Wed, May 18, 2005 - Page 13 News List

Big game eating in Pingtung

TungKang has become a Mecca for sashimi enthusiasts and a two-day trip can also take in the sights and sounds of Kenting and the Indigenous Peoples Cultural Park

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian auctions tuna for charity at the Pingtung Bluefin Tuna Festival. Prices can be as NT$8,000 for a kilogram of the premium quality fish.

PHOTO: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

There are many good reasons for a short break and fine dining in Pingtung on raw tuna is one of them. The world's sashimi aficionados fly in every year around this time and join Taiwanese around the table for the thin slices of fish that dissolve on the tongue and recharge the body.

The Japanese, in particular, go crazy for the fatty meat of the migratory bluefin tuna that returns annually to its spawning area off Taiwan's southern and eastern coasts. The fish couple in the moonlight, to avoid the attention of predators in daytime, and the male fish jump out of the water to attract females. After a two-week period, the tuna shoal up again and swim northward, as far as California, riding on the northern currents.

Thunnus thynnus is one of the biggest fish in the seas, growing up to 3m in 20 years and weighing as much as 600kg. Its reddish meat is different from the white meat found in most cans of tuna and is so highly prized that it can fetch up to NT$8,000 a kilogram (though it usually sells for NT$1,500).

Overfishing to the point where the number of bluefin of breeding age has fallen below the level for species survival also gives it a scarcity value. Every year President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) opens the Pingtung Bluefin Tuna festival with an auction of the best fish for charity.

In Tungkang there is a museum dedicated to the bluefin tuna industry and the harbor, which would have been more useful to foreign tourists if it had English translations. There is also the visitor attraction of Dapeng Bay, which has boat rides, bird spotting and bunkers dating from before World War II, in addition to an enormous wooden boatplane that rises above the bay and houses a cafe and viewing platform.

But there is more to Pingtung than tuna and a trip around the county should take in the hotspot of Kenting for water sports and some rest and relaxation on the beaches of Kenting National Park. There is also the newly developed ocean entertainment route along the western coast, or "Blue Way," connecting Tungkang with places of interest like Little Okinawa, Haiko and Fengliao: good for a stroll and a bite to eat.

Pingtung stretches from the bottom of the island and Kenting National Forest Park in the south, to the Central Mountain Range in the north of the county. Below the peak of Mount Tawu are found the Aboriginal settlements of the Rukai and Paiwan tribes and on the planes below are the remnants of the Pingpu tribe and many Hakka settlements.

Like other areas of Taiwan, Pingtung is developing its tourism structure by building museums, adventure parks and completing other projects. Some of the ideas may seem farfetched (such as the Pingtung Windbell Festival) but others are well-founded and the Indigenous Peoples Cultural Park is one of these.

The park includes a visitors center, exhibition hall of historical relics, an aviation park and a staging area for performances of Aboriginal songs and dances. There are also trails to walk and there is accommodation at two resorts and a villa.

Contact the Bureau of Cultural Park for further information, in Machia, Pingtung County. Call (08) 799 1219. The Santimen Arts Village is nearby and it's worth taking a stroll and having a look at where the locals have come up with innovative and successful businesses such as the glass bead-making center, Sha Tao, in Santimen Village.

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