Friday, May 28, 2010

Diplomat's book highlights Dutch heritage in Taiwan (Taiwan Today)

The Dutch occupation of Taiwan was partial, brief and ended 342 years ago. However, this period in the island's history still fascinates historians, and physical reminders of the era—most notably the ruins of two fortresses in the southern city of Tainan—continue to delight travelers.

Tourists wishing to explore Taiwan's Dutch heritage have a new, 271-page guidebook to assist and inform them during their travels. “The Real Taiwan and the Dutch” is a comprehensive resource featuring hundreds of color photos, addresses and phone numbers of places to stay and eat, plus global-positioning-system coordinates for dozens of hard-to-reach points of interest.

The book differs from other Taiwan travel guides in two important respects. Firstly, its main author, Menno Goedhart, is a full-time diplomat (the book's subtitle is “Traveling Notes from the Netherlands Representative”). He has led the Netherlands Trade and Investment Office—the agency in Taipei that handles relations between Taipei and the Hague in the absence of formal diplomatic ties—since 2002.

Goedhart says that before he was asked to head the NTIO, he was not aware of the depth and variety of Dutch influences on Taiwan.

“At school nobody spoke about the Dutch in Taiwan, but when preparing for my job here, I started to learn that the Dutch presence was not irrelevant, and was even of considerable importance for Taiwan,” he recalls.

“Even then, I could not imagine what I would find,” Goedhart continues. “There is much more Dutch heritage in Taiwan than I ever expected. And I did not find everything, for sure—that’s why I will stay in Taiwan after I retire..."

The rest of the article is here. Goedhart is to be my neighbour; he's planning to base himself in Xinhua, the town where I live just outside Tainan.

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