses of Laojiu, which to me tastes just like Shaoxing wine, i.e. sweetened spit, but PR seemed to like it.

Yima doorsAfter dinner, Mrs. Chen told us at great length how the other place just across the street had come to have basically the same name as her place. Everything Mrs. Chen says is pretty much at great length, but it’s interesting nonetheless. She’s full of advice and good cheer, and if she doesn’t have an answer to your question, she’ll make some calls to find out for you.

It was night, and PR and I wandered around the alleys of the village, past empty houses and closed doors and the sounds of families eating and watching TV, while I tried to find interesting angles. We came across one barking dog as well as one dog that had lost its voice, a Westie that sounded more like a squeak toy than a dog, before we arrived back at our hostel at the top of the hill.

We have no idea what we’re going to do tomorrow; I suppose it depends on the weather.

posted by Poagao at 11:26 am  


  1. 租台摩托車,可以凸整個島。搭船去北竿,北竿的芹壁村很有特色。今天台北出太陽,馬祖好天氣的時候,很不錯,海很藍。

    Comment by 獻瑞 — April 4, 2008 @ 10:53 pm

  2. […] on Mazu: Friday, Saturday & […]

    Pingback by Links 7 April 2008 - David on Formosa — April 6, 2008 @ 8:25 pm

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