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Introducing Matsu

Look no further than this green archipelago of 18 islands right off the coast of mainland China's Fujian province if you’re seeking the off-the-beaten-path Taiwan. Like Kinmen, Matsu (馬祖, Matzu) retains much of its feel as a perpetual military outpost. The Matsu vibe is a bit more martial, however, and half the people you run into here are in uniform. Be prepared to scurry down narrow tunnels and, emerging to the clear light of day, enjoy a superb ocean lookout with a real 80mm anti-aircraft cannon at your side.

The people of Matsu speak a dialect derived from Fuzhou in mainland China, which is mostly unintelligible to speakers of Taiwanese. Most folk identify with their kin across the narrow strait that separates them. For over a generation they could only watch their brethren in Fuzhou through binoculars; today, the latter forms a substantial part of the visitor population.

Matsu islands are grouped into townships; the main townships, which are connected by ferries, are Nangan, Beigan, Dongyin and Jyuguang.