Thursday, June 3, 2010

A drifting ball on the southern seas (Taiwan Business Topics)

Much-visited yet unspoiled, the island of Little Liuqiu makes an excellent day trip if you are in the Kaohsiung area. As an overnight destination, this uplifted nub of coral surrounded by clean sea is a getaway in the truest sense of the world.

“Little Liuqiu reminds me of Eastern Taiwan, or Kenting as it used to be 15 or more years ago,” says Sam Webster, a Taichung-based American financial consultant who for the last several years has been taking his family to the island about once a month. “There are none of the tourist-oriented stores you see in Kenting. It has a much more laidback feel,” says Webster, for whom the atmosphere is as big an attraction as the sea.

Little Liuqiu's peaceful ambiance belies its blood-soaked history. Early Western sources referred to it as Lamay Island because its original inhabitants were the Lamayans, an Austronesian tribe. In 1621 and again in 1631, Lamayan tribesmen massacred Europeans who survived the sinking of their ships just offshore.

In 1636, a vengeful Dutch East India Company – which at that time controlled the Tainan area – attacked the tribe. Most of those fighting on the Dutch side were recruits from other Taiwanese tribes that despised the Lamayans. The climax was a siege at what is now one of the island's major tourist attractions, Black Ghost Cave. More than 300 Lamayans were massacred and the survivors were sold into slavery. After that, Little Liuqiu had no permanent human population until the ancestors of the current islanders arrived from Fujian in the late 18th century.

Liuqiu earned its name, which means “drifting ball,” because passing fishermen thought its shape resembled that of a ball bobbing in the waves. “Little” was added during Japan's 1895-1945 occupation of Taiwan to distinguish it from Japan's Ryukyu Islands (most of which now form part of Okinawa Prefecture), since “Ryukyu” is written using the same two Chinese characters as “Liuqiu.”

Ferries leave Donggang in Pingtung County for Little Liuqiu eight times daily between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., with additional service on weekends and national holidays, charging a round-trip fare of NT$410 for adults or NT$210 for children. The journey takes around 40 minutes...

The entire article can be read here, or in the May issue of Taiwan Business Topics.

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