Sunday, 11 October 2015

Vegan Travel Guides to Taiwan

While I continue to use this blog to offer free information about vegan food in Taiwan, I have taken the step of selling travel guides especially for vegans. While I like giving information away free, these books are the result of several months off work, including many weeks 'on the road' doing research, so it's necessary to charge a small amount. If this project is successful I hope to go on to write more Vegan Travel Guides for Japan and other popular destinations. If you are looking for information on vegan food, restaurants, language and other survival information, it's all here on this blog. If you would like a guidebook which also covers where to go, when, how to get around, culture, history and everything else found in conventional guidebooks, all written from a vegan perspective, then I invite you to consider a Vegan Travel Guide to Taiwan.

Taipei in Four Days ($4.99USD),   Taiwan - A Travel Guide for Vegans ($7.99USD)

Vegan Travel Guides are written with the philosophy that vegans shouldn't need to put up with guidebooks which recommend zoos, steakhouses and dolphinariums. Making the most of a trip to a new country, visiting all the best (cruelty-free) attractions and eating at the top vegan restaurants, all in a limited time, requires a guidebook written by a vegan who is familiar with the country, has visited the city's attractions, eaten at its restaurants and spent months carefully researching and documenting the best itineraries for vegan (or vegetarian) travellers. These itineraries are compiled into affordable, regularly-updated, user-friendly electronic guidebooks. It's no longer necessary to choose between a hungry Lonely Planet walking tour or the best vegan restaurants from Happycow, nor is it necessary to spend hours trying to marry them up, at least for Taiwan. As far as I am aware these are the world's first travel guides written especially for vegans (as opposed to directories of vegan-friendly businesses designed to supplement conventional travel guides).

Planning at a Glance


Overviews are provided for all outings and their restaurants, so the reader can plan their trip at a glance based on the days of the week and weather forecasts, and choose which restaurants to eat at based on price, cuisine and convenience. This ensures that the visitor will reach both sights and restaurants at suitable times, when they are open, in the right weather conditions, and without encountering unbearable crowds.

Which Book To Buy?

My first book, Taiwan - A Travel Guide for Vegans, contains virtually everything I could think of that might be useful for vegan travellers to Taiwan (or residents to be), including the most popular or worthwhile sights and attractions in the northern third or so of the island (which is the focus of travel for the majority of visitors). However, Taipei in Four Days is a product of the realisation that many people visit Taiwan for only a few days, and that not everyone wants a four hundred-page guidebook for a four-day visit. And one of the key reasons that many people choose to buy a guidebook is to save time, so they want a book that they can quickly skim at breakfast before heading out for a stress-free day's sightseeing. That is what this guidebook is designed to be.
Taipei in Four Days uses the same three Taipei 'outings' as the first book, and most of the content is the same, but somewhat condensed. The fourth 'outing' is to the quaint old mining towns of Jiufen and Jinguashi (which, along with several other surrounding towns, are also covered in the Taiwan edition).

As much as I appreciate the support, it is not necessary to buy both guidebooks (as some people appear to be doing). When I condensed the original book into the four day version I worked on improving and simplifying the format for greater readability, however I've since worked these advantages into the original book ( Taiwan - A Travel Guide for Vegans) as well. If you will be here for up to four days, I recommend the four day guide. If you will be here for longer than four days I recommend the original book. But there is no need for both.

Buy or Download Free Sample

My First User Review

Unlike most first-time publishers on Kindle, I didn't request any "sponsored" reviews, because I want the vegan community to judge the value of my work. I waited almost six months for my first book review, and am very grateful for this one.

My First Newspaper Review

Thank you to Han Cheung, journalist with the Taipei Times (Taiwan's best and most widely-read English-language newspaper) for this professional review: "Navigating the Vegan Heart of Asia". Mr Cheung's review is mostly positive with a few fair criticisms, mostly over the layout. He concludes that the book "gets the job done as a comprehensive tool for the visiting vegan".

What's Covered?

Taiwan - A Travel Guide for Vegans covers common tourist attractions visited by most people who visit Taiwan for up to around ten days. Taipei in Four Days  follows the same Taipei itinerary, and also includes the two most popular Northeast Coast towns of Jiufen and Jinguashi, which make a great overnight trip from Taipei.

For a "photo tour" please see this Facebook Post.

