Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Beishan Old Western Style House (北山古洋樓) [Travel in Taiwan 171102-07: Escape from Formosa Part 2 "Shelled Shelter"]


The world is a cruel place especially here in Kinmen. In 1949, China attempted to invade the island. To regain control of the “Golden Gate”, the forces of Mao Zedong made an amphibious landing on the island. Communists vs Nationalists. Villages become battlegrounds. Guns were fired, homes destroyed, lives lost. The scars left by the war are still here on some houses and the Benshan Old Western Style House is one of them. Looks old on the outside but modern on the inside. This home will be the command center of my travel adventures in Kinmen as I accomplish each of my missions as an escape artist.

The Benshan Old Western Style House at night


Its location in Guningtou was the primary concern of most travelers who want to stay here. Far away at six kilometers from the town of Jincheng, guests must have eaten their dinner before going back to the hostel. The last bus that goes to Guningtou from Jincheng Bus Station is at 7:15 pm. If guests fail to board this bus then they have to take a taxi or cycle up and down the hills for 30 minutes. A painful task to do but good for one’s health.




But despite the downsides of staying in this hostel, it still ranks number 1 on TripAdvisor for Chinese-speaking visitors. In Agoda where I booked my stay, it got a rating of almost 10 out of 10. A very high score for a seemingly bad place to stay, I tested the staff’s hospitality on my first night. This is to prove or disprove the excellent evaluation in public forums and hotel booking websites.



A warm welcome. Patricia, a young Taiwanese woman who works for the hostel as a freelance employee answered all of my inquiries about Kinmen. Whether you speak Chinese or not, all of your itinerary needs will be answered by the hostel staff. They do this everyday. Talking to the guests after they came back to the hostel and offering solutions to their travel needs. With my four years of non-stop wandering in Taiwan, this is the only hostel where you will experience this kind of nightly evaluation in your trip. No doubt that this is the best hostel in Kinmen and probably in the whole of Taiwan.







Tourist attraction and accommodation as one. Through a government program to convert historic homes to guesthouses, the original owners of old buildings/houses in lent their houses to the administrative council for decades and then subleases them to entrepreneurs who want to run a hostel. In this way, tourists on the island are given a chance to stay in a traditional house while at the same time savoring the good old times in Kinmen. The Benshan Old Western Style House is part of this program and this is where the exciting part comes.







History in a hostel. I did not let the opportunity got away just to know the story of this house. The building is composed primarily of a typical Fujian-style building with a quadrangle inside and beside it is a European-like annex. The Li brothers who built the house for their mother made a good fortune in their coconut business in Manila. Like any successful Kinmenese who went to Southeast Asia to find luck, they used the profits they earned to extend their home sweet home by adding a two-story structure designed with Western architecture in 1928.







Survivor. Marked by bullet holes, the annex of the hostel is a relic that needs to be cherished as both Communists and Nationalists used the home as a base for their troops. As part of the Taiwan Tour Bus Guningtou Route, visitors make a stop in front of this house to take photos. But only guests staying on the hostel will have the chance to explore the fragile annex of the house. Unknown to many, the inside of the building have statues of military men depicting what happened during the war times of Kinmen. Rifles pointed on the windows while a soldier climbs the staircase to patrol.





Ready for action. As I reminisce the intense exchange of fire that this house had gone through, the cool wind of autumn enters my bedroom. Whispering in my ear, it reminded me that I have to wake up early. The first bus that will depart at Jincheng Bus Station going to Guningtou is at 5:55 am so I have to be ready. Battle ready to engage in travel! Whenever I stepped out of this shelled shelter.

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Beishan Old Western Style House (北山古洋樓)

Chinese address and contact number:
北山古洋樓(共軍指揮所)
金門縣金寧鄉古寧村北山46-5號
電話082-311486
[Agoda link]

How to get here:
A. From Shanyi Airport: Take a taxi and show the Chinese address to the driver. Estimated taxi fare is NTD 300. If there is no car at the time of your arrival, then call this number of a taxi driver in Kinmen Island: 082-333081

B. From Jincheng Bus Station:
1. Board Bus 10 and get off the bus at Guningtou Villagers Office stop.
Departure times of Bus 10 from Jincheng: 5:55/7:10/8:20/9:45/11:45/13:40/15:10/16:50/17:50/18:30
*Bus 10 goes around Nanshan village before going back to Jincheng.

2. Board Bus 11 and get off the bus at Benshan bus stop
Departure times of Bus 11 from Jincheng:
5:55/6:45/9:10/10:40/12:15/14:10/16:20/17:10/18:10/19:15
*Bus 11 cuts the travel time by making a U-turn at Benshan bus stop to return to Jincheng town immediately. High school students also board this bus to get to their school faster.

*For both buses, allow a waiting time of 15 to 20 minutes for the vehicle to arrive at Benshan from Jincheng.

Nearest local convenience store: House no. 55 in front of the Benshan bus stop. You can buy here chips, noodles and some beverages from a grandpa.

Nearest restaurant: Inside the Peace Memorial Park is an oyster restaurant and it is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
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