Besides offering a wide assortment of good eats Tainan is also known as the Kyoto of Taiwan because of its cultural history. Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan and was the capital of the country until 1887 when it was moved to Taipei. We explored a few of the cultural locales in the city even though it was really hot and we had to stop every fifteen minutes to enjoy a cold beverage.
Our first stop in Tainan was the Confucian Temple. Built in 1665 as a site for worship and scholarly teachings it is the oldest Confucian Temple in the entire country. There were some typical Chinese-influenced architectural details, but nothing that I found particularly spectacular. I probably wouldn’t go again and certainly wouldn’t pay the less than $1 USD that I paid to enter the temple. I’ll use that for a bubble tea next time; it’s much more rewarding and refreshing.
Any cultural tour of Tainan would not be complete without a visit to one or two of the many Buddhist or Taoist temples in the city. It would be hard to miss them since Tainan has the most temples of any city in Taiwan. We happened to arrive at a temple just as a parade was starting. It’s like a Japanese matsuri where they carry a giant, wooden divine palanquin and heave it up and down while chanting. The Taiwanese do the same thing, but they decided to put the palanquin on wheels since that shit is heavy and it really gets too hot to carry that thing around in the summer.