Taipei in Four Days Taiwan - A Travel Guide for Vegans
Trip length (days) 1-5 4-10
Length (Kindle pages, designed to represent equivalent in a 'real' book) 245 400
Cost (USD)* $4.99 $7.99
View, buy or download free sample on Link Link
Chapters / Destinations
Preparation, Packing and Timing.
History, politics and religion (from a vegan perspective). This chapter is freely available as a sample on my blog here
I Kuan Tao home altar
Travel Practicalities

City Home, the only vegan B&B on the Taiwanese mainland.
 Safety, costs, airports, getting around Taipei, luggage storage, languages, electricity, water, wireless internet, prepaid SIM cards, postal system & addresses, accommodation guide, public toilets
Intercity Transport

 Conventional trains, intercity buses, high speed rail.
Food and Restaurants
symbols and language, chain restaurants, convenience stores and finding food on the go, Taiwanese speciality foods, fake meat (why it's not vegan, why everyone thinks it is and what to do about it).

Most of this section is freely available on my blog, but is also condensed and available offline, and appropriately dispersed throughout the book as required (such as what to show wait staff when needed to ensure a vegan meal in the rare times that it's necessary to eat at non-vegan restaurants). 

Northern Taipei

Tamsui Old Street

National Palace Museum, Baoan Temple, Taipei Confucius Temple, Taipei Story House (museum), Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei Expo Park,  Beitou (Japanese hotspring resort town), Guandu Temple, Guandu Nature Park (birdwatching), Tamsui (port town famous for Spanish ruins and sunsets).

Lotus Vegetarian Teahouse
 Yummy Vegan House, Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant, Su Vegetarian Restaurant, Hiroshima Xiang.

Eastern Taipei

View from Elephant Mountain
 Huashan Cultural Park (old wine factory gone arts centre), Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, Taipei 101, Songshan Cultural Park, Raohe Night Market, Maokong Gondola


Fruiful Food
Guangfu Loving Hut, Veggie Creek, three other Loving Huts (buffet, Korean and stinky tofu), Fruitful Food (best and most vegan-friendly luxury buffet in Taipei), Fresh Bakery, Green Bakery, fried mushroom stall (at Raohe Night Market).

Central & Southern Taipei

Bitan (Xindian River)
Longshan Temple, Ximen Ding, 2-28 Peace Memorial Park, 2-28 Memorial Museum, National Taiwan Museum, Botanical Gardens, National Museum of History, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Daan Forest Park, iVegan supermarket.


About Animals
Rice Revolution, Ooh Cha Cha, Mianto, Nakedfood, About Animals, Bitan Loving Hut, Bio @Peace Cafe.
Northeast Coast Jiufen

 This quaint old mining village, brought to fame through movies in the 1990s, is Taipei's most popular overnight trip, and enormously popular with Japanese tourists for it's supposed links to the animae movie Spirited Away.
Gold Ecological Park, Jinguashi
 This neighour of Jiufen's contains a large mining complex which has been restored as the Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park, a POW Memorial from WWII and a giant statue of a famous Chinese god.
Houtong Coal Dressing Plant and Cat Feeding
 The latest mining town to re-invent itself, this one a poorer coal mine with fewer crowds, and the only vegetarian meal in the area.
Siaocukeng Anctient Footpath

Ruins of Siaocukeng Village
 This historic walkway from Jiufen to Houtong passes by the ruins of the once prosperous Siaocukeng Village, which is now overtaken by jungle and provides some incredible photographic opportunities.
Pingxi Railway (Shifen, Pingxi, Jingtong)

Shifen Old Street
 This historic narrow-gauge railway passes through more old mining towns, but has a much more authentic feel than the padded tourist towns of Jiufen and Jinguashi. It also makes a great day trip from Taipei.

Jiaoxi Hotsprings

This hotspring resort town is shaping up to the the new tourist magnet on the East Coast, and is home to Taiwan's top vegan bakery (Vegan Heaven).
East Coast Hualien
Ching Hsou (Japanese) Buddhist Temple
This friendly city is usually just used as the gateway to Taroko Gorge, but it's home to the only Vegan B&B on the Taiwanese mainland and a restored Japanese Buddhist temple from the only sect which promotes vegetarianism among its members.
Taroko Gorge
Swallow Grotto
 This marble-walled canyon is Taiwan's top natural attraction.
South of Taipei Lion Head Mountain
Changhua Tang Temple, Lion Head Mountain
 This Buddhist mountain retreat has been a favourite in Northern Taiwan since the Qing Dynasty. Spending a night here and watching the sunrise makes a great final overnight trip before flying out.

