Stationed for a Night in a Barrack by the Sea
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Stationed for a Night in a Barrack by the Sea
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Discover the wonder of the lodging.
With a yearning for military service, or a memory thereof, we fly to Matsu Island and track downs stronghold 55. This was originally constructed to defend the mouth of the bay at Jin Sha, a fishing village in Matsu’s Nankan Township. Now, it is the first barrack in Matsu to have been converted into a hostel. Today we’re standing in this military camp, ready to fight for our seaside position under the starry sky, guarding the bioluminescent “Blue Tears” waves until the golden sun rises at daybreak.
Contented life facing the sea
A great field of Chinese silvergrass waves in the wind beside the winding Nankan highway, bathed in the scent of the sea. Entering No.55 Hostel, you are welcomed by the words “Loyalty Fortress” in big Chinese characters on the gate pillar, war slogans carved in stone from the olden days. Descending the steps, you see the outdoor patio facing the sea. Yo-Yo and Le-Le, the hostel’s dogs, wag their tails in excitement, rushing over to welcome you.
Slip out of your shoes and enter the cozy lobby where the bar is stocked with beer and every other kind of refreshment. Follow the corridor inward to find a community room filled with guests from all over. Some are seated, some busy themselves preparing afternoon tea in the kitchen, and others challenge each other to board games. This entire space is brimming with carefree laughter. Choose a window seat and gaze out over the peaceful village and scenic ocean. Pick up your pen and record the bay landscape in the “Chukuang Diary” which all Taiwanese military personnel stationed in camps must keep, leaving all of your worries in this place.
Fifty years later, a new lease on life for the barrack by the sea
“Barracks are always uniquely constructed in accordance with the landscape.” Having lived in Nankan his whole life, Aya’s eyes still sparkle with excitement as he recalls the first time he saw this fort. After years of adventuring in Taiwan and abroad, he decided to return to his hometown. Skills learned during working holiday experiences, his expertise in interior design, carpentry and research into the historical records of the area allowed Aya to smoothly take control of this seaside fort forgotten by time. It took him nearly a year to get No. 55 Hostel ready, giving it a new lease on life 50 years after its initial construction in the 1970s.
Today, the soldiers’ dorms have become backpackers’ bunk rooms, skillfully decorated by Aya, using blankets folded like perfect cubes of tofu, military towels, and steel cups. As you enter what used to be the company commander’s quarters and the armory now converted into the bathroom, and peek out the window to see walls made of sturdy granite, you become more familiar with the history of Matsu each moment you spend at No.55 Hostel. From the observation station converted into a two-person guest room overlooking the ocean you get the best view. Gaze at the azure seascape through wide, 210-degree panoramic windows. In this room, enjoy a private view of the splendid “blue tears” tide that strikes the seaside precipice at night.
Beneath the big dipper in the spot nearest the sea
Following Aya’s lead down a stone stairway leading to the sea, you come to an old tunnel entrance near No.55 Hostel is the scenic locale of your own private adventure. In the pitch-black tunnel, following the drips of water that run down the stone walls, you’ll discover the tracks of history. The observation station openings along the wall reveal gentle pink clouds in the distance and let in the ocean breeze. If you care to get an even broader view of the horizon, just climb to the barrack’s rooftop patio. The design is flawless, allowing you to observe the long-anticipated “Blue Tears” tides which lap upon the cliffs and to enjoy a drink at the open-air bar that Aya has set up for the enjoyment of his guests.
“There isn’t much to do in Matsu after dark, so I hope that No.55 Hostel can become a place for people to gather and interact.” Aya hopes that No.55 Hostel can become a kind of therapeutic retreat for backpackers the likes of which can be found in New Zealand, a place where people feel comfortable sharing life experiences with an international crowd. He also wishes to create an open-minded place where young people can express their unique voices. Not only has Aya created the first place in Matsu that sells tickets for musical performances, but he also plans to invite speakers to give talks and hold discussion forums from time to time. He wants to expose locals to different issues. He wants for himself and others to explore the history of Matsu, to take part in the Matsu of today, and to create the Matsu of the future together.
“The people of Matsu have endured hardships, so this is the time for those of us who are able to do what we can.” Holding tight to his ideals, Aya is steadfast and optimistic about the future of Matsu. So long as he keeps moving forward one step at a time, he is confident that the future of his hometown will look ever brighter. In this same way, No.55 Hostel will forever keep watch here, providing you with a view of the distant ocean and the expansive mountains, accompanying you an your journey through life.