Sunday, 11 October 2015

Taipei in Four Days - A Guide for Vegans

This second Vegan Travel Guides publication follows in the spirit of my first one (Taiwan - A Travel Guide for Vegans), 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.

245 (Kindle) Pages, US5.99

Why in Four Days?

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). However, this new edition 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 '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 first edition). But it also greatly simplifies the planning process. 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.

It's Been Re-formatted

In this new edition I have placed all the details such as MRT stations (which are now colour-coded) in a box at the top of each section, usually followed by a photo, and then a description and additional notes or maps. This makes it easier to check an address for a taxi, or which MRT (subway) station to get off at in a hurry, and just generally improves the readability of the book. My next step is to re-format the first book using this system, including other regions not covered in this four-day edition.

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)* $2.99 $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).
Travel Practicalities
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).
Taipei Northern Taipei
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).

Restaurants: Yummy Vegan House, Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant, Su Vegetarian Restaurant, Hiroshima Xiang.
Eastern Taipei
Huashan Cultural Park (old wine factory gone arts centre), Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, Taipei 101, Songshan Cultural Park, Raohe Night Market, Maokong Gondola

Restaurants: 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
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.

Restaurants:  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.
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.
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
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) 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.
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
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
This marble-walled canyon is Taiwan's top natural attraction.
South of Taipei 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.

* Taipei in Four Days is half price for the first month.

It has been brought to my attention that adds additional charges to users of outside the US. This extra is set and kept by, apparently to recover extra costs and taxes involved in selling the book overseas, and is totally beyond my control. Unfortunately this includes purchases from within Taiwan itself. Users who already have an account may find that the price reverts to the correct $2.99 once they log in. Please email me if you have any questions.

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).


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 the 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 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.

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 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.

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.

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 (

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Vegan Bake Sale

This Sunday (May 20th) Taiwan will participate in the Worldwide Vegan Bake with Its a Vegan Affair, kindly hosted by Grandma Nitti's Kitchen (中西美食餐廳) conveniently located in Shida. It's supported by various local vegan businesses, and proceeds will be donated to Animals Taiwan, who do TNR work for local stray animals, and Bright Side Projects, who do excellent community work (and all food they cook and donate is vegan).

Number 8, Lane 93, Shida Road (Taipower  Building Station, Exit 3

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Publication: A Vegan TRAVEL Guide to Taiwan

Chasing the Tamsui sunset is one of Taipei's most popular outings, but is not easy to catch.

The guide is now finished, and can be purchased (8 USD) on Amazon. Please see this new post about the guide, or this page for updates, map links etc.

For year's I've been using this blog to promote vegan businesses in Taiwan which should be of interest to English-speaking vegetarians and vegans, but now I'd like to promote my own. For the last few year's I've been slowly working on a vegan travel guide to Taiwan, but particularly since I returned to Taiwan as a student in August. I hope the have the book out in the next few months, and will probably sell it as an ebook on Amazon Kindle, available for kindle reading devices or as an app for most smartphones and tablets (including iPads). With the amount of work I've put in (instead of doing 'real' work) I do need to sell it, but it will be significantly cheaper than regular travel guides.

What it Is and What it's Not
As far as I am aware, this will be the world's first travel guide for vegans. It's intended to be used by short-term visitors to Taiwan who don't speak Chinese (as there's plenty available in Chinese already), but may also be of use to anyone moving here. This is not a 'vegan guide' in the traditional sense, in that it's focus is not on reviewing restaurants and other vegan businesses. Instead it features outings, connecting all Taipei's vegan restaurants, and a few good vegetarian ones, with top tourist attractions, making planning food and sightseeing easy.

Guandu Temple, north of Taipei, is an impressive sight, but the nearest vegan-friendly restaurants are in Beitou (a short MRT ride away).

This Information is Already Here
Much of this information is available from this blog and my commercial site, including many photographs (often shared between all three). And any that isn't probably will be eventually, as I like to offer all information to anyone who wants it and have no interest in a 'premium' section of this blog. What this book offers is a convenient guidebook format which works offline, can be read on the plane and has symbols and addresses all ready to use (eg show taxis), and suggested itineraries to make planning your trip easier. Again this is just like how most guidebooks also post much of their information online (try searching for "National Palace Museum" "Lonely Planet" for example) but many people still choose to buy a concise, offline guidebook for the convenience.

