Tainan

Travel Guide Asia Taiwan Tainan

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Introduction

Tainan is a city in the southwest of Taiwan and is the 5th largest in the country with around 2 million inhabitants. Tainan is famous for its temples, historic buildings and snack food. Located on the southwestern coast of the country, it has had a complicated past, first starting as a Dutch colony before passing through Chinese warlords, Japanese occupiers and then into Kuomintang hands. This rich history and heady mix of traditional folk culture gives Tainan far more character than the bigger Taiwanese cities, and is a good contrast to the international Taipei. It may be even more under-appreciated compared to the current capital, but is well worth a stop on a round-island trip for a quintessentially Taiwanese experience for both stomach and soul.

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History

To truly understand the history of modern Taiwan is to trace its beginnings to Tainan. Tainan (and the start of a non-agrarian Taiwan) began in 1624 when the Dutch East India Company set up a colonial base in the Anping District (安平區 Ānpíng qū). The island of Formosa was strategically placed along major trade routes, and so the Dutch were keen to start building up a trading post and fort known as Fort Zeelandia. They were soon besieged by Ming loyalists led by Koxinga, and their surrender ended 38 years of Dutch colonial rule, bringing Taiwan under Han Chinese influence. However, Koxinga's own rule was similarly short-lived as he died four months after the takeover, yet he lives on as a local folk hero and religious icon of sorts. His grandson gave up control to the Qing dynasty, and Tainan was made the capital of Taiwan County of Fujian Province. However, Tainan, and Taiwan as a whole continued to be a Chinese backwater until the Second Opium War in 1858 forced the reopening of Anping port to foreigners, with British merchants stimulating growth in the city. Tainan would however lose its status as capital after Taiwan was declared a separate province in 1885, with the Qing government deciding to set up the provincial capital in Taipei instead.

Upon secession of Taiwan to Japan after the Sino-Japanese War in 1895, city leaders tried to declare independence (perhaps the first attempt at formal self-governance) although that failed and anti-Japanese sentiment grew into the Tapani Incident in 1915, when Aboriginal and Han Chinese fighters stormed several police stations in Tainan county. The armed uprising was brutally crushed, marking a turning point in relations between the local population and their occupiers as Japan started policies to peacefully integrate Taiwan into the nascent Japanese Empire. Modern infrastructure and urban planning transformed Tainan, befitting the largest Taiwanese settlement and capital at the time. The odd impressive colonial building can still be found around the city, standing out against other less inspired post-war architecture.

After the island was handed back to the KMT and subsequent retreat from the communists, the capital was shifted to Taipei, and Tainan residents were harshly treated under the slightest suspicion of opposition to the new regime instituted by Chiang Kai-shek. Tainan and the rest of southern Taiwan remain fairly pro-independence to this day, since they have not actively thought themselves a part of China for the last century or so.

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Sights and Activities

At first glimpse, Tainan may seem all gray buildings with an alarming number of scooters, but thankfully it doesn't take long to discover its charms. Historical buildings and temples are mostly found in three main clusters: near Chih-kan Tower and on Zhongzheng Road, which used to be within old city walls during the Qing Dynasty, and in Anping District.

Historical Sites

Note that there is a combined ticket available for NT$150, covering all 5 important site; Anping Tree House, Anping Fort, Chih-kan Tower, Golden Castle, and museum. So, you would safe NT$100.