*Unfortunately adds additional charge (usually $2 USD) to users of outside the US, including unfortunately Taiwan. This is above and beyond their usual commissions and is kept by to recover extra costs and taxes involved in selling the book overseas, and is totally beyond my control.

What's Not Covered in These Editions?

Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Pingtung, Taidong, Central Mountain Range. 
If you have longer than ten days for Taiwan then I recommend purchasing a conventional guidebook and travelling around the island.

If these guidebooks are successful I intend to expand Taiwan, A Travel Guide for Vegans to include all these destinations, and hopefully other less well-known spots, such as B&Bs located on rural organic farms.

Why use Guidebooks at All?

An increasing number of people don't use guidebooks, and some people consider them outdated. It's certainly possible to plan a trip to Taiwan using Tripadvisor, Happycow (Taipei, Taiwan) and perhaps my own commercial Formosa Guide website, and learn how to find vegan food using this blog.

However, I believe that the time saved by having one concise, offline guidebook makes it worthwhile for most travellers, especially when it's specifically written for vegans. Even the most skilled and diligent planner is unlikely to take into account as many considerations as someone who lives in the country and spends months undertaking careful research, visiting all the top restaurants and destinations. Secondly, most people spend a lot of money on an overseas trip and want to make the most of it, so the time saved (both planning and on the trip itself) should easily justify a few dollars for a guidebook. For many visitors the cost of the guidebook will probably be offset by cheaper and more efficient travel options explained in the guidebook, or by being able to plan to eat at inexpensive restaurants more easily. A simple price key used for all restaurants (including in the overviews) makes this process especially easy.

Planning around opening hours, busy weekends and the weather is stress-free with Vegan Travel Guides.

It works Offline

Taiwanese are very tech-savvy, and Taipei was the first city in the world to introduce city-wide free WiFi. I explain how to use it and how to buy a prepaid data-enabled SIM card in the book, but I still think there's value in having everything offline, in one place. I list names and addresses in Chinese (and English) of all destinations in this guide, so it's easy to stop and ask someone the way or show a taxi where you want to go without having to stop and connect to free wifi or Google something in another language. You can even read the book and plan your trip on the plane (check the weather forecast first).

Buy or Download Free Sample: Full Guide / Four Day Edition


Just yesterday I was enjoying a take-out from Veggie Creek with friends in a park when a lost and exasperated Dutch traveller turned up trying to find Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. He'd taken the wrong exit from the MRT (subway) station and gotten lost, and his free map wasn't helping him much. I was able to quickly open up this guidebook (which I'd just been proof-reading), find which exit he should have taken and then walk him back to the station. He was particularly stressed because he'd bought his ticket to the airport for that afternoon from Taipei Main Station, so had limited time to get through his bucket list. Had he read a guidebook he would instead have used the nearby bus station at Taipei City Hall, saving a rushed trip back across town and peak time traffic jams as his bus tries to get out of central Taipei. And the money he would have saved for just that unnecessary short trip on the MRT would have paid for half of this guidebook, and of course have freed up much of his afternoon. And were he vegan he could have enjoyed one of the half-dozen vegan restaurants around the area for dinner.


This map: Eastern Taipei

Maps are made using Google Maps Engine, are reproduced in their original form (in accordance with Google's Terms and Conditions). They are all available (free) here. On larger devices maps are perfectly usable as they are, however they also link directly to Google Maps, which open either in a browser (preferable) or Google Maps, depending on your device's settings. These work better on smaller devices (smartphones) and have the advantage of showing the user's location.

An offline map of all locations is also available, but most be set up first (see instructions on the same page). Taiwan's complicated but highly efficient address system is also explained, but for the short-term visitor it's often easiest to just get as close as possible on public transport, show the address in Chinese (always provided in this guidebook) to a passer-by and ask for directions. Taiwanese are exceptionally friendly and helpful to foreigners, and in Taipei an English-speaker will always appear almost immediately and be keen to help.

Buy or Download Free Sample: Full Guide / Four Day Edition

Why Kindle (E-books)?

I understand that some people prefer traditional (printed) guidebooks, and that Amazon's Kindle is not the only platform for distributing electronic books. First, I endeavour to keep my guidebook updated, and this is obviously much more practical with electronic versions. For example in the last fortnight Sophie's Garden, previously Taipei's top vegan restaurant, has closed, and Wulai (a hotspring resort town) has been virtually destroyed by a typhoon. I also regularly edit my books in response to suggestions by friends and readers. Also, most people buy a guidebook before leaving home, and printing and sending books internationally would by prohibitively expensive for many travellers.

