Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Pro-Taiwan cyclists wheel out global travel itinerary

TOUR-DE-WORLD:A man planning a pedal-powered country-hopping trip with a photographer friend aims to raise worldwide awareness of Taiwan

Staff writer, with CNA

A railway official stands by as “Taiwan Floatman” Teddy Liao, wearing a Republic of China flag shirt, poses as a “human flag” at Wurih Train Station in Greater Taichung last year.

Photo courtesy of Teddy Liao

A Taiwanese man has decided to set out on a six-month bicycle journey around the globe, not just to see the world, but to let people know how much he loves his country.

Teddy Liao (廖宏淋), who prefers to be known by his nickname “Taiwan Floatman,” plans to wear a T-shirt printed with the Republic of China’s (ROC) national flag and perform a “human flag” maneuver in which he positions his body parallel to the ground while holding on to a pole at famous sites in various countries.

Liao, 28, who has sold his bicycle shop in Greater Taichung, said he was motivated to quit his job and travel in this unusual way because he is patriotic and is concerned about Taiwan’s unique international status.

The nation of 23 million people is not recognized as a sovereign nation by the UN because China considers it a province to be reunified with the “mainland” one day.

As a result of Beijing’s objections to Taiwan being treated as a country, Taiwan is often barred from participating in international organizations that require statehood or from using its official name — the Republic of China (ROC) — at international events. The ROC moved its seat to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to the Chinese Communist Party.

Despite warming ties between Taiwan and China, Taiwan is still not allowed to show its flag at international events and thus many patriotic Taiwanese make a point of showing the country’s flag in the audience sections or on the stages of sports competitions and other events.

“Many foreigners often confuse Taiwan with Thailand, as Taiwan is not well-known on the international stage,” Liao said. “I want to let more people know about Taiwan in my own way.”

Liao’s first stop on his tour will be Kazakhstan and he is to leave for the Central Asian country on July 2 with his friend and photographer Brandon Chou. That will be the start of a trip set to cover about 20 countries across Asia, Europe, the US and South America, according to Liao’s plans.

Chou, who traveled independently in Europe for nine months in 2009, will help Liao document his travels and they are aiming to regularly update family, friends and supporters via Facebook.

According to their plans, they will ride all the way through Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Iran, and expect to arrive in Turkey on Aug. 11.

After that, they are to travel to Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. Before it gets too cold in Europe, they are planning to head to the US in November and then plan to make their way to South America.

In order to reduce costs, they are not planning to stay at any hostels or hotels during the entire trip and instead plan to sleep in a tent they will carry with them, they said, adding that their six-month budget amounts to NT$600,000 (US$20,080) — a sum that includes the cost of airplane tickets.

Liao “floated around Taiwan” in December to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ROC, but that was not enough for him.

“I want to do something special before I get old and create some memories that I can talk about for the rest of my life,” Liao said.

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