  • Anping Fort (Fort Zeelandia / 安平古堡 (Ānpíng Gǔbǎo)). 8:30am–5:30pm. In the early 17th century, European seafarers came to Asia to trade and develop colonial outposts. In 1624, the Dutch occupied today's Anping and took ten years to build a fort named "Fort Zeelandia." After 1662, because Koxinga and his son lived here, it was named "King Castle," "Anping Castle" as well as "Taiwan Castle." The Japanese rebuilt it and named it "Anping Old Fort." Today, the only Dutch remains are the ruins of a semicircular bulwark and a section of the outer fort's brick wall; the root of an old banyan tree on the wall remains a witness to the fort's long history. Its commanding views of the ocean make it a popular place to watch the sunset. Nevertheless, the fort itself is not that impressing, and neither is the view from the tower during the day. Also, there is not much space in the tower, so it is questionable that many people will be able to enjoy the sunset. Hence, you could skip it for Anping Tree House instead. NT$50.
  • Anping Tree House (安平樹屋 (Ānpíng shù wū)), 108 Fort St., Anping District (entrance through the back door of Old Tait & Co. Merchant House)). 8:30AM-6PM. Anping Tree House was built as the warehouse of Tait & Co. During the Japanese Occupation it was the office and warehouse of the Japan Salt Company. After World War II, the salt industry in Anping declined, and this area was abandoned. The aerial roots and branches of banyan trees wrapped around the building, combined with the soil, red brick and partial concrete wall creates an unusual sight. NT$50.
  • Chih-kan Tower (Fort Provintia / 赤崁樓 / Chìkàn Lóu), 212 Sec. 2, Min-Tsu Rd., Central District. 8:30AM-9PM. Chihkan Tower s the landmark of Tainan and its most famous historic site. In 1653 the Dutch built "Fort Providentia" in the area, and the Chinese named it "Tower of Savages" or "Tower of Red-haired Barbarians." Even though Chihkan Tower has survived different historical periods, it retains its rich and graceful architectural aspects. Crammed with various kinds of steles, stone horses, weight lifting rocks, stone weights, ponds with colorful fish and nine stone tortoises carrying royal stele carved in both Chinese and Manchurian, the courtyard looks like an outdoor museum. Chihkan Tower is particularly attractive at night. NT$50.
  • Eternal Golden Fortress (億載金城 (Yì Zài Jīnchéng)), 16 Nanwen, Anping District. 8:30am-5:30pm. A 19th-century coastal fortress, it was built during the Qing dynasty and armed with cannons to defend against the threat of Japanese invasion. Bricks from the remains of Fort Zeelandia were used during the fort's construction. The squarish fort feels like a very big park aside from its thick walls and gate tunnel, and paddle boats are even available for rent in the moat surrounding the fort. There are sometimes musical events and performances in the evening. NT$50.
  • National Cheng Kung University (Use rear exit of Tainan Train Station). 10:00am-5:00pm; closed M. Free.
  • Great South Gate.

Temples

Old Taoist religious customs, many of which have been wiped out elsewhere, are cherished and not forgotten here.

  • Sacrificial Rites Martial Temple (opposite Chihkan Tower).
  • Confucius Temple. A serene destination surrounded by a small park. Explore the temple, then go to the incredibly popular shaved-ice store right on the opposite side. NT$25.
  • Koxinga Shrine, 152 Kaishan Rd, West Central District. 8:30AM-9PM. A small shrine dedicated to Koxinga, with plaques and information about his life. Locally known as Zheng Chenggong, Koxinga is an intriguing iconic hero of Taiwan, symbolic in different ways to different people and his image bent to fit whoever is in charge. He was a pirate to the Dutch, a brave and loyal general to the Chinese, a brutal conqueror to the aboriginal tribes and a favored son to the Japanese through his mother. He was even a beacon of hope to the KMT in their aims to reclaim the mainland, though perhaps not the best example for them. The garden is quiet and serene, and a statue of Zheng Chenggong on horseback guards the entrance. Free.

Museums

  • National Museum of Taiwan History, 250, Changhe Rd Sec 1, Annan District (Take bus 18 from Tainan Railway Station or bus 20 from Yongkang Railway Station), ☎ +886 6 3568889. 9:00am-5:00pm; closed M. The museum covers a broad overview of Taiwan's history from prehistoric beginnings to the present, illustrating various eras with large-scale interactive displays and dioramas. Temporary exhibits focus more of the museum's historical artifacts. Most of the exhibitions have clear English explanations. Besides the museum, the building itself sits in a large park and is architecturally interesting, focusing on harmonious integration with the environment and housing a huge wall of solar panels that generates enough electricity to power the exhibition hall. NT$80.
  • National Museum of Taiwanese Literature. Located in a restored colonial-era Japanese building, even with the limited English on display this museum is fascinating. The coffee shop is good too.
  • Chimei Museum (奇美博物館), 66 Wenhua Rd Sec. 2, Rende District (Bao'an TRA Station). 9:30amM-5:30pm, closed M. Started by a private collector who has a vast collection of violins, many of them antique in nature and made by masters like Antonio Stradivari and Nicolo Amati. There's also various exhibits about Western art, weaponry and natural history. The building and surrounding park are astonishing in their incongruence and could have been transported entirely from classical Europe. NT$200.