These images are composite images (because photographing a back-lit screen is very difficult) but they look identical to how it actually looks on this device.

Formatting a book for any electronic distribution system requires many hours (or days) of work, and Amazon's Kindle platform is by far the most popular. It also works very well on virtually all electronic devices, and books are automatically reformatted for all sized screens. The font size can easily be adjusted to suit the reader (small fonts are shown here as examples). The Kindle app can be downloaded (free) for Android and iOS, and once paid for books can be downloaded instantly and read on several different devices simultaneously. I strongly recommend installing the Kindle App and downloading the book on both a tablet and a smartphone. Read the book on the plane on your tablet (Samsung Galaxy Tab, iPad etc) but have it ready on your smartphone to quickly check which station to get off at, or to pass to a taxi driver to show an address in Chinese. On phones it's best to click the map captions to open them in Google Maps so that you can use the zoom function. 

Why Not Use the Lonely Planet?

Perhaps my greatest difficulty with this project is convincing people that my guidebook, written by 'some stranger on the internet with a blog', will be more useful than their trusted Lonely Planet. But Lonely Planet staff don't care about vegans (or vegetarians) at all: their guide to Taiwan barely recommends any of Taipei's best vegan or even vegetarian restaurants. I doubt they even consulted Happycow listings in making their selections, let alone tried any themselves.

Vegans who eat fish should be fine with the Lonely Planet. But vegans who expect their guidebook authors to have the slightest idea what they actually do and don't eat might want to consider something else. (And no, most organic shops in Japan don't offer anything vegan either.) Photo: Lonely Planet, Japan
Worse still, the Lonely Planet is dangerously misleading: for years many foreigners in Taiwan (including myself) believed that the ubiquitous fake meat is vegan, because the Lonely Planet authors say so, when in fact it usually contains dairy products, egg and often real meat. Even instructions on how to find vegetarian restaurants are wrong: the Lonely Planet instructs its loyal readers to look for the 'reverse savastika', whereas in reality only a small proportion of restaurants use it. But virtually all vegetarian restaurants use these common vegetarian symbols. Thousands of visitors must have missed tens of thousands of restaurants because of this. If they could have been bothered it would have taken the authors five minutes to  learn these correct symbols from any Taiwanese vegetarian.

Both these vegetarian restaurants use the common vegetarian symbols, which are used by most vegetarian restaurants in Taiwan (this and their newer equivalents are all explained in the book). Only the restaurant on the rights uses the 'reverse swastika', which is used by about ten per cent of vegetarian restaurants and is recommended by the Lonely Planet as the best way to find a vegetarian restaurant.

In this book (and here on my blog) I summarise how to find restaurants and the world's best vegetarian labelling system. On the first page is a quick reference guide, including all these symbols and instructions in Chinese to order vegan food at restaurants or to ask for help to find it at convenience stores. However, this book lists all trustworthy vegan restaurants in Taipei (and a few of the best and most vegan-friendly vegetarian restaurants) along with sights and activities they are best visited with, so with these carefully-planned itineraries it shouldn't be necessary to eat at any non-vegetarian restaurants at all.

Secondly, anyone who trusts the Lonely Planet should read Do Travel Writers Go to Hell, in which former LP author and whistleblower Thomas Kohnstamm explains that staff aren't paid enough to even cover their basic travel expenses, let alone earn a living, and that they instead earn their money from bribes and "freebies" (usually accommodation, food, alcohol and sometimes other "services") in exchange for recommending hotels and restaurants. This could explain why they are so bad for vegetarians and vegans: authors are unlikely to be vegetarian, so vegetarian restaurants are unable to 'earn' their listings by offering the writers free meals, and most restaurants are probably too small to be able to bribe them by other means.

My books contain no advertisements in any form. I always pay for meals in full, and never accept or would accept any form of incentives for listings or recommendations in this guidebook or on any of my blogs or websites.

Buy or Download Free Sample: Full Guide / Four Day Edition

Culture, History, Politics and Religion

Personally when I travel I like to know a little about the culture and history of where I'm travelling, especially any connections to vegetarianism. In this guidebook I summarise the history of Taiwan (in a more condensed version than the previous book) and Taiwan's complicated political situation, to help the reader understand (for example) why it's offensive to refer to Taiwanese as "Chinese" despite the fact that their passport says "Republic of China" and the airline you may well arrive on is called "China Airlines".

