I guess you could tell it was going to be an interesting weekend. I had my first ride on the MRT in Kaohsiung and made it to Kinmen Friday evening. Carolyn, Rose, Sean, Betty, Marilyn and I met up with Sandy (who lives in Kinmen), and checked to a hotel designed with fascinating Chinese and Taiwanese antiques. Our weekend was non-stop!

We were greeted at the airport by Wind Lion Gods. Well, actually, they greeted us wherever we went. The Wind Lion Gods protect the island from wind and erosion. They were created when the people noticed all the soil was being blown off the island by the strong winds and all that remained were boulders. Lots and lots of boulders. The people took the huge rocks and transformed them into Wind Lion Gods who would protect them from future damaging winds. While waiting for the other half of our group to arrive, some of us toured around the island and we were able to see across the channel to see light in China.

The irony of the whole weekend is how peaceful Kinmen is. This war battered island village was the calmest, cleanest and most inviting place I’ve been to in Taiwan. Gentle cows dot the countryside, as do anti-parachute pillars, sorghum fields and fog-misted cypress trees. Views of the forests reminded me of watercolor paintings from old China. Beautiful beaches are laced with anti-aircraft spikes and landmines. These areas are well marked and humans know to stay away. It seems the only recent fatalities on the mines have been among the Zimbabweans or South Africans hired to remove them. We explored the Siwei Tunnels which were used to remove supplies from Army cargo ships during the conflict between the Nationalists and the Communists and I fully expected t see James Bond emerging from the water in a submarine.

We visited Maestro Wu, the world renowned cutlery craftsman. He takes scraps from the many remaining bomb fragments (delivered every other day for about 10 years) and hones them into some of the finest knives in the world. He was kind enough to exhibit his skills for us, provide us with tea and chat as much as translation skills provided. Such a humble man! Some of us bought knives here while other bought fine pottery from the Kinmen Ceramic Factory. Some bought both!

From the Maestro’s establishment, we went next door to sample some of the island’s trademark peanut cookies. We got a bit carried away and the samples almost became our lunch! Our noon meal was actually a delicious molasses chicken. Dinner was California Pizza.

Photos are here. Do enjoy. I collected a few –isms as well and will post those tomorrow.