A group of young bikers from National Taiwan Normal University this month embarked upon a journey mentioned in the travel journal of a Qing Dynasty official and managed to complete their trip in 20 days.
Yu Yonghe (郁永河) was ordered by the Qing government to explore sulphur mines in Taiwan in 1697. He took a boat from Xiamen and arrived in Luermen (鹿耳門) in Tainan via Kinmen and Penghu. Yu then traveled up the west coast to Tamsui (淡水) and Beitou (北投).
Yu recorded his experiences in his journal, which was later published as the Bihai Travel Journal (裨海紀遊), one of the oldest travel guides for Taiwan.
Milly Lin (林于喬) was the captain of the biking team. She said she came across Yu’s journal when she was a student teacher.
“I taught history and was very interested in the history of Taiwan’s Aborigines,” she said in an interview with Taipei Times. “While I knew a lot about the Aborigines living in the mountains, I knew very little about the Pingpu tribes living on the plains. I later found that the journal actually said quite a lot about the Pingpu tribes.”
When the National Youth Commission said earlier this year it would subsidize young travelers who came up with creative ways to tour the country this summer, Lin pitched her idea and it was accepted.
The group first flew to Kinmen and biked around the island. Then they flew to Kaohsiung and took a ferry to Penghu because there are no flights between Kinmen and Penghu. After a bike tour there, they took a ferry to Kaohsiung and rode to Luermen, seeking the locations mentioned in Yu’s journal.
Lin also used articles by author Chiang Hsun (蔣勳) and former Control Yuan member Ma Yi-kung (馬以工), who made the same trip 30 years ago, to help her sketch out a more concrete travel route.
“We wanted to stick to provincial highways as much as possible, but unfortunately a lot of names mentioned in the journal were pretty far from the provincial highways and we ended up spending a lot of time on the county roads,” she said.
The five-member team began their adventure on July 5 and finished the trip last Friday, although Yu’s journey took several months in 1697.
“I can’t imagine how Yu and Qing officials were able to do this all on ox carriages,” Lin said.