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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Eye Taiwan: Sponsoring Riders To DIscover Taiwan on Two Wheels

Yesterday I commented on the importance of the Round-Island-Tour in Taiwanese culture, which has become a rite of passage and in many ways a Gandhi-esque discovery of the nation.

Eye Taiwan, an independent cycling advocacy group, has put together a program to sponsor cyclists in Taiwan to make the fabled Round-Island-Tour. I have written about Yang a little bit when his vision was unfortunately misrepresented in Common Wealth Magazine.

The concept is the brainchild of Yang Ming-huang a.k.a "Frog", who is the owner and operator of the Frog Cafe in Bali, a bicycle themed cafe along the western banks of the Danshui (Tamshui) River.

In 2008, after completing his own Round-Island-Tour, Yang decided he needed to invest his resources in allowing other riders to discover Taiwan and learn to love Taiwan as he had. Since 2008 Yang has made 10 fully equipped bicycles available for a full tour of Taiwan

The rules to participate are as follows:

1. Read the book authored by Frog entitled, Ride Around Taiwan Island (島內出走)

2. Write A Book Report on Ride Around Taiwan Island.

3. Write your proposal and route plan for your trip.

4. Return and write your own story and post it on Eye Taiwan.

Riders can download an application or apply on-line and will be contacted if the proposal has been accepted. The rider's schedule will then be posted on the Eye Taiwan website. The minimum number of applicants per tour is one and the maximum is 10, limited by the number of available bikes.

Some other terms of agreement include:

1. Riders must also agree to post their ride reports within a month of completing their tours.

2. Riders must start and end their tours at the Frog Cafe in Bali.

3. The distance is unlimited, but riders are encouraged to make one full loop around Taiwan.

4. Riders will be responsible for any damaged to the bicycles or equipment during their journey.

5. Riders will be required to pay NT500 for maintenance and an additional NT500 donation to the Eye Taiwan cycling fund to keep the program in operation.

6. All bikes are loaners and must be returned to Frog Cafe.

This program information and applications are limited to Chinese language only, but the organizers are considering a future English language format as well.

You can check out a model cycling calendar that reveals accompanying pictures when you click on the days. Here

This is basically an offer for a free bike rental for riders who want to circle Taiwan.

Hot Blooded Cycling Around Taiwan: Tea, Cycling and Imagined Communities

Check out this brilliant piece of marketing that taps several Taiwanese cultural memes to reach the consumer.

The advertisement is titles Hot Blooded Cycling Around Taiwan, for the Tongyi brand of fresh Taiwanese tea that is packaged and sold by the carton. The term hot blooded does not translate very well into English as the term can be confused with being "easily angered" or "horny". In Taiwan the term "hot blooded" means "enthusiastic and motivated by something". Sorry to all you Foreigner fans out there.

The drinks are sold in black, green and oolong varieties, with the green tea providing a sugar free option.

The advertisement shows a group of young, hip Taiwanese on a bicycle tour around Taiwan, an activity that is particularly popular with college students. Circling Taiwan by bike has become regarded as an informal rite of passage in recent years.

The script for the ad might be translated as follows:

Taiwan... We're coming!

Now is the time!

Ooh Ahhh!

Oh so cool.

If you don't do it. It doesn't hurt. If you do it, you'll make a difference.

When it's fresh, it's original.

Try It! Tongyi Chun Chi Cha (Pure Drinking Tea)

The marketing department used several images to associate the product with various memes that are closely associated with the Taiwanese cultural and national identities. Although the marketing department may not be out to make a political statement (I assume they are doing what marketing departments do and trying to better sell products), by taking a semiotic look at this little ad it is possible to understand the salience of these images in contemporary Taiwan. It is no accident the bicycle plays a major role as the symbol of the Taiwanese identity... even if these images are being exploited in the name of Mammon.

First, the ad explicitly screams "Taiwan", which is not only the common name for the country, but also a demonstration of how Taiwanese imagine their community.

The ad also focuses on youth, which has also been a major focus demographic for political actors as they try to appeal to all Taiwanese, but youth will represent change this year as they are increasingly dissatisfied with the number of opportunities available after graduation.

Next, the ad focuses on the activity of circling Taiwan, which is seen as an essential part of learning and knowing (and imaging) that community. Circling helps denote the important borders of the inner and the outer.

Lastly, the advertisement uses the bicycle, which, for many Taiwanese, has come to symbolize Taiwanese culture and achievement as Taiwan is known as one of the world's largest producers of bicycles and bicycle components. The bicycle also symbolizes the values of freedom and mobility. It is also synonymous with a youthful, hip activity. There has been a recent sentiment of longing for change and a yearning for a fresh start--a breath of fresh air.

Although this is only a short ad, The marketing strategy betrays powerful sentiments of identity and the aspirations of more than just a few Taiwanese.