January 25, 2011
I focussed on the Anping area of Tainan in my last post, but Tainan City is also well worth exploring.
As I mentioned in my last post, there are a large number of historical places to visit in Tainan, and they are concentrated in a fairly small area. You can certainly spend a pleasant day walking around the city taking in the sites, having a cup of tea or coffee at the numerous shops, sampling some of the local food or take in a concert.
If you want to travel further afield (for example to Anping), then a taxi is probably best unless you have your own transport. It isn't as easy to flag down a taxi in Tainan as it is in Taipei though, and especially at off-peak times it might be difficult. The big hotels are a good place to find one, and if you can speak Chinese you can call (06) 274999. We found them reliable and informative, and they didn't charge extra for the pick up.
Compared to Taipei the pace of life is much more relaxing, and we did notice a distinct lack of people out and about. The streets were almost deserted in fact, but we might have found out why when we visited one of the night markets (there are many in Tainan). As with most night markets in Taiwan you'll find a huge selection of things to eat, and the prices are so reasonable you will be able to sample a lot of things. After you've eaten to your hearts' content, you can try one of the local games to round off the evening.
The temples and historical buildings are the main draw, and you won't be able to get round them all. In fact, if you try and visit too many you might start to feel they all look the same. So, I'd recommend the Chihkan Towers, another fort (Providentia) originally built by the Dutch in 1653 but the original structure was destroyed in an earthquake (a small amount of the original structure doe still exist). Still, the new structure on the same site is interesting and there is space for children to run around.
The Confucius Temple is also interesting, and there is a park just outside; again great for children to play in and interact with Taiwanese children. This is actually reputedly the oldest temple in Taiwan dating back to 1665, although it has been renovated any times since.
The City God Temple is interesting for the giant abacus inside. I was told that this was used by the City God to weigh up the good and bad deeds in your life, and the resultant destination for those with more deeds was scary indeed.
There are really too many more to mention, so my advice is to plan how far you want to walk then identify places in that area. Bring your camera as there are many photo opportunities, and as long as you don't get in people's faces it's okay to snap away.
Of final note, Tainan was an important missionary destination from the time of the Dutch, and there is still a strong Christian influence. Of note, Reverend William Campbell, a Scottish missionary, lived in Tainan from 1871 to 1917. His book, ??Sketches from Formosa?? is worth reading if you are interested in what Taiwan (and in particular Tainan) was like a hundred years ago.
Enjoy your visit to Tainan and don't forget to let us know how you get on!
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