Tue, Mar 30, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Matsu looks to attract tourists, targets veterans

FRONTLINE TO TOURISM The government said it planned to apply for the island's extensive network of military tunnels to be a UNESCO World Heritage site

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER , MATSU

The Matsu government unveiled a plan to attract military veterans and their families, the Matsu National Scenic Administration said yesterday.

Lee Chien-hsun (李建勳), a specialist at the administration, said the Lienchiang County Government estimated that approximately 3 million officers and soldiers had served their two-year mandatory military service on the county's islands. While some spent the entire two years in Matsu, others stayed there for a shorter period before transferring to other military bases around the nation.

Lee said that the county hosted a series of events to invite veterans to return for a visit to the military bases where they were once stationed.

“If these former servicemen bring their wives and children back to visit, the number of visitors could potentially top 12 million, or about half of the nation's total population,” he said.

Lee said the military infrastructure built before the central government lifted military control over the island in 1992 was one of Matsu's major tourist attractions.

Matsu, he said, is known for having the highest density of military tunnels in the world, adding that the Council of Cultural Affairs is planning to turn Matsu into a UNESCO World Heritage site along with several other sites around the nation.

Aside from its military legacy, Matsu has gained a reputation among bird watchers as a place to spot the endangered Chinese crested tern. Recently, Matsu's Daciou Island (大丘島) also drew attention after allowing tourists to watch the movement of Formosan Sika deer, Lee said.

The administration has remodeled an abandoned military camp at Da-aoshan (大澳山) on Matsu's Beigan Island (北竿島) and turned it into a War and Peace Memorial Park.

Yesterday, the exhibition center inside the park was opened to the public. Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國), Legislator Tsao Erh-chang (曹爾忠), Lienchiang County Commissioner Yang Sui-sheng (楊綏生) and about 20 veterans were invited to attend the plaque-unveiling ceremony.

Mao said he did his military service in Matsu.

While he was there, he said, he was in charge of drilling the Tangchi Tunnel (塘歧坑道) on Beigan Island, adding that the construction was completed in a year.

Recalling his time in Matsu, Mao said that he always trembled at the thought of bringing supplies to Liangdao (亮島), one of the smaller islands.

“It was such a rough boat ride,” he said. “You would start feeling nauseous before you reached the destination. The vomit and the horrible feeling you felt made you want to shoot yourself.”

Mao said he was also interested in Matsu's architectural style, which comes from the northern part of China's Fujian Province.

Mao said weather has restricted the development of tourism in Matsu because airports there are shut down whenever visibility is low. Many tourists have been afraid to come for fear their trips could be delayed by weather.

“If we emphasize Matsu as a mysterious and unique island and try to control the number of tourists in a sustainable manner, it will eventually help build up the island's reputation,” Mao said.

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