An I Kuan Tao altar in a family home. While it's little known outside of Taiwan, owners of most Chinese vegetarian restaurants around the world are run by devout followers of Taiwan's third largest religion.

I also describe the main religious groups in Taiwan, three of which promote vegetarianism. The original form of this article is (free) here. In the Lonely Planet I Kuan Tao, the third largest religion in the country, whose members own at least half of the country's vegetarian restaurants, is dismissed as a "cult" in one sentence. Supreme Master Ching Hai, whose followers run virtually all of Taiwan's vegan restaurants, does not even get a mention. Of course if you're not interested in any of this being an electronic book it's easy to skip this chapter, and it doesn't add any extra 'weight'.

How About Happycow?

Use Happycow! I'm the "Happycow Ambassador" (volunteer contact person) for Taipei, and have added or updated all the restaurants I've come across in my many months of writing these guidebooks. If you just want to know about restaurants then this book is not for you, and I recommend Happycow (TaipeiTaiwan) perhaps along with this blog.

But if you are travelling to Taipei, especially for the first time, then this guidebook should replace your conventional guidebook (eg Lonely Planet). And it integrates with Happycow, fitting restaurants and attractions into the same outings and displaying them on all on the same maps (which link to Google Maps - see above). This book covers where to go in Taipei, when, how to get around, language (of course vegan-specific), accommodation, safety and everything else traditionally covered by travel guidebooks.

Taipei in Four Days includes all of Taipei's vegan restaurants, along with cuisine style, price range, a photo, a brief description and review, opening hours, websites and addresses (in Chinese and English, and public transport directions). And their Happycow reviews are just a click away.

Buy or Download Free Sample: Full Guide / Four Day Edition

Have a Great Trip to Taiwan!

Taiwan is Asia's most underrated travel destination. Having been ruled by several countries over the centuries it has a wide variety of cultural and historic sights and attractions. Taipei has a modern, reliable, inexpensive public transport system, and Taiwanese are exceptionally warm and friendly towards foreign visitors. Most people in Taipei speak English and are happy to help foreigners, and most signs are bilingual. Taiwan is also very safe, with violent very rare, especially towards foreigners. Taiwan has an infrastructure comparable to Japan prices comparable to Thailand.

Taiwan is also the vegan heart of Asia, with over a dozen vegan restaurants in Taipei having opened in the last few years, and in built-up areas there's usually a vegetarian restaurant within walking distance. Even the ubiquitous 7-Eleven convenience stores sell frozen vegan meals, which they can microwave on the spot. Taipei is one of very few destinations in the world where it's possible to set up for a day's sightseeing without having to even think about where you'll eat, and with this guide there will always be plenty to choose from. I wish you a safe and enjoyable trip to the country that has become my second home.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Taiwan, A Travel Guide for Vegans

This guidebook is currently being updated to include a few additions since publication and to follow the more user-friendly Taipei in Four Days edition, which I recommend to anyone who will be in Taiwan for five days or fewer. If you have longer (up to around ten days) this guidebook is still perfectly useable, however.

This is a travel guide to Taiwan for vegans and ethically-minded travellers. It contains all information necessary to get the most out of a trip to Taiwan, including sights, activities and the best vegan food available, all listed together as possible travel itineraries for Taiwan's most popular tourist destinations. All vegan restaurants and the best vegetarian restaurants in Taipei are reviewed, with photographs, cuisine styles, price ranges, hours etc, along with sights and activities they are best visited with. Of course this guidebook doesn't recommend any cruel forms of entertainment.

So far (September 12th) I have sold around twenty five copies (not counting people I know) and have no reviews. I guess this means that it's about what people expect, as people would surely write negative reviews if they weren't happy with it and felt ripped off? Still, if you have bought this book I would greatly appreciate a review (, or,, Even if you haven't yet travelled to Taiwan a few sentences of your first impressions would offer an independent analysis of the value of this book to travellers to Taiwan who find this blog, and you can always update your review after visiting Taiwan. I am also very interested in feedback myself, of course.

Length: 400 pages / Price: $7.99 USD (~NT125) 
One-week Half Price Sale: September 12th - 19th $3.99 

For a photo tour of what this guidebook offers, please visit the Vegan Travel Guides Facebook Page.

This is the world's first complete travel guide for vegans, as opposed to directories and reviews of vegan restaurants and other businesses, which are usually designed to be a supplement to conventional travel guides. If this will be your first visit to Taiwan, you'll be here for less than two weeks and you wish to visit the most common attractions then this should be the only guide you'll need. If you plan to spend longer than two weeks in Taiwan then I suggest purchasing a complete travel guide (such as the Lonely Planet of Rough Guide) and travelling around the whole island, and perhaps to Taiwan's outlying islands, especially Penghu.

