The old city of Tainan

Temples, customs and museums. That pretty much sums up what Tainan is, or so I thought. During my brief stay in Tainan, I was constantly surprised by the unique and modern shops in each turn of the alleyway; the delicious and slight distinct sweetness of their food; and the friendly and passionate locals. Compared to the other cities in Taipei, tourists are a rather rare sight in Tainan. Problerby because of the lack of  famous scenic areas when compared to other parts of the country. However if you are keen interest in the culture and history of Taiwan, a short stop in Tainan, the old capital of Taipei is definitely a must.

In order to save cost for our half a month trip around the main island of Taiwan, my girlfriend Lynn and I decided to stay at one of the local home-stay [民宿] owned by a lovely western lady Jane who moved over to Taiwan a few years ago. Though she was busy, she had one of her friend(I think it was Michael if I remember correctly) who happens to be in Taiwan for a few days to guide us to the apartment. Apparently he’s from America and he used to stayed in Taiwan for 8 years before moving back. chatting with us along the way, he turned out to be a great guy, helping us with directions and even  offering to help us with our necessities.

During the few nights after my trip around the city, I had some conversations with Michael and James(probably, all I can remember is that it starts with J) the other guest who was staying in the adjacent room, apparently they were there to attend a Body work seminar which was ran by Jane’s shifu. As we talked, I got to know a little more about them, what they do and why they are here. I think the joy of traveling, more than seeing new sights and eating good food, is meeting people. Learning a little more about them, about what they do, about their culture and their perspective. It’s a happiness that is subtle and warm.

The view from the back of our apartment. Got up really early for no reason and took this shot before heading back to bed.

The view from the back of our apartment. Got up really early for no reason and took this shot before heading back to bed.

Turning the story back to day 1, we spent half of our day getting a local phone card. In the past, the local phone cards can simply be purchased from 7-11s but now you will have to go to a local Telco(which isn’t all that common area here) to sign up for it which is quite a hassle.

Heeding the suggestion of the Telco staff whom we chatted with during our wait for our SIM card to be processed, we headed down to a nearby street for some local food. What seem to be a small and common looking street, is filled with food stores that have been around for over decades some even a century of history. In Taiwan where stalls opens and closes  ever so frequently, their history itself speaks volume for the quality of the food they serve.

[米糕] A mixture of fragrant pearl rice topped with braised pork sauce, dried pork flakes, egg, cucumber and parsley. Authentic and delicious

[米糕] A mixture of fragrant pearl rice topped with braised pork sauce, dried pork flakes, braised peanet, cucumber and parsley. Authentic and delicious

[鍋燒意麵] Springy noodles served together with lots of seafood and  flavorful soup. Along with this store, many other stores we saw in [] has around 50 to 100 years of history.

[鍋燒意麵] Springy noodles served together with lots of seafood and flavorful soup. Along with this store, many other stores we saw in [安平路] has around 50 to 100 years of history.

You can find [八寶彬圓仔惠] at 台南市安平區安平路784號. The rest of the old food stores are just around the area

You can find [八寶彬圓仔惠] at 台南市安平區安平路784號. The rest of the old food stores are just around the area

The sweet yam chunks is simply delicious. Together with shaved ice and lots of other goodies, this is an awesome dessert. Definitely a must try

The sweet yam chunks is simply delicious. Together with shaved ice and lots of other goodies, this is an awesome dessert. Definitely a must try!

[英商德記洋行] which used to be a warehouse of Tait & Co. that belonged to one of the British Trading Company established in Taiwan in 1867. However it is currently being used as a wax museum.

After a gastronomic afternoon, we took a cab down to the Anping tree house Houses [安平樹屋] which other then the tree house itself consist of many other small attractions and historic buildings that was left behind from different era. It is really quite interesting how quickly nature reclaims what that is hers  when humans are are out of the picture. Crippling and growing all around the old abandoned house, it seems like they have become what’s keeping the house from crumbling now.

Taken by Lynn :) You can check out her photos at syaopang.wordpress.com

Taken by Lynn :) You can check out her photos at syaopang.wordpress.com

Lynn. My very own personal photographer of this trip!

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During the first few hours we were there, the sun was high up in the sky and the light inside was quite boring. Luckily as we were about to leave, the sun slowly took a golden tint and sips through the canopy above creating soft light rays.

There's this small wooden cafe just at the back of the tree house which serves some really nice ice cream. This one is Tea flavored but the flavors from their store always changes from time to time

There’s this small wooden cafe just at the back of the tree house which serves some really nice ice cream. This one is Tea flavored but the flavors from their store always changes from time to time

Sword Lion themed mail boxes. If only mail boxes in Singapore looks this good!

Sword Lion themed mail boxes. If only mail boxes in Singapore looks this good!

It was a slightly gloomy day, with grey clouds that stretches endless across the sky. It was drizzling when we took a cab down to the Salt hills outside of the city.  Apparently it wasn’t as close to town as we thought. We were told that it’s really hard to get cab over there and it’s best to book a cab for the day for a trip around that area. Due to the bleak weather, most of the outdoor spots that we visited seems like of dull. So since we have already come so far, we decided to visit some grand temples along the way; and it is not just any temple. We ended up visiting one of the biggest matsu temple in Taiwan as well as another big temple.

View from the top of the salt hill

View from the top of the salt hill

Salty Ice creams. Apricot and almond flavored. Yummy!

Salty Ice creams. Apricot and almond flavored. Yummy!

Locals playing chinese chess at one of side buildings of the matsu temple

Locals playing chinese chess at one of side buildings of the matsu temple

Who can forget about the most famous food spots, the night markets of Taiwan. We ended up visiting two of the night markets during our time in Tainan and one of them is the [花園夜市] which is the biggest night market in Tainan. With amazing food, lots of hungry local, unique goods and game stores all tightly packed into this large carpark. Just being among this bustling ambiance is enough reason cut back on sleep and head down for some late night snacks.  Actually there’s also night markets(pasa malam – literally night market in malay)  in Singapore, opening randomly around the island from time to time. However as time past, it has lost the charms that I remembered when I was a younger.

If you ever visit huayuan night market, You must, must, MUST!(see how important this is?) try the caramelized sweet potato from [拔丝地瓜] The crispy caramel coating with the soft and sweet potato is like a slice of heaven.

Enjoying a bowl of duck noodle and taiwan meat ball together