Landscapes

  • Qigu Salt Mountain
  • Jingzaijiao Tile-paved Salt Fields
  • Caoshan Moon World (草山月世界), Zuozhen District. An interesting region of mud hills and badlands surrounded by thick bamboo forest and some tropical fruit farms. Take the Green bus from Tainan train station to Xinhua (新化), where it's worth wandering around to grab a bite and see the sights. Then take the Green 13 branch line in the direction of Zuozhen (左鎮) and get out at Ganglin (岡林). Walk past the restaurant and the church then turn right and keep walking. A scooter would make this trip much easier, but keep your eyes open for photo ops along the road. Note that as of June 2017 the published bus schedule is not correct, so make sure to confirm with the staff at Xinhua bus terminal.

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Events and Festivals

Buddha Bathing Festival

The Buddha bathing festival takes place on April 8 and is a Buddhist religious ceremony celebrating the birth of the Lord Buddha. The faithful bow three times to the Lord Buddha and then pour water and flowers of a statue of the baby Buddha.

Tomb Sweeping Day

Tomb Sweeping Day usually falls in early April and is a public holiday in Taiwan. Taiwanese people pray and tend to the graves of their departed relatives. Willow branches are used to decorate graves and doors in some areas and the flying of kites, carrying of flowers, and burning of incense, paper and joss sticks is common.

Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival is a June public holiday originating from China that is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The day is celebrated in Taiwan with dragon boat races, eating glutinous rice dumplings, drinking wine and writing spells.

Autumn Moon Festival

The Moon Festival talks place in late September or early October, on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The festival celebrates harvest time and is characterized by giving and eating moon cakes. Dragon dances, floating lanterns, fireworks and burning incense are also common.

Ghost Festival

September is Ghost Month in Taiwan with the gates of the underworld opening on the first day and closing on the last. Throughout the month, both Buddhist and Taoist religious rituals take place that include to offerings of food, drink and burnt paper money appease the dead. Many Taiwanese avoid moving house or getting married during this month.

Double Ten Day

Double Ten Day falls on the tenth of October and is the Republic of China National Day, celebrating the start of the Wuching uprising in 1911 that resulted in the defeat of the Qing Dynasty. Proceedings begin with the raising of the Republic of China flag and singing of the Republic of China national anthem. There is a Taiwanese presidential speech and celebrations include lion dances, drumming, and fireworks.

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Getting There

By Plane

Tainan Airport (TNN) has largely diminished in traffic after the high-speed rail was built, but Uni Air has daily flights to the outlying islands of Kinmen (50 min) and Penghu (30 min). International flights from Hong Kong (90 minutes) are run six times a week by China Airlines. It is a cheap taxi ride from the city centre, and also reachable by the local bus number 5. The airfield is shared with the Republic of China Air Force, so the airport terminal is far enough from the runways to require shuttle buses in between. Flight schedules may vary depending on military exercises.

For flight options beyond the Taiwan Strait, the closest international airport is in Kaohsiung. From there you can take a train, bus, taxi, or rental car for a 45 minute to one hour journey to Tainan. Flying into Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport is also another choice, though you don't have to go into Taipei proper and can just take the HSR train (1½ hours and NT$1350) from Taoyuan.

By Train

Tainan is a major stop on the Taipei - Kaohsiung High Speed Rail line (about NT$1,500 one way from Taipei). Travel time is 1h45m from Taipei. The 2 Tainan HSR station is a bit outside of town (NT$400 by taxi), and you might think it's the wrong stop altogether since the station is surrounded by parking lots and open rice paddies. There are free shuttle buses running from the city to the bullet train terminal.

You can also take the TRA (slow train) into 3 Tainan TRA station in the city from Shalun TRA station (linked to the THSR station and NT$25 each way). Besides the THSR, standard TRA rail from Taipei can take 3½-6 hours depending on the type of the train. For example, a class 1 (4 hours) ticket from Taipei will cost NT$758. On the Southern line, trains run very frequently to Kaohsiung (1 hour and NT$70-100), to Taitung (3 hours and about NT$500) and, less frequently, to Hualien.

By Bus

Tainan has good inter-city bus connections with other cities in Taiwan. Most of the bus companies have offices on Beimen Rd, north of the train station.

