TAIPEI — The sponsor of a grassroots initiative that encourages people to visit all of Taiwan’s towns and villages decided to give the campaign a fresh twist during its 10th anniversary celebration yesterday.
To account for the social and economic changes that have taken place over the past decade in Taiwan, CommonWealth Magazine reintroduced its “Share the Spirit — Marching towards 319 townships in Taiwan” initiative by adding a “plus” mark.
The publishing company also issued a free commemorative travel log called the “319+” — which is free and available in convenience stores nationwide — that can be used by travelers to show they have been to the towns.
“The ‘319’ has taught us, especially the younger generation, to live with pride on our motherland,” said Diane Ying, publisher and editor-in-chief of CommonWealth Magazine, the event’s organizer.
Ying said that by helping local residents gain a deeper understanding of their homeland and inspiring caring and solidarity, Taiwan would be better prepared to deal with global competition.
The added “+,” she said, would hopefully reawaken people’s interest in traveling to all corners of Taiwan and help them find new value in appreciating the many different faces of the country.
Liao Yi kai, a recent graduate of National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism, said the inspiration he gained from books could not match that drawn from his countrywide town-to town journey.
From August 2007 to June 2008, the 23 year-old hitchhiked whenever he was free and completed the journey throughout Taiwan’s 319 townships with a total budget of NT$12,000 (US$412).
At a fire department in Chiayi County, he recalled, the firemen treated him generously and let him sleep in the captain’s room.
“They told me ‘you are lucky, young man, the captain has gone out on a mission,’” Liao said. “I had a comfortable night, and the next day the crew bought me breakfast and we watched Wang Chien-ming pitch together.”
The passion of Liao and more than 2,000 others who have completed their 319-town tour has also sparked the trend toward greater domestic travel during the past decade.
According to the Tourism Bureau, domestic travel hit a record high in 2007 with around 110 million local visits, a 12 percent increase from the figures in 2002, when the survey was first conducted.
It then fell back to roughly 97 million visits in 2008 and 2009 because of Taiwan’s economic slowdown. Figures are not yet available for 2010.