Sunday, December 18, 2011

Taiwan for Culture Vultures

Taiwan for Culture Vultures, my new downloadable travel guide published by Guidegecko, is aimed at visitors intrigued by Taiwan's fascinating blend of cutting-edge modernity and centuries-old tradition. Available for iPhones and iPads, it's priced at US$2.99. If you already have my Bradt guide, you'll find this app complements, updates and expands on the book's contents.

Electronic platforms have several advantages over traditional printed guidebooks. They're cheaper because there are no printing or distribution costs; they're lighter to carry and can be updated and corrected. As a writer, I've appreciated being able to avoid repetition. Instead of having to explain who a particular person (or deity or ethnic group) is each time there's a mention, I simply link to a background article, like the one on major gods, or brief histories of Taiwan's historic towns.
The guide features 95 places of interest, each entry averaging 250 to 300 words and accompanied by one to four photos. Taiwan-based professionals Craig Ferguson and Rich Matheson contributed many of the images. The app cover icon shown here was taken by Matheson.
Among them are museums, temples, churches, parks, and other landmarks. Taiwan's key cultural and architectural attractions - such as the National Palace Museum, Taipei 101 and Tainan's Confucius Temples - are featured, as are many lesser-known but just as fascinating attractions. At Ten Drum Culture Village, for instance, visitors can enjoy performances that are modern yet draw heavily on folk traditions, and which have won international acclaim.
Of the 95 sights, 31 aren't mentioned at all in my Bradt guidebook. In some cases, like Houtong Coal-Mine Ecological Park, they opened too late to be included. For many others, it was simply a matter of space; this is why the Zheng Family Shrine didn't appear in the book. I researched the app by combing both English- and Chinese-language sources, in addition, of course, to visiting each spot at least once. Many of the details I've included don't appear in any of the major English-language guidebooks to Taiwan.
There's plenty for those who want to learn about and appreciate traditional arts and crafts. If they want a more outdoorsy experience, they can head to the Old Mountain Railway Line. Those with environmental interests will enjoy the new Magic School of Green Technology. All in all, I think the app has a really good mix.


  1. Congratulations!
    I liked your guidebook a lot and look forward to using your app.

  2. The app is really nicely put together; handy, informative and attractive. Little tiny grumble - when you pull up a list of places (e.g. under the Sights in North Taiwan heading) any Chinese in the text is garbled:

    It's only a wee gripe; I think the app is excellent and well worth the £1.99. There are quite a few places there that are new to me, as a nine-year resident.

  3. Congrats on the app. It seems most writers are moving in that direction. (Still: Viva print! lol)

  4. Looks good! I saw a little article on your app in the Travel in Taiwan magazine. Just wondering, here it only says that the app is for iphone and ipad, but on itunes it says it also works for ipod touch, is that correct? If so I will definitely get it!