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Getting Around

The best way to travel around the city is by car, bicycle or motorcycle. There are taxis and buses (公車 gōngchē), but they are not so convenient for non-Chinese speakers. There is a scooter rental shop next to the Tainan City TRA (slow train) station. Rentals cost around NT$600 per 24 hours. Whether a rental shop will check for a license varies from shop to shop.

All inner city bus routes pass through Tainan Station (train). There is a tourist information booth at the Station with friendly staff (English speaking) who can show you how to use the bus system. On Sundays there are two free sightseeing bus routes (88 and 99) which can take you to and back from all the major historical sites.

If you do take a taxi just make sure you have a map you can point at or the business card of the location you're headed. The taxi drivers are very helpful, but be aware that sometimes even Chinese speakers take roundabout ways.

One should take note that there are thousands of scooters and motorbikes packing the streets and if you injure someone while you are driving in Taiwan, the local laws require you to pay for whatever the person you injured cannot. Try getting your insurance company to write a waiver for you to be insured before driving in Taiwan.

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Eat

Tainan is often known as "the City of Snacks" (小吃城). In addition to the wide variety of food available at night markets, the city also has an abundance of street vendors specializing in tasty and cheap dishes. Oysters in particular, are favored in Tainan, from the long association with Anping port. Try the oyster omelette (蚵仔煎 kèzǎijiān / o-a chen), and oysters and thin noodles (蚵仔麵線 kèzǎi miànxiàn / o-a mi soa~) which are cooked differently from those up north. Danzai noodles (擔仔麵 dānzǎi miàn) should not be missed either. Coffin toast (棺材板 guāncaibǎn), fried bread stuffed with various ingredients, such as chicken, beans, seafood, vegetables and milk-based sauces, was also invented here.

There are over two dozen night markets of various sizes in and around the city. Regardless of size, night markets all possess an abundance of stalls selling clothing, shoes, jewelry, toys, food and drink. Some even have live entertainment. Most night markets are only held on certain days of the week. Check before going.

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Drink

There aren't many shiny modern nightspots in Tainan; the city delights in retro bars instead, leveraging on its history and countless number of traditional houses to give a intimate, laidback feel. A smattering of Mandarin or Taiwanese will open more doors in terms of nightlife, otherwise it would be easier to stick to expat hangouts where the owners speak English. Some of the bars provide taxi service if you get too drunk.

Pearl milk tea (珍珠奶茶, zhēnzhū nǎichá) is a must drink in Tainan. Look out for shops where it is made directly to order! Fruit drinks and desserts are always refreshing in the sticky summer heat too.

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Sleep

The local heritage and religious festivals of Tainan mostly draws only domestic tourists, so weekends, Taiwanese public holidays and school vacations are particularly busy for hotels. There aren't the masses of Chinese tour buses that crowd touristy Jiufen or Sun Moon Lake, so Tainan is a good place to be if you happen to be in Taiwan during the Golden Weeks in January/February or October. Staying near the train station or Chih-kan Tower may help simplify public transport as they are easy landmarks and most buses stop at either place.