Taipei is divided up into three main 'outings' (based on the subway lines) with preparation, weather and other considerations discussed for each. Also included are the quaint former Japanese mining towns tourist towns of Jiufen, Jinguashi and Houtong, the Pingxi Raiilway, Jiaoxi, Hualien and Taroko Gorge (see below). Together these make up by far the most common itinerary for first-time travellers to Taiwan, and it includes Taiwan's main tourist attractions and vegan hotspots easily reachable from Taipei.

Like most travel guides, Formosa (Taiwan) includes all necessary travel information, including Taipei and intercity transport, hotels, addresses, postal services, wifi, mobile phones, electricity and safety. It also discusses the history, culture and religions of Taiwan, and their promotion of vegetarianism or veganism. It should be possible to check the weather forecast for Taipei and Hualien before you leave and then plan your trip, including sights and food, on the plane, or just turn up and wing it if that's how you like to travel. It should save hours of time matching up vegan restaurants with sights from Tripadvisor, wikitravel etc.

What's Covered in the First Edition?

For a "photo tour" please see this Facebook Post.

Central Taipei
Due to their proximity to Taipei Main Station, these sights can be visited together or visited before any of the other three Taipei outings.

2-28 Massacre Memorial

Rice Revolution meal

Oh Cha Cha rice meal
 2-28 Peace Park, 2-28 Peace Memorial Museum, National Taiwan Museum, Daan Forest Park, Ximen Ding, Longshan Temple, Presidential Palace, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall / Liberty Square, Botanical Gardens.
Rice Revolution, Minder Vegetarian, Oh Cha Cha, Joy Bar, Mianto, Nakedfood

Eastern Taipei


View from Elephant Mountain

Fruiful Food
Tian Zhuan Zhai Loving Hut
Taipei 101, Elephant Mountain, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, Maokong Gondola, Raohe Street Night Market
Loving Hut (hotpots, Taiwanese, Korean, buffet, stinky tofu), Vege Creek, Minder Vegetarian, Fruitful Food, SoulR, Fresh Bakery

 Northern Taipei


Tamsui Waterfront

Lotus Vegetarian
Yummy Vegan House
National Palace Museum, Baoan Temple, Confucius Temple, Taipei Expo Park, Taipei Story House, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Guandu Temple, Guandu Nature Park, Neitou, Tamsui, Bali
Yummy Vegan House, Tamsui Waterfront Mushroom vendor, Easyhouse Vegetarian, Kooks, Joufan Taro Balls

Southern Taipei 


Bitan (Xindian River)

About Animals
 @Peace Cafe
National Taiwan University, iVegan (supermarket), Bitan (lake), Cycle path, Wulai

About Animals, Green Pool Loving Hut, @Peace Cafe

Northeast Taiwan


Gold Ecological Park, Jinguashi

Vegan Heaven, Jiaoxi

Jiufen, Jinguashi, Houtong, Pingxi Railway (Shifen, Pingxi, Jingtong), Jiaoxi
Jingtong, Houtong Mine restaurant, Vegan Heaven

Hualien and Taroko Gorge
This includes the only vegan B&B on the Taiwanese mainland (there's also another B&B on Penghu, not covered in this edition) and all necessary information to safely explore and stay in Taroko Gorge. 


Swallow Grotto

Chang Chun Buffet
Take-out for Taroko Gorge
Hualien: Ching Hsou (Japanese) Temple, Gang Tian Temple
Taroko Gorge: Eternal Springs Shrine & Trail, Shakadang Trail, Swallow Grotto, Lushui Trail, Tianxiang (sights and accommodation), Baiyang Waterfall trail
Hualien Loving Hut,  Zhu Pai Vegetarian (buffet), Chang Chun Vegetarian (buffet)

Lion Head Mountain 
Changhua Tang Temple, Lion Head Mountain

This centuries-old Buddhist retreat is a little off the path of these itineraries, but is easily reached with public transport and makes a good final destination before flying out. It covers transport, accommodation at the temple hotel and food options en route from Taipei.

What's NOT Covered in this Edition?
Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung or the (very beautiful) central mountain range.

Who is this book Suitable For?
It's a Travel Guide!
This book is recommended for first-time, English-speaking travellers to Taiwan who will be here for up to two weeks. If you will have more than this I recommend purchasing another guidebook or using online travel resources, buying a rail pass and travelling around Taiwan.

