Kinmen Island or Jinmen on some maps was known as Quemoy back in the days when Taiwan was known as Formosa. A mere 60 minute ferry ride from the west side of Xiamen Island, China and 30 minutes from the east side, Kinmen Island belongs to Taiwan. Up until 2008, ferry travel was restricted to residents of the Fujian province in China. While the restriction to Chinese residents of the Fujian province continues, it has been opened to foreign travelers. Mainland Chinese are still not able to travel as freely as many others, but since many Fujian people's relatives and ancestry comes from Kinmen travel is now an option.
The difference between the two countries is evident immediately. Upon arriving at the dock, the lack of honking horns and people speaking loudly is apparent. Not only were horns not blaring, but yielding to the pedestrian, stopping before making a right turn driving courteously were the rules as oppose to the exception. Furthermore a line between the crosswalk and where auto traffic stopped was for motor scooters. This was rather nice that if there was traffic a scooter could go to the front of the line where typical they have a faster take off than a car and of course take up less width room.
The lack of trash and spitting was also quite clear. There were plenty of trash cans and signs indicating there are fines for littering and signs indicating smoking was prohibited. No only was it prohibited upon entry to the country at the dock, people pass out little pack of tissue to passengers that have a picture of a cigarette with the red circle and slash and message printed to please not smoke.
Interestingly on the other hand, Kinmen's attractions and parks are free due to the income the island receives from its production of alchohol that fetches a pretty penny in Xiamen and other parts of China. The percentage of alcohol in the various liquors can be quite high. Tours are available of the famous, moneymaking distillery.
The island is full of military related structures, features and memorials. The claim to fame from this tiny island about successful fighting off the Japanese and communism is well deserved. Meanwhile, the peaceful parks and incredibly friendly, kind people give no indication of past problems.
Another interesting feature are the wind gods found throughout the island. Semi lion, semi dragon, these characters protect the island from bad winds and encourage good breezes. Wind has a tremendous affect on the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen alike, not to mention the structures. This island, not unlike mainland China and Taiwan, is in the path of monsoons and typhoons. Purportedly there are 63 such statues on the island, some colored, some not, some holding items, some not, some wearing capes, some not. Each one is different is size and facial features. Some seemed to be smiling, for a lion dragon type creature, while others appeared fierce. All being good, though.