Look no further than this archipelago of 18 islands off the coast of mainland China's Fujian province if you’re seeking the off-the-beaten-path Taiwan. Like Kinmen, Matsu (馬祖; Mǎzǔ; 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 tunnels and, emerging into the 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. 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.