Mon, May 08, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Farm program popular with Kaohsiung visitors

TEMPLE AND TURTLES:Visiting Cishan Matsu Temple to learn how to make traditional red turtle cakes has become popular thanks to a character on an HBO series

By Tsai Ching-hua, Chen Wen-chan and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

“Red turtle cakes” made from glutinous rice lie in a steamer at Cishan Matsu Temple in Kaohsiung’s Cishan District on Friday.

Photo: Tsai Ching-hua, Taipei Times

Agritourism is on the rise in Kao-hsiung, where a program by the agriculture bureau inviting visitors to pick fruit and make their own glutinous rice cakes has proven popular with foreign tourists.

The bureau’s “One-Day Farmer” program takes visitors to Cishan Matsu Temple, where they make traditional red turtle cakes (紅龜粿) — a pastry made from glutinous rice and sugar that is a symbol of longevity, continuity and harmony. They then have a meal with farmers’ families, tour the countryside and pick fruit before returning to the 200-year-old temple to participate in religious rituals.

“We hope visitors learn about Taiwan’s temple culture,” bureau officials said.

Making red turtle cakes has been a part of the One-Day Farmer program since it was introduced in 2013, but organizers said interest in the latest tour on Friday was especially high because of the popularity of the HBO television series The Teenage Psychic (通靈少女).

Even President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has commented on Facebook about the show and eating red turtle cakes, the organizers said.

The main character in the TV show, a high-school student named Xiao Zhen (小真), makes red turtle cakes for classmates on a day when students are asked to bake cookies, which she does not know how to make.

Given the interest, another One-Day Farmer tour has been scheduled for Saturday next week, organizers said, adding that registration opens at 8pm today.

The tours have generated about NT$500 million (US$16.6 million) in revenue, mostly from visitors from Hong Kong and Singapore, the bureau said.

It expects 6,000 more visitors from Hong Kong and Singapore by the end of the year, the bureau said, adding that of the 15.8 million foreign tourists who visited Taiwan last year, 2.9 million came from Hong Kong and 50,000 from Singapore.

Of that total, 55,000 were attracted by agritourism activities in Kaohsiung, bureau officials said.

“It is worth pointing out that Hong Kong and Singapore do not have much in the way of an agricultural industry… Singapore’s travel magazine Uweekly listed the One-Day Farmer program among six must-do travel activities,” the bureau said.

A Singaporean surnamed Xie (謝), who went on one of the tours this year, said he enjoyed the chance to visit Liouguei Township (六龜) to pick wax apples, candied jujubes and organic Chinese leeks.

“The experience allowed me to better understand the hard work of farmers. Picking fruit and walking around a farm is something you must do if you come to Taiwan,” she said.

A visitor from Hong Kong surnamed Lo (羅) said she was moved by the hard work and lives of famers in Meinong District (美濃), where she had the chance to learn how to make Hakka-style mochi.

“I feel the farmers are part of what makes Taiwan beautiful,” she said.

Kaohsiung Association of Travel Agents director-general Huang Chin-hsiang (黃金祥) said the One-Day Farmer program helps supplement inadequacies in the marketing of rural agriculture, while listening to farmers’ stories helps visitors connect with them and better understand agriculture.

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