  • Guest House Hamuya (Tainan Guest House), No. 39, Alley 20, Lane 158, Section 2, Zhongyi Road, ☎ +886 6 2211239, e-mail: hamuya.tw@gmail.com. This is a guest house of a nice and relaxed Taiwanese-Japanese couple. The toilet is a little weird next to the kitchen and only separated by a curtain, if this bothers you. But the rest is authentic and friendly. FB. Dorm NT$500/bed, even during weekends.
  • Guang Hwa Hotel (光華商務飯店), 155 Beimen Rd Sec 1 (near the train station), ☎ +886 6 226-3171, e-mail: only4utw@gmail.com. Check-out: 11:00. Free internet and breakfast. Double from NT$700.
  • Seren Hostel (賽倫青旅), No.26 Lane 371, Fucian Rd., ☎ +886 6-358-0972. Very well-located in the city center. Most must-see sites and popular eateries can be reached on foot within 5-15 minutes. NT$530.
  • Guest House Hamuya (Tainan Guest House), No. 39, Alley 20, Lane 158, Zhongyi Road Section 2 (忠義路二段158巷20弄39號) ("Alley 20" is vertical to "Lane 158", which is vertical to Zhongyi Road. No. 39 is the vertical alley right before No. 41.), ☎ +886 62211239, +886 973713482, e-mail: hamuya.tw@gmail.com. A nice and cosy hostel right in the centre with laid-back staff and nearby café. They maintain their price even during the expensive Saturday/Sunday night. FB. Dorm NT$500.
  • Cheng Kuang Hotel, 294 Beimen Rd Sec. 1 (near the train station), ☎ +886 6 222-1188. The hotel is a little old, but the rooms are OK for the price.
  • Tainan City Labour Recreation Centre, 261 Nanmen Rd, ☎ +886 6 215-0174. Check-out: 11:00am. Large single room including private bathroom NT$550/Double room. Open 6:00am-midnight, hot water only from 6:00pm-midnight. They no longer offer dorm rooms.
  • FuQi Hostel, No.76-2, Zhongzheng Rd., West Central Dist., Tainan City 700 (The hostel is on the 2nd and 3rd floor. The entrance is not very obvious, it's just a metal door with the name of the hostel on it.), ☎ +886-6-7034543. WiFi, free internet, kitchen, living room and laundry plus very helpful and friendly staff. Dorm Rooms for NT$450.
  • City Hut 1828 (Dorm1828), No.28 Lane 18, Dasyue Road. 15-minute walk from the train station. NT$600.
  • Sendale Yong Fu - Tainan City 新大福軒館, 115 Yong Fu Rd Section 1 (behind Landis Hotel, 3 minutes by walking to New Life Square-Mitsukoshi Department Shopping Mall), ☎ +886 6 214-2988, fax: +886 6 214-2799.
  • Dynasty Hotel, 46 Chengkung Rd, ☎ +886 6 225-8121, fax: +886 6 221-6711.
  • Cambridge Hotel, 269 Sec 2 Mintzu Rd.
  • Shangri-La's Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, 89 Section West, University Rd, ☎ +886 6 702-8888, fax: +886 6 702-7777. Five-star property near the train station (regular, not HSR). Free internet (wired and non-wired).
  • Tayih Landis Hotel, 660, Shi-Men Rd, Sec.1, ☎ +886 6 213-5555, fax: +886 6 213-5555. 5 star property adjacent to an enormous Shin Kong Mitsukoshi department store. Nearby Confucius temple and the Chihkan towers.
  • Evergreen Plaza Hotel, No. 1, Lane 336, Chunghua E. Rd., Sec. 3, Tainan City, ☎ +886 6 289-9988, fax: +886 6 289-6699. 4-5 star property about 10 min south of the train station (regular, not HSR). Free internet.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafes are plentiful, although you may have to wander around before finding one. Rather, Internet cafes in Taiwan should be called gaming cafes. These are often found on the first or second floor of a building, and equipped with very comfortable chairs and large screens. Each hour of Internet access/game play is cheap, coming in at around $20. For free internet access in big cities, try out the local libraries. In addition, a wireless internet accessing net covering all of Taipei City is available and Kaohsiung City is currently under construction. There is also a common wifi network available at every McDonald's.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The international calling code for Taiwan is 886. The emergency numbers include 110 (police) 119 (medical, fire) and the standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks. Numbers starting with 0800 are commercial toll-free numbers. Mobile phone coverage is generally excellent in Taiwan, with the exception of some remote mountainous areas. Among the major providers are Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile, Far EasTone and Vibo. Taiwan has both GSM 900/1800 and 3G (UMTS/W-CDMA 2100) networks and roaming might be possible for users of such mobile phones, subject to agreements between operators. If you bring your own cellphone, buy a local SIM-card for the lowest prices and be sure your phone is unlocked.

Post

Chungwa Post is the national postal service of Taiwan. It offers fast and reliable postal services, both domestic and internationally. Post offices are generally open from 8:00am to 5:00pm during weekdays, though some keep longer hours or are open on Saturday (morning). Prices for sending postcards or letters (up to 20 grams) start at NT$5 within the country, while postcards by airmail to other countries start at around NT$10-12 per item, and letters are slightly more expensive. There is a wide range in prices regarding international parcel sending, and other companies like DHL, TNT, FedEx and UPS offer similar services.

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Tainan Travel Helpers

  • ttocs1

    hello, I live in Taiwan-Tainan , Taiwan is a wonderful place that you should travel to
    you can ask me something you want to know about it ,I will tell you what I know
    specially in Tainan

    Ask ttocs1 a question about Tainan

This is version 4. Last edited at 15:11 on Mar 11, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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