This Guide is a thick description of Taiwan, containing not only detailed reviews of places to go and things to do, but also several meaty chapters on history, religion, and other aspects of Taiwan. It also supplies a thumbnails of everything from insurance to justice to the tones of Mandarin in its extensive survival guide at the end. But the real pleasure lies its concise and comprehensive presentations of Taiwan's many special places:
County Road 199 This idyllic country road rewards at every turn with a rich history and varying landscape of hills, ponds, farms, aboriginal villages, and open fields. It's a preferred route for those continuing at a leisurely pace on to the East Coast (Hwy 9 is faster but thick with speeding buses and trucks), or vice versa.This description goes on for a few more paragraphs, replete with local and historical knowledge, a pleasure to read even if you've never visited (pics of 199 here).
The historical site of note is the Tomb of the Ryukyuan Sailors just off county road 199 near the kilometer 36 mark (look for the Japanese style stone lantern on the road side). It's a collective tomb to 54 sailors from Ryukyu (today's Okinawa), murdered by Paiwan aborigines in 1871. The incident subsequently ignited the battle between the Japanese and the Paiwan in Shihmen in 1874. Note that the first three characters on the stele literally saying "Greater Japan" have been blotted out.
Heading east, Sichongsi (Szchongsi) Hot Springs is a real treat, and a soak in an outdoor pool in the cooler evenings is especially recommended.
Travelers familiar with Lonely Planet's guides will recognize the basic format of this one. In general, the Taiwan guide provides useful and comprehensive information for travelers (this means that our Taichung is almost ignored, and deservedly so). In smaller towns it will guide you to really cheap places to stay, but in larger ones it generally focuses on mid-range or above hotels. There's no point in listing all the hotels and hostels in Hualien, for example, they appear and disappear like bacteria on a bathroom wall, nor is it possible to list them. The maps are excellent and the blue-gray color scheme of this book very pleasing. The book also presents ideas that might not occur even to us old-timers, like "Temple Touring on the Southwest Coast". It even includes places where few travelers go, like Ershui in Changhua.
The book also contains an extensive and detailed section on Taipei. Don't miss the Walking Tour guide! It is in there to show that there is more to Taipei than a few tourist spots the government promotes, and also how the shoddy, giant faux Ming architectural disaster known as the Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall and other stuff actually cut arrogantly through the richly developed local neighborhoods. There's hidden depths to Taipei that the guide really brings out.
All in all, an extremely useful "to do" guide that both travelers new to Taiwan and those with long experience can benefit from. Kudos to Kelly et al and Lonely Planet for turning out an excellent guide to The Beautiful Island. Highly recommended.
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