Tainan is Taiwan’s oldest city and was also for many centuries the capital until the Japanese named Taipei as the capital city in 1894, shortly after their colonisation of the island.
After a number of weeks spent keeping a fairly low profile in Tainan, due to adjusting to Uni life and hellishly trying to avoid the ferocious Dengue Fever outbreak that has consumed the entire area, it was finally time to venture out and get a better taste for what the old and majestic capital has to offer – armed with plenty of bug repellent, of course!
Day one of my sightseeing tour involved heading to Taiwan’s Confucius Temple. There are many similar Temples devoted to Confucius which can be found in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Korea, Malaysia, Japan and Indonesia. The Temple is not far from Tainan’s Main Station, which is fortunate for me as it’s only one stop away from my apartment via the local train.
Once in central Tainan it was only a short 15 minute walk past bustling shops and malls up towards the busy roundabout that encircles Tangdezhang Memorial Park. The walk is pleasant, not only as an eye opener as to what Tainan has to offer commercially, but as a chance to find some of Tainan’s more recognisable attractions, such as the National Museum of Taiwan Literature.
As you stroll along a fairly average looking street, suddenly out of no where a giant stone walled Temple appears and acts as a gentle safe haven in an otherwise congested and chaotic part of town. The moment you step inside the Temple walls you forget where you are, as you mentally travel back in time to an era where technology and fuel hungry machines did not exist. The serene Temple also includes a small museum, with odes to worships past and artifacts that represent a dynasty of purity and solitude. Amazingly, there is no admission fee for this beautiful place and a trip to Tainan is not complete without stepping foot inside the grounds of Taiwan’s Confucius Temple – if for nothing other than to sit in a calming environment and idly watch the squirrels, hurriedly scurry around the trees directly above you.
Opposite the Temple you will find Fuzhong Street which is a narrow pedestrian lane with many small stalls and food huts selling hand made trinkets and delicious street food. You will also find a number of smaller Temples shooting off down side streets. I discovered a pottery shop in which you can receive lessons in how to make pots for as little as 100NT$ (€3/£2) – something which I plan to try in the not too distant future.
On the second day of exploring I headed towards Chihkan Tower (Fort Provintia) which is a magnificent structure built as a Dutch outpost during their colonisation of Taiwan. The Tower, which acted as an Office for Administration during the Dutch reign, is an accompanying building, built along with Anping Old Fort (Fort Zeelandia), in the late 17th century. Much like the Confucius Temple, the unexpected charm and beauty of Chihkan Tower is a welcome relief from the craziness of the city streets. The grand design of the Tower is mesmerising in every sense of the word and for only 50NT$ you can wander around the entire grounds and soak up the essence of what it would have been like many moons ago.
A small moat encloses the front of the Tower and it’s not unusual to see children feeding the Koi Carp of varying colour and size, gathering hungrily below the footbridge.
Once over the moat you have a choice of two buildings to explore further as you climb the steps onto a raised upper level. Whichever building you decide to enter first you may then take the wooden rickety staircase to the very top of the Tower where you will find stunning views of the city when stepping out onto the panoramic stone balcony. A perfect spot to watch the sun slowly set.
During day three of discovering Tainan, I decided to take the train to the outskirts of the city, in search of the Chimei Museum. The museum is a 10 minute walk from Bao’an station and you’re immediately in for a treat from the moment you jump off the train. Bao’an statio
n is by far the cutest railway station I have ever used. The small wooden ticket office and waiting room, reminded me of a scene from many a movie.
When you reach the grounds of the museum you’re welcomed by a sprawling lush and green park, featuring lakes and shaded canopies. It would be easy to spend half a day just enjoying the nature and relaxing in the sunshine, and with entrance to the park being free of charge, there’s all the more reason to take it slow and chill out whilst viewing some fine scenery.
Luckily enough, entrance to the museum itself is free of charge if you have a student card from any of the institutions in Tainan – which of course, I do, as an exchange student at the Southern Taiwan University. The architecture of the building which the museum is housed in, both on the inside and out, is for no better meaning of the word – mind blowing. The building itself is a piece of art.
The price of general admission is 200NT$ (€6/£4),
The museum houses hundreds of different artifacts and has interesting rooms on Arms & Armour, Natural History & Wildlife, Fine Art and Musical Instruments (of which it is said the Chimei Museum is home to the largest collection of Violins on the planet).
It would be sensible to come to Chimei Museum without a time schedule, as it’s easy to get swept up with the awe inspiring sights and the captivating artifacts. Oh, and don’t forget your camera!