Five Ways to See Tainan, Taiwan's Oldest City

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Tainan is Taiwan distilled down to its essence. The island's oldest city offers travelers a mix of old and new: shiny skyscrapers and tiny temples, mega malls and street markets. Joining us today is Kevin, our local guide in Tainan, to tell you about five ways to experience his city.

“Tainan is an ideal place to work, settle down, and materialize your dreams" Taiwanese writer Yeh Shi Tao wrote in his novel.

Tainan is located southwest of Taiwan, which is a 4.5 hour drive from Taipei city. Tainan started its glorious history when the Dutch erected a business and military center, Fort Zeelandia in 1624. During its 260 years (1624-1885) as the capital of Taiwan, Tainan was the focal point of Taiwanese history. Due to the efforts of various settlers, Tainan developed as a diversified place where all kinds of exotic cultures now blend together. Here are five things you should not miss when you are in Tainan.

1. Anping tree house
Located adjacent to Taio & Co. Merchant House, Anping Tree House used to be a warehouse of Taiwan Salt Works since the 19th century. It was abandoned for years, and as a result a giant banyan tree took over the place, co-existing with it until now. The tangle of roots, branches, shadows, and shafts of light is quite surreal. (Admission: US $2)

2. Tainan Confucius Temple
Built in 1666, this was a complex of temples dedicated to Confucius. It is also the first and the grandest Confucius temple on the island. The wooden couplets hung on the main hall were issued by different emperors and presidents, which is the structure’s main feature. (Admission: US $1)

3. Suisian traditional market
Markets are often the best place for travelers to understand the daily life of a city, and Suisian traditional market is definitely a great destination for locals and travelers alike. Walking in the bustling and hustling market, you can be dazzled by all the seasonal fruits, vegetables, dried goods, meats, fresh seafood, and for sure, you don’t want to miss the friendly and hospitable people. And there are all kinds of delicious prepared foods next to the market, ranging from fish skin soup, sticky rice, spring rolls, Taiwanese hamburgers, tofu pudding…it is a true paradise for gourmets.

4. Sicao Mangroves Green Tunnel
The Sicao Mangroves Green Tunnel was the first artificial canal built in Taiwan more than a hundred years ago; mangroves grow and expand along both sides of the canal to form the “green tunnel” through which a raft takes you on a 30-minute ride. (Admission: US $5)

5. Grand Mazu Temple
Built in 1666, the Grand Mazu Temple is the first and only officially built temple for Mazu. Mazu, Goddess of Sea, played an important and spiritual role for people who migrated to Taiwan in the early times. Walking into the temple, you can appreciate its sophisticated columns, pillars, and traditional wall paintings. Numerous rituals and festivals occur here the whole year round.

I welcome you to Tainan, a magical destination for travelers. I suggest discovering our compact city by bike or foot. The longer you stay, the more you will explore; the slower you travel, the more authenticity of the city you will experience. Reserve a few days for Tainan, and bring an unforgettable memory back.

Thank you Kevin! An editorial footnote: I was recently speaking with the Lonely Planet author of over a dozen travel guides to Asia. When asked about his favourite under-rated destination, he immediately spoke of the diversity, culture and scenic beauty of Taiwan. He convinced me that Taiwan should be my next Asian destination. If it’s yours too, consider getting in touch with Kevin for a personalized experience in historical Tainan.
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