Living Here?
New residents will probably find the book useful, however Taiwanese and long-term residents who speak some Chinese will not learn much new from this book.

Most of Taipei's vegan restaurants are among the most popular for vegetarians and vegans alike, especially foreigners, since they serve a more international cuisine than most traditional vegetarian restaurants and noodle stalls.  Also, a government survey in 2009 found that over half of several samples of fake meat contained real meat. This is (as far as I am aware) the only guide to deal with this problem, which of course affects vegetarians and vegans equally.

Vegetarians may find this book preferable to a conventional guidebook, most of whose recommend restaurants serve little if anything vegetarian; even the Lonely Planet doesn't recommend any of Taipei's top vegetarian restaurants and it doesn't appear that they've even consulted Happycow listings in selecting their recommendations.

This book is, however, written from a vegan perspective, so while it includes all vegan restaurants and most of the best vegetarain restaurants in Taipei, it doesn't include restaurants which aren't vegan-friendly. My suggestion to vegetarians would be to use this guidebook for your basic travel and planning and consult Happycow (Taipei, Xindian, Jiaoxi, Hualien) if you would like to find additional vegetarian restaurants which are not included in this guide.

Jains, Hindus, Jains, Jews, Muslims?
Most non-vegetarian restaurants here use lard oil, probably from cows, and even "vegetarian" restaurants usually use a lot of cheese, which virtually always contains rennet from cows (I've never heard of vegetarian cheese being used here, as most vegetarians don't worry about small amounts of non-veg ingredients. Vegans here, however, take veganism very seriously, and I would therefore recommend that all Jains and Hindus (vegetarian or those who just avoid eating cows) eat at vegan restaurants. Also, while there are a few sources of Halal meat it's very rare, and by far the easiest and safest option for Muslims and orthodox Jews.

I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support from many Taiwanese in my writing this guide. However, as a travel guide, it's unlikely to be a lot of use to local people who are familiar with the country's culture and infrastructure and who read and speak Chinese. Of course anyone is welcome to purchase a copy, but it is intended for foreign visitors unfamiliar with the country and language. I would be very grateful if everyone could share this with vegan, vegetarian or health-conscious friends and family overseas who may be interested in visiting Taiwan.

Why Not Just Use Online Travel Resources?
A growing number of travellers don't use travel guidebooks at all. The information about vegan food labelling is on this blog, as are reviews of some of the restaurants, which are of course all on Happycow (see below). And the travel information is available from sites like Tripadvisor, the Lonely Planet online and my own commercial travel site for Taiwan, with which I share a significant amount of photographs and travel information.
This is standard in the travel industry, for example the the Lonely Planet website features top sites and attractions in Taiwan, while selling hotels and tours and (of course) displaying targeted advertisements.

Online travel resources are designed to keep the reader on the site for as long as possible to view as many advertisements as possible, and the content has a strong bias towards their advertises (that's why they exist). Books for purchase (electronic and in print) are the opposite: they offer truly independent information (or at least they should, and mine does), in the quickest, easiest layout possible, offline and advertisement-free. I see value in that, which is why I still use - and write - travel guides. What I believe a traditional guidebook offers over travel websites is time saved planning, thanks to the convenience of having everything in one place, especially for vegans. With my book you can plan your trip on the plane, and then set out each day with places to go, sights to see and vegan restaurants to dine at all in one place, per-prepared for you on the same maps, offline on your phone or tablet. There's no need to switch between multiple websites to carefully plan out your itineraries in advance. And instead of trying to connect to the free wifi when a taxi asks you for an address in Chinese just open the right page in the guidebook and show them.

How About Happycow?

This book is designed to complement Happycow and replace your conventional guidebook (such as Lonely Planet). Use my guidebook to choose where to go, when, what to bring, and for all other aspects of planning your trip. All vegan restaurants and the best vegetarian restaurants in Taipei are worked into the travel itineraries and shown on the same maps. For each restaurant I have included a brief review, pricing, cuisine types, phone number and address (in English and in Chinese - for taxi drivers or passers by) and a photograph or two, but I also include a hyperlink to the restaurant's Happycow listing so that readers can view other members' reviews and decide where to eat.

I'm the Happycow "Ambassador" (volunteer contact person) for Taipei, and have added and updated all restaurants I found in the process of writing this book, and as much as possible I used the same spellings and formats for addresses to make identifying and finding them easier. No guidebook could or will ever be a substitute for such  a large database of restaurants and reviews contributed and updated by thousands of vegetarians and vegans in real time. But it takes more than a restaurant database to plan a holiday, and that's where this guidebook comes in.

