Twinkle twinkle little star oh I wonder where you are. Low below the world so bright. Say whaaaatttt? Oh yeah, in the Matsu Islands in Taiwan- the twinkle twinkle is not only in the sky (and oh was it), but below in the sea!!! I’m rife with excitement as I’m headed to see a “celestial” phenomenon commonly referred to as ‘Blue Tears’ that is alleged to be so remarkable it will make you cry!
From Taipei Songshan Airport, take a Uni Airways flight for $61USD to one of the Matsu Islands in Taiwan as this is one of only a few places in the world you can see algae called nocticula scintillans or dingoflagelettes which teem in the sea and can cause the sea to glow or sparkle like blue diamonds when the water is disturbed by waves or a paddle. Apparently you can only see this in the spring or summer (June, July, August is best) and only on Dongyin, Nangan or Beigan islets which make up a portion of the Matsu Islands. Usually the darker the sea, the calmer the sea and the hotter it is, the better your chances. I feel confident! Never thought I would say I am thrilled to get off a plane in over 100 degree weather!
I do, however, recommend you avoid Matsu over a weekend as places are all booked up and flights too and it is probably 3-4 times the cost and it fills up pretty far in advance so keep this in mind. Maggie, the owner of the Chairman’s Villa I’m staying at which I got through Airbnb, is amazing and speaks perfect English. She has someone picking me up to take me to the villa (my new friend Ethan) and has sent me maps with check marks and circles of the places where the Blue Tears have been seen lately. She set me up with my daytime plans as well as she said “Suzanne the Blue Tears only show up at night! You need a plan for the rest.” So I’m off to a special village called Qingbi Village (or Chen Bi) after I get settled in my weekend villa. She also helped me to find a boat to the People’s Republic of China from Nangan (for foreigners via Mawei because only the Chinese can travel from Beigan to Huangqi). While arguably I have been to China already given I have been to Hong Kong and Macau, I have definitely not been to the Mainland aka Red China. So while Maggie describes the sea by her villa as a twinkling star, I think she might be the real twinkling star in Beigan!
If you are landing in Nangan like me and need to take a ferry, get a taxi for $120NTS to the port, go to the ticket office and buy a ferry ticket for $160NTS (the cost if you are headed to Beigan). All very reasonably priced especially compared to the villa but there was no other place available on any of the islands in Matsu so you do what you gotta do. Plus, the Chairman’s Villa is amazing and has a story behind it. I love stories.
This was the best decision I’ve made thus far. It was actually a decision. Beigan islet of Matsu is waaaaayyyy out of the way if you think about the path I’m on and the places I’m trying to get to before this leg of my trip is over. It would have been much easier to fly from Taipei to Shanghai as originally planned; however, I came for one thing and got more than I could ever have imagined. And here, I’m a bit of a star myself unlike most other countries! Or rather more of an anomaly as I don’t think many Americans or Europeans come here. This I really like 🙂
Anyway, where else in the world can you combine all things you could want in a destination all in the same country? The answer is simply Taiwan. I have found quaint European-like villages I like in one country, sandy beaches and beautiful coastlines in another, gorges in another, green mountains for hiking in another, great cities in another, the right prices in another, the right balance of access to “westerner” things you need and lack of tourism in another, gondola rides in another, rivers and beautiful bridges in another, waterfalls in another, colorful festivals and celebrations in another, motorbikes, metros, high speed railways, ferries, easy and inexpensive transportation and access to other countries in another, cleanliness and safety in another, good food, great people and culture in another, temples and other magnificent architecture in another, spirituality in another BUT to find all of it in one place….you have to come to Taiwan!
A quick saunter through Qingbi or Chen Bi as it is called and I was quickly directed to a famous Fujian specialty restaurant where the mom prepares the culinary masterpieces every morning to share with the people living here and the visitors visiting here including a “to die for” noodle soup and sweet dumplings filled with peanuts, sugar and cinnamon. Carol, her daughter in law, and I became fast friends. It was so lovely – as were the other visitors who asked me to take photos of their families which I was honored to do! You must check out Qingbi during the day and kayak to Turtle Island. Turtle Island is a huge stone protruding from the clearest of blue waters and so they call it Jinggang or Mirror Harbour. Legend has it that it is perfect fengshui bringing to the village it’s prosperity. Also, take a jaunt through the twisty, winding lanes of the village and see the writing on the wall…literally….as there is still anti-communist slogans written in Chinese like “Recover the Mainland” and “Liberate our Communist Compatriots” reminding us that Matsu – being maybe a mere 25km from the Mainland – was on the front lines in the struggle against communism. Then, perhaps rest for a bit on the hill where Qingbi perches and enjoy some evening music, coffee, dinner and dessert until 9:00 pm before you begin your sometimes elongated search for the Blue Tears.
For me, I spent a good 3 hours in my search. I certainly saw the twinkle twinkle as I played in the water. I even walked to what probably was halfway to China where the tide was very low. There out in the darkness of the night without a soul in sight I dragged my bare feet on the wet sand like a paint brush and drew images using the blue algae. And if you remember the opening scene of Guardians of the Galaxy when Star Lord was dancing, you can imagine me dancing just like that out in the middle of an ocean during low tide all by myself but the song that came on in my headphones was “Yeah!” by Usher featuring Lil’ Jon & Ludacris. I will forever remember that moment and particularly when Usher’s Yeah! comes on.
As suggested, I went back out after 1:00 a.m. and continued my search only to find a cloudless night and bright moon filling the sky with its ever enduring light so while I saw even more sparkles than before as high tide came in, it wasn’t possible to see the streams of blue on the shoreline that my new friends in Matsu photographed on June 29, 2017 evidenced in the photos they shared with me. Guess I’ll just have to come back some day.
That’s all for now with a twinkle in my eye from Matsu.