So What's in a Vegan Travel Guide?
Just like any other guidebook, this covers sights and activities to do in Taiwan. And, like other guidebooks, they're listed alongside nearby restaurants, with a quick description of the type of food they offer, an approximate price range, opening hours and their address in English and in Chinese. I always include one photo of a meal and the storefront if it's necessary to find it. The only difference: all the restaurants in this guide are vegan-friendly. About two thirds are fully vegan, one third vegetarian and one also serves meat but is the most vegan-friendly restaurant in Tamsui.

Maps are screenshots of maps created using Google's MyMaps (used in accordance with their terms and conditions) and clicking on them will bring up the same map in a web browser or other suitable application (Google's new MyMaps is best); I'm working on a way for users to be able to use them offline, which will probably be Osmand (for Android). For example, just like any other guidebook I'll tell you how to reach Taipei 101, how to get to the observatory at the top, how much it costs and the best times to go (and not to). But I also describe the several vegetarian restaurants around, explaining possible itineraries.
What's Covered in the First Edition?
 The book is divided into 'Outings' for northern, southern and eastern Taipei with suggestions for one, two or three days for each, depending on how long you have and your priorities (nature, history, culture etc). The first edition will also cover Jiufen (and Jinguashi and Houtong), Jiaoxi and Yilan and of course Taroko Gorge. If it's successful the next edition will cover Southern Taiwan, and I dream of a final edition covering all of Taiwan and its outlying islands.


City Home, Hualien's fully vegan B&B, is excellent value at 2000NT per night (weeknights only)

Since hotel prices, deals and owners change so rapidly and everyone has their own tastes and expectations, I recommend booking most hotels online, and for the rest (midweek) just turning up and finding a hotel near the train station. I discuss types of accommodation, including budget hotels, love hotels and the blurry line in between, luxury hotels, hostels and Air B&B. I do, however, recommend this vegan B&B in Hualien and discuss options in Taroko Gorge.

How Long?

If you did absolutely everything in this guide it would probably take three weeks, but I expect that this book would be sufficient for a first-time visitor to Taiwan for up to about a week. If you have any longer than that and I'd recommend (for now) either using Wikitravel or purchasing another guidebook as well, and then travelling to Southern Taiwan and the stunning East Coast, and if possible going into the central mountain range. If you have a special interest (eg hiking, bird watching, or aboriginal villages) then there are many excellent blogs and some specialist travel guides available which would supplement this one very well. With my explanations of the food labelling system, chain restaurants, convenience store food and general travel tips it should be very easy to travel outside of the area covered by this book independently, and eat well as you do. 

Vegetarian Survival


Just as most guidebooks describe the cuisine of a country, I explain the different types of vegetarian and vegan foods and restaurants available in Taiwan, list common chains and notable branches. I explain how world's best labelling system works, so that the traveller can easily find their own food in convenience stores or elsewhere, and use the provided translations to easily ask staff for help. I also explain the situation with fake meats, most of which contain dairy and egg products, despite common misconceptions that they are vegan. Like any other guidebook, I include the history, culture, religions and languages of Taiwan, and include practical information on transport, safety and other  necessities for a holiday, including what to prepare and bring and how to find and book hotels. A small section at the start covers what to bring and what to do to prepare, but the rest can be read on the plane, so you should be able to turn up in Taipei with an itinerary all worked out.
Enjoy the stewed tofu at the beautiful (Xiangde Temple) deep in Taroko Gorge, but don't trust their other menu items.

Why not just use a conventional guidebook and Happycow?
It's certainly possible, and I've been doing it for years, in many different countries, for years. However, that often leaves the traveller trying to weave together their favourite restaurants with their chosen travel itinerary, in an unfamiliar city in limited time, which often requires hours of preparation and from my experience doesn't always work as planned. Also, most guidebooks recommend so many restaurants with nothing for vegetarians to eat, as well as zoos, dolphinariums, fish spas and other such "entertainment". I believe that vegans and vegetarians need and deserve our own guidebooks, and I'm surprised it hasn't (as far as I know) already been done. I have aspirations to cover plenty more destinations if this guidebook is a success.

