Our Tainan itinerary is balanced with visits to the city center of Taiwan, and also the suburbs at the Cigu and Beimen area. Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan and that alone is enough to fuel the excitement, not to mention that oysters here are unbelievably affordable because majority of the oysters in Taiwan are farmed here, and that Tainan has an intriguing history of salt. We hired a van for a day to Tainan which made travelling a lot easier.
If you are relying on public transport, you’ll be just fine because the bus routes will help you to get around with ease. Easycard (优游卡) is accepted on the buses so just swipe the card and off you go. You can download the file from here http://tour.tainan.gov.tw/E/images/route.jpg.
We started the day with breakfast …. at a fish market. Technically, it wasn’t really breakfast; it was more of the tour guide being too eager to let us try the oyster omelette, so he brought us to the Budai Fish Market, located at the border of Chiayi and Tainan, where things are cheap and good.
We had our oyster omelette alright, but we also ordered sashimi and prawns because everything there looked so good.
The market has all sorts of ingredients, whether it’s raw squid, or ready food such as fish roe and oysters all you need to do is give them a quick fry.
High-end ingredients like mullet roe and abalone are aplenty too. I think I will be visiting this market everyday if I were to live nearby the area !
Beimen Visitors’ Center (北门游客中心) was up next in our itinerary. Yes, you read it right, we went to the visitors’ center set to impress. The visitor’s center itself is more like a mini museum that not only provide tourist information, but also showcases Tainan from a cultural and historical aspect. The center is built within an old salt-washing plant nearby an old sundry shop, while the surrounding is beautified romantically.
The worn and weathered machines are no longer in use but they make excellent statement pieces.
Other spaces in the factory are not wasted, turned into retailing space for vibrant bath salts and food court.
The sundry shop near the salt factory has a funny name – “Money Coming” (钱来也杂货店). This almost 30-year-old shop is a purveyor of vintage snacks and vintage toys, which the old Taiwanese generation would find a connection with and at the same time appeal to the young generation.
Beautiful corners are all over the place with the crystal church and fairy-tale-like decorations, making the area popular for pre-wedding photography.
Then, there are also amusing corners with mother-pig and father-pig murals.
Lots of food as usual at the visitor’s center !
Not to0 far away from the Beimen Tourist Center is the Cigu Salt Mountain. Once upon a time, salt was obtained by the evaporation of sea water and Cigu was once the largest drying-field for salt in Taiwan. When the manual process of salt drying eventually became obsolete, Taiyen Salt Company shifted their focus to tourism, at the same time preserving Tainan’s history of salt. If you are interested in further history of salt, there is also a Salt Museum 10-15 minutes drive away.
Salt is apparently an excellent material for art too ! Salt blocks are sculptured into animals and good luck charms. The most impressive piece is definitely the gigantic cabbage at the center of the hall. The sculptures are available for purchase, but just make sure you keep them away from water!
Cigu is also the home of lagoons that span through thousands of acres (七股泻湖), where not only the wildlife flourish; it is also the base of oyster-farming. If you would like to get up close and personal with the lagoons, you can arrange boat tours through the lagoons official website http://www.boats.com.tw/, or simply go to Longshan Village in Cigu Township where boats are readily available and it’s also where BBQ oysters await you !
If you are an avid bird watcher, the black-faced spoonbills stop over in Cigu area during the harsh winters. Even if you don’t get to see the birds for real, there’s a black-faced spoonbill exhibition hall at Cigu.
After about half a day in the suburbs of Tainan, we’d finally made it to the historical part of Tainan – Old Streets of Tainan that was one of Taiwan’s oldest settlements known as Anping Settlement. Yanping Street in this section was also Taiwan’s very first commercial street. The old street that leads to Anping Old Fort (Fort Zeelandia) is proliferated with nostalgic games from the past and local street food. We tried the “xiang bing”, which has similar characteristics to the Malaysian “heong peng”, though I can’t say I am a big fan of it.
Anping Old Fort is really quite a relaxing place to walk about. Atmospheric with red bricks under cooling shades of trees. The fort was built by the Dutch in the 1600’s to secure their trade route in the East.
the Haishan Hostel that the Qing soldiers once stayed is still fabulous；
and watch out for sword lion images that are typically placed on top of doors to keep demons and devils away. The walls of this old house that the sword line is found on is intriguing in its own right because it is made of shells !
It’s not a surprise that the oldest Matsu Temple is located in Tainan too. The original Matsu idol came with Koxinga to Tainan in 1668 and was worshiped devoutly by the people. Unfortunately the temple was demolished in 1895 because of the sino-Japanese war in 1895. The present temple was rebuilt in 1962.
You might find around the old streets of Tainan that there are may soy bean curd (“dohua”/ 豆花) stalls around. Soy bean curd happens to be extremely famous in Tainan ! The famous one seems to be Tongji (同记豆花) because it was packed with people, so we just went in a less packed one – Zhou’s Dohua (周氏豆花). It’s not bad but it’s not something that will be forever ingrained in my heart.
The raw oysters at a road side no-name stall thought might take a place in my heart because it’s amazingly good and amazingly cheap. Can you believe it was only NTD 10 per piece?
One day in Tainan is definitely not enough. Here are so many places that I would have loved to explore :
Leisure Farms Such as :
Fairy Lake Leisure Farm
National Shinhua Forest
Red Tile Hose Butterfly Leisure Farm
Sianhu Leisure Farm
For a complete list of Leisure Farms see Tainan’s Official Website on Leisure Farms.
Or go to Tainan’s Official Website on Attractions on Arts & Humanities and Tainan’s Official Website on Ecotourism for a complete list.
Tainan, I will be back again !
ps: If you need wifi in Taiwan, check out i-Wifii Mobile Router. Rental is only NTD 100 per day and can be shared among 10 people. Renting it is really easy : book it online –> pay online –> use it –> return it at 7- 11 (which is literally everywhere).