Example: Taipei 101
 Like the Lonely Planet, my guidebook outlines how to visit Taipei 101: it's opening hours, the best time to go up to the observatory and how it ties in well with a visit to the nearby Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. But the Lonely Planet recommends the "internationally acclaimed" foodcourt in the basement, which serves nothing vegan and barely anything vegetarian. Instead I show a map of SYS Memorial Hall and Taipei 101, and all the surrounding vegan-friendly restaurants, and suggest itineraries based on their opening hours, the weather and other nearby attractions. And their Happycow reviews are just a click away.

What the Lonely Planet Gets Wrong
The Lonely Planet, by far the most popular (and probably the best) of the conventional guidebooks on Taiwan, for example, makes no effort to support vegetarians and vegans. It claims that fake meat is vegan - a claim which results in thousands of trusting visitors eating dairy, egg and probably real meat. It also advises vegetarians to look for the "reverse swastika", which is only used by a small portion of restaurants and results in many vegetarians and vegans missing the majority of restaurants because they don't know to look for the vegetarian symbols. In my guidebook I discuss these myths promulgated by the Lonely Planet, since they are so widely believed among foreigners here, especially short-term travellers.

 When I visit a new country I like to know a little about its religions, especially if they endorse or promote vegetarianism. I devote several pages to this in my guidebook. In the Lonely Planet I-Kuan-Tao, the third largest religion in Taiwan, whose followers own over half the vegetarian restaurants and make up most of the vegetarian population, is dismissed as a cult in one sentence, along with Falun Dafa (which isn't even a religion at all). Supreme Master Ching Hai and her followers, who are strictly vegan and own virtually all the vegan restaurants in Taiwan, do not even get a mention. I have made this chapter available as a sample here.

It's on Kindle
As an experimental project, it's just too risky to try printing paper guides, especially when the information here will date quickly, and it's so much easier to update an electronic version. Also, it's best to purchase a travel guide before you reach a country, and printing and shipping internationally would probably be prohibitively expensive. Kindle is by far the simplest platform for distributing the book, as it's the most widely used, and anyone can install a Kindle App on any smartphone or tablet (Android, iOS).

Best Devices
This book will work on almost any modern device, but works best on medium-sized tablets or phablets (around seven inches) such as the Asus Memopad 7 or the iPad Mini. The maps will be difficult to read on smaller smartphones, but the text will be reformatted by the Kindle app for any sized screen, and maps can be clicked through to Google Maps.

Addresses & Chinese Characters
Romanised Chinese is not understood well in Taiwan, for reasons discussed in the book (it's political). So this book includes all addresses in Chinese, which can be shown to passers by or taxi drivers so that restaurants and attractions can be easily found. Any Taiwanese person will be able to find a location from its Chinese address very easily, and most taxis will program them into their GPS navigation systems.

Most modern devices can display Chinese text, and if your device can't you may be able to install Traditional Chinese (used in Taiwan and Hong Kong) as an additional language. If you would like to check whether or not your device can display the Chinese please download the free sample and see whether or not the translations on the first page show up correctly.


This Map: Eastern Taipei

Maps are made using Google's Mymaps, and reproduced in accordance with their Terms and Conditions. They show sights, restaurants and facilities. Maps in the guide are screenshots of these maps, but their captions are all click-able, and link straight to the maps themselves, which can be opened using MyMaps (free on Android, or several paid options available for iOS). A complete list of maps, a map which can be downloaded and used offline (for Android devices) and full instructions can be found here. I have also saved every location recommended in this guide in a KML file, which (with a little work beforehand) can be saved on your device which will then work offline.

Map: Central & Southern Taipei

I have personally visited all destinations and eaten at all restaurants recommended in this guide (except one, as stated in the guide). I never identify myself as a guidebook writer, and only occasionally introduce myself as a blogger when I need to ask for more information than a regular customer would. This guidebook contains no advertisements in any form. I always pay for my meals in full and have never and would never take any form of incentives for listings or recommendations, here or on any of my blogs. All photographs are my own.

I would be very grateful if visitors could answer this two-minute (five question) survey to help me work out my next step (if any).
While I greatly appreciate people taking the time to offer feedback, please not that it is anonymous. Please feel free to include your email address in a comment if you would like me to follow up with you, or feel free to email me directly (