Next day, we make our way to Shui Tou Village (水頭) in Kinmen. The village is famous for its western-style houses (洋樓) built by Kinmanese who ventured successfully overseas. The western influence is probably due to the time which they had spent in colonial Southeast Asia. And these big houses of these wealthy merchants often symbolize their newfound wealth. Many of these houses are open to the public for a glimpse of the past, for free. Nice!
The grand De Yue Lou
The most famous western-style house is De Yue Lou (得月樓). It was built by a local trade merchant who amassed his fortune in Indonesia. In its heydays, De Yue Lou was the grandest and tallest house in Kinmen. However, the main portion of the massive house was not meant for living. It was purposefully constructed to be a decoy to fool the menacing pirates.
That’s because the owner knew his extravagant house would naturally be a prime target for pirates. Hence, he stayed next to the decoy instead. De Yue Lou has now been converted into a museum after restorations. However, it’s a pity that access to the tower top is prohibited.
There is this Fongshihye (the Gods of the Wind) museum (風獅爺文物坊) next to De Yue Lou which sells miniature of Fongshihye in different made and sizes. The locals believe the lion-like statue would protect them from the windy climate. The unique statue is like everywhere here in Kinmen.
We went into some of these western style houses for a closer look.
There are quite a number of nice looking Home Stays (Bed & Breakfast) or Min Shu (民宿) around Shui Tou. Our uncle mentioned that owners wanting to convert their homes into Min Shu can seek a financial grant from Kinmen National Park. In return, a portion of their profits will be paid to the National Park.
Next is the most famous attraction – Zhaishan Tunnel (翟山坑道). After passing through the main guard posts, we can see military equipment like Landing Crafts, Assault boats and Anti-aircraft Guns on display.
The pavement leading to the tunnel is flanked by neat looking trees. Right outside the tunnel entrance is a wall stating 12 top objectives of their military training. For some reason, the 6 Chinese characters: 訓練軍人的姿 on the top right have a different font compared to the rest.
The 357 metres long Zhaishan Tunnel was constructed after the massive artillery bombardment on Kinmen in 1958. It served as a military base with underground facilities while providing shelter for civilians.
The tunnel’s long waterway also provided cover for 42 military boats which were used to attack and bring in supply. Stroking the rock hard chiselled wall made me wonder how the tunnel was constructed.
We were told that soldiers used explosives to blast through the granite. And finally using pickaxes and shovels to complete the rest. The harsh conditions are almost unimaginable. The humidity and the intensity of wielding axes against granite. Their dedication and determination of this feat demand respect.
We also visited Jhongshanlin Visitor Center which is a good place to learn more about the islands’ history.