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, labelling, language and other basic survival information, it's all here on this blog, and of course Happycow (see below). If you would like a guidebook which also covers where to go in Taiwan, when, how to get around and stay Taiwan (complete guide) safe, and to better understand the culture and history of this beautiful country, 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 most efficient 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).

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.

Recent Updates

Both books have been fully updated on May 29th, 2016.
The book now includes click-able links which open directions to an attraction or restaurant in Google Maps from your current location.

Quick Links

If you purchased your guide a while before coming to Taiwan, to download maps or to leave feedback please check the  maps, updates, feedback page. I would also appreciate it of readers who find this page could take this quick survey
A more-complete set of photos can be found on the Vegan Travel Guides Facebook page.

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.


Buy or Download Free Sample


  What's in the Two Books?

Taiwan - A Travel Guide for Vegans covers the best and most popular sights and attractions in the northern third or so of the island (which is the focus of travel for the majority of visitors), and is intended as a complete guidebook for first-time visitors who will be here for up to around ten days. Taipei in Four Days includes the same three Taipei itineraries as the first book (itineraries include attractions and restaurants together, ordered by easy access on public transport) and most of the content is the same, but somewhat condensed. Both books include the quaint old Japanese mining towns of Jiufen and Jinguashi, and the full guide continues these on to the hotspring town of Jiaoxi, and then the famous Taroko Gorge. 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 larger guide. There is no need (or advantage) in using both. While I hope to cover more of Taiwan in the future, if you will be here for longer than ten days I recommend travelling around the whole island and perhaps visiting some outlying islands, for which an alternative guidebook or online resources will be required.


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

Quick Comparison

Overview 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 Amazon.com Link Link

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

Central & Southern Taipei

Taiwan (complete guide)
✔Four-day Guide
Due to their proximity to Taipei Main Station, these sights can be visited together or visited before any of the other three Taipei outings.
Sights
Restaurants

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

Taiwan (complete guide)
✔Four-day Guide

Sights
Restaurants

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

Taiwan (complete guide)
✔Four-day Guide

Sights
Restaurants

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

Taiwan (complete guide)
✔Four-day Guide

Sights
Restaurants

Bitan (Xindian River)


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

About Animals, Green Pool Loving Hut, @Peace Cafe

Northeast Taiwan

Towns
Restaurants


Gold Ecological Park, Jinguashi

Vegan Heaven, Jiaoxi





Jingtong

Towns Taiwan Guide Four-day Guide
Jiufen, Jinguashi
Houtong, Pingxi Railway (Shifen, Pingxi, Jingtong), Jiaoxi (including food shown opposite)
Jingtong, Houtong Mine restaurant, Vegan Heaven


Hualien and Taroko Gorge

Taiwan (complete guide)
Four-day Guide

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. 

Sights
Restaurants

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


✔Taiwan (complete guide)


Four-day Guide
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.

Practical Travel Information

✔Taiwan (complete guide)

Four-day Guide

 

  • Preparation, packing and timing.
  • History, politics and religion (from a vegan perspective). This chapter is freely available as a sample on my blog here.
  •  Safety, costs, airports, getting around Taipei, luggage storage, languages, electricity, water, wireless internet, prepaid SIM cards, postal system & addresses, accommodation guide, public toilets.

Food and Restaurants

✔Taiwan (complete guide)

Four-day Guide



Chinese symbols and language, chain restaurants (more in the complete guide, as they are less necessary in Taipei), Taiwanese speciality foods, fake meat (why it's not vegan, why everyone thinks it is and what to do about it). Most of this information is of course freely available on this blog, but it can help to have an offline version, and appropriate Chinese characters are interspersed throughout the book as necessary to make communication easier.

What's Not Covered (Yet)

Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Pingtung (including Kenting Beach) or the (very beautiful) 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.

Reviews

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".


Who are these Books For?

These books are 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.

Residents?

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.

Vegetarians?

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, 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.

Taiwanese

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 much use to local people who are familiar with the country's culture and infrastructure and who can 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 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 try to 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

Example

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.

Maps

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

Authenticity

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.

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 article has been merged with this page on both vegan travel guides to Taiwan.

Thank you very much.
 
Plants Eatery, Taipei

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).




Essentials
13:00-17:00
Number 8, Lane 93, Shida Road (Taipower  Building Station, Exit 3
台北市大安區師大路93巷8號




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 www.formosaguide.com, 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
 
 
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.

Accommodation

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.


Authenticity
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 jesse.duffield@gmail.com.

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. 

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Guangfu Loving Hut (Hotpots)

Five years ago I posted on the Loving Huts and Supreme Master Ching Hai, the inspiration behind the world's largest vegan restaurant chain. However, since the Guangfu Loving Hut is one of only two restaurants I consider "must-visits" in Taipei (the other is Sophie's Garden), I think it's worth its own post, as it was often lost in the length and details in my other post.

Vegetables ready to cook in my favourite Ma La (spicy) broth.

Hotpots are an important feature of Taiwanese cuisine, and are often enjoyed by families and other large groups, especially during winter. The slow, relaxing process of simmering ones own food allows just seems to invite good conversation and makes a pleasant way to enjoy a slow afternoon or evening. Hotpots are also very popular in Japan, China and Korea. It's custom in Asian countries to share hotpots, but there are enough elements for each person to have their own.

A hotpot in action.

Unfortunately, however, at most restaurants the broth usually contains animal products, and while there are a few vegetarian hotpot restaurants around Taiwan, this is, as far as I know, the only vegan one, and it's certainly one of the best. It also offers a range of different vegan broths, including pots with two separate partitions for different broths.

Help yourself to the condiments.
 
It also serves some of Taipei's best fusion food (menu), including Korean Bibimbap (rice in a hot stone bowl) and some great desserts. The international menu is generally larger in summer, when hotpots are less popular and poeple feel like lighter meals. Prices are a little more expensive than other Loving Huts (mains are around 200-300NT) but excellent value for such good, labour-intensive food.

My favourite 'non-hotpot' dish is the Tomyam (Thai) Tahini Rice.

The Guangfu Loving Hut, like many others, also serves a range of vegan grocery items, including mayonaise and a few frozen products.

Packaged vegan groceries from the GuangFu Loving Hut

Nearby Sights & Restaurant
The Guangfu Loving Hut is conveniently located near Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, and a pleasant twenty minute / 1.5km walk (through the memorial hall) from Taipei 101. Also in the area is the simpler but still excellent Veggie Creek. I recommend visiting each one either side of a visit to Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, and possibly Taipei 101.


 Smoothie and Ice Cream (summer menu)


Essentials
The cookers work by induction. This is a safe, responsive heating system (similar to gas) in which the pot itself becomes the element, leaving the cooker itself cool. However, any metal object placed beside it will heat up, so it's important to not place any metal or especially electronic devices on or near the cookers, even when they are switched off (in case they are accidentally turned on).

11:30 - 9:30 (LO 9:00) (everyday)
(02) 2777-2711
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall Station (Blue line) Exit 2
台北市大安區光復南路280巷30號 
No.30, Lane 280, Guangfu S. Rd., Da-an District