Best book I’ve seen on starting Chinese is “Survival Chinese” by Don Snow. There is another, red covered book by the same name that’s very average. The good one is oriented toward people learning on their own. Two things make it stand out:

1) Lots of advice on things like hiring a tutor, what to start with, how to practice.

2) The only description of the specifics of how to speak some of the eleventeen Chinese front-of-mouth fricatives I’ve seen in any book. (e.g. “x- Like “sh” in “she”, but with the tongue a just little further forward.”

“Survival Chinese” was not in Caves Books (ex-pat English teachers’ favorite store on Zhongshan Rd a walkable 2+ stations north of the main station on the east side of the street ‘tween Subway and KFC) or Page One Books (a Barnes and Noble sized store in the top floor of Taipai 101’s 5 floor upscale shopping center).

So, I got “Just Enough Chinese” from Passport Books. What distringuishes it from the others is that below the characters and PinYin it has truely phonetic descriptions of the words and phrases.

Taiwan books: People are rather surprised when I say I’m here on vacation/holidays. Business is expected to be the reason. That the country is not a tourist destination is a little odd, really, given the moutains and weather. But there it is. Anyway, Lonely Planet has an effective monopoly on travel books. There is an Insight Planet book (described by someone in the hotel/hostel as “a picture book”). And National Geographic has a book the is, explicitely, a picture book. Btw, the Lonely Planet PRC China book has received some very bad reviews within my hearing. The PRC is a big place, so that may be a reflection of only part of the book.

MRT: The Taipai subway. If you’re here for a bit, get an EasyPass. 500NT to buy in, 100 is a deposit. You can top it up. It’s a proximity card. Works on city buses, too. Minimizes hassles. The MRT is a modern subway (above ground outside the city center). Quiet, fast, smooth, efficient. Rush hour, even, is easy to operate in. Buses are like buses most anywhere: loud and not particularly fast. But, like in most non-car cities, Taipai’s buses seem to go most everywhere at frequent intervals.

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