Taipei is a tourist-friendly city and has a lot to offer, but there are times when locals have trouble recommending places to visit or just can’t slip away from work to be their friends’ tour guide.

This is where “Good Eye Taipei” steps in.

The city guide, or “design guidebook” as creator Guo Pei-ling (郭佩怜) calls it, is a Chinese-English bilingual collection of 300 locations to visit in Taipei. It includes features on Taiwanese society and culture to give readers a better understanding of the island-nation and what to expect in the city.

It is abundant in information. The layout and illustrations of the book are clean and simple, giving it a refreshing look. It also comes with a web app, which makes it easier for users to access info if on-the-go.

Guo, 29, quit her full-time job in 2015 to work on this dream project, which cost nearly NT$1 million to develop (US$32,700). She spoke to The News Lens International about creating “Good Eye Taipei” and how it’s different from most travel books on Taipei.

The News Lens International: What led you to create this book?

Guo Pei-ling: I’m turning 30 this year and that’s part of the reason I want to make something of my own. I worked in creative industries for around six years, always for brands or products, so I never really did something that was my own. It would be nice to have something that had my name on it.

I did my B.A. in economics, but have always been interested in design, culture and art. After graduating from college, I went to the U.K for my Master’s degree, which is where I met a lot of international friends and some of them later visited me in Taipei. One of them visited me five or six times because she used to work in Malaysia and now Shanghai, and I had to show her around every time. It was a bit tiring since I had to work in the daytime, so I got the idea that I should put everything I know [about Taipei] either into a book or an app. That way, when my friends visit me I could just give them the book or show them the app and say, “Here’s all I know. Explore yourself and let me do my thing. I can have dinner with you, but the rest of the time just explore Taipei yourself.”

So the book is like your local friend traveling with you.

TNLI: How long did it take you to put together the book and app?

Guo: It’s really difficult to say, because I had this idea for six years, and there are around 300 shops or locations in this book, which are my collections of five to six years. Writing the book probably took me six months to a year, if including edits. It was a constantly progressing project.

A lot of research and design was involved as well. If counting those in, it took around 18 months.

TNLI: How did you decide which shops/restaurants/locations to include in the book?

Guo: First of all, I have to have been there before and have to personally like it. There’s no advertising in the book. It’s my personal list.

Second, you can see I chose six shops for each category and these are based on location, price, atmosphere and how unique they are. For example the bookstores; one may be focused on Taiwan and another on independent publishing. So you get a bit of everything in the same category.

TNLI: Aside from the book, you also launched a web app. How did that process go?

Guo: Originally the idea was to build a website, but then I found out that would be a lot of work, so I decided to write a book, which was easier for me. It happens that I’m close friends with a web engineer and I mentioned to her that I was having difficulties searching for the addresses of the locations in my book on Google Maps. She offered to build a web app for me to solve the issue. People could just click on the link to the location and would be directed to Google Maps. It only took her two hours.


Photo Credit: The News Lens/Olivia Yang

Screenshot of Good Eye Taipei's WebApp.

TNLI: To me this looks very different from other travel books. How would you say it’s different?

Guo: It might be different from other travel books of Taiwan or Taipei, but cities like Tokyo, London or New York all have this kind of travel book. I would actually call it a design guidebook. I think Taipei has so much to offer, so we should have our own design guide book.

TNLI: What was the biggest difficulty in making this book?

Guo: Time. Now it feels like it could have been better if I had more time. But if given more time, I probably would have wasted more time.

TNLI: You mentioned this book was sort of like your dream. Now you have fulfilled it, what’s your next step?

Guo: I will probably start working on another city, but not in print format because it’s too difficult to update information. I’m still thinking about it, but maybe I will do one on Taichung. It’s where I come from and I will feel guilty if I don’t make one of Taichung. Then probably move on to Tainan, Kaohsiung, Hualien and Taitung; the major cities that tourists would like to visit. It would be easier for me just to add another city to the web app.

I also have many friends in other cities that are interested in making similar city guides, either in print or an app.

TNLI: Shout-out to readers?

Guo: If you have any questions or if you see any typos, just let me know. I have to admit, though the book is in both English and Chinese, I still don’t know how a foreigner will find it. I don’t know if it’s clear enough or useful to them, so it would help me a lot if I could get some feedback.

Good Eye Taipei can be purchased at all major bookstores in Taiwan.

Editor: Edward White