Of course there are hundreds of restaurants and possible sites of interest in Taiwan, and everyone has different travel and dining priorities, so I still recommend using Happycow and other sites, however this guidebook should at least offer some skeleton plans for exploring Taiwan, and can always be used offline to find food, sights and other essential information normally found in guidebooks, but without having to skip past the best oyster omelet recommendations or the best times to go and photograph the new pandas from China.

Note that the vegetarian restaurant on the right uses the savastika, but the one on the left doesn't. The black box outlines the characters most commonly used to advertise a vegetarian restaurant.

Finally,  most conventional guidebook writers make little effort to provide useful, up-to-date information for vegetarians, and certainly don't go out of their way to find the best restaurants (or, it seems, even consult Happycow). As an example, here is the chapter of my Lonely Planet, with my comments in red. This is from the 2007 edition, but the newer one is almost identical but has omitted the reference to vegan food altogether, perhaps after the scare that a lot of fake meat contains real meat.

Vegetarian Cuisine (from Lonely Planet Taiwan)
Vegetarian visitors to Taiwan may well consider applying for citizenship once they've experienced the joys of Taiwanese vegetarian cuisine. Almost the only true statement, but unfortunately it's very difficult. ... Buddhist vegetarian restaurants are easy to find. Just look for the giant savastika (an ancient Buddhist symbol that looks like a reverse swastika) hung in front of the restaurant. This myth is perpetuated largely as a result of this book. Only a small fraction of vegetarian restaurants display the savastika (only ones run by Buddhists, and not even all of those), however there are enough vegetarian restaurants that this myth survives, with many tourists simply never realising that they're walking right past many vegetarian restaurants everywhere they go. All they need to say is to look for two almost universal vegetarian symbols; see my post on finding restaurants here. If the restaurant has a cassette or CD of playing a soothing loop of ami tofo (Buddhist chant) and a few robed monks and nuns among the lay patrons, you're in business. Some Buddhist restaurants do play Buddhist chants, but few are likely to have monks and nuns dining at any point in time. It's certainly not a reliable indicator of a vegetarian restaurant.  Food at these places tends to not merely be 100% vegan-friendly (no animal products of any kind) but also garlic and hot-pepper free (fiery belching being disruptive to meditation)... This is absolutely wrong. Many dishes at these restaurants contain diary products (often hidden, usually in sauces and fake meats) and many also contain egg (also hidden). I explain this, and the lack of garlic and onion, in my guide.

I have visited every location recommended in this guide, usually at least twice on separate occasions. All photos are my own except historical photographs appropriately credited to Wikimedia Commons. I have personally eaten at all the restaurants, always pay my bill and have not taken (and will not take) any form of incentive whatsoever for recommendation in this guide. While, after maintaining this blog for many years I have come to know the owners and staff at several of these restaurants, I do not know personally any of the current owners of any restaurants or businesses I recommend. This guidebook does not contain any advertisements.

National Taiwan Museum is often overlook in favour of the National Palace Museum (of Chinese treasures) but I highly recommend visiting both.

Please Help! 

I would greatly appreciate comments in the comments section, or please feel free to email me at

If you are living in Taiwan:
1. Do you know of any especially good small, little-known, vegan-friendly restaurants that might appeal to foreign visitors? In particular, do you know of any good outings, which combine a great restaurant with an interesting sight or activity? I'm particularly interested in less famous spots in or around Taipei.

All Travellers:
For everyone who travels internationally, especially anyone considering a trip to Taiwan, please offer suggestions on what (if anything) you look for in a guidebook. It doesn't have to be about vegetarianism or veganism. I want this to be a guidebook that works as the main travel in for ethically-minded visitors to Taiwan (Northern Taiwan for now) and will take and greatly appreciate any advice at all. I'm particularly interested in how to integrate the traditional guidebook with the digital era, such as maps.

Xie xie!

Zhongshan Park, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, is within walking distance of Taipei 101 and many of Taipei's best vegan restaurants.