Friday, August 24, 2012

Book Review: A Foreigner's Travel Guide To Taiwan's Indigenous Areas: Central and Southern Taiwan, by Cheryl Robbins

A Foreigner's Travel Guide To Taiwan's Indigenous Areas: Central and Southern Taiwan
Cheryl Robbins
211 pages

Cheryl Robbins gave me a copy of this volume, the latest in her series of books on travel in Taiwan's indigenous areas. It looks extremely useful. Written in clear, accessible English and chock full of maps, photos, and cultural and historical information, this book has a special bonus: it is a bilingual text, written in both Chinese and English.

Robbins is a longtime expatriate on the island. She has a passion for local indigenous culture and a deep knowledge and love of Taiwan's mountains and the peoples who call them home. For several years she has operated Tribe-Asia, a social business project specializing in local indigenous art and handicrafts. Using her extensive network of contacts within local indigenous communities, Robbins, a locally licensed guide, is currently putting together a set of travel packages for tours in indigenous communities in conjunction with a local travel agency. I look forward to traveling with her early next year when everything comes together. This book is an outgrowth of her rich experience of local indigenous communities.

The book presents specific locations and their interesting aspects, such as monuments, trails, foods, museums, artist workshops, and so forth. Navigation is presented in typical travel book style -- Getting There by bus or car, contact phone numbers and website links, clear maps, and similar. This book is focuses on supplying useful information in accessible formats. Local eateries are presenting in a friendly style:
This is a great place for a late, leisurely breakfast as it does not open until 9:30 a.m. Try a thick piece of toast with chocolate, ham and egg, tuna, butter, jam, or peanut butter (NT$20-55). There are also a range of coffees and teas available (NT.....
"Address boxes" set off addresses from the text making them easy to find. Text boxes present historical discussions or descriptions of things such as local artists or cultural artifacts.

A especially appealing aspect of this book is the photographs. Far from the usual useless manner of travel books that put 16 color plates in the center of the book which are gorgeous but unreal and nowhere near the pages that discuss them, most of the photos were taken by Robbins herself with a simple point-and-shoot camera. These photos present the experience as the traveler herself might encounter it, right where it is being discussed, a useful and practical perspective. They enhance the text by giving it an appealing reality.

This book will be an extremely useful introduction for travelers who are interested in a deeper experience of the island of Taiwan and its peoples. It lacks only one thing: bike routes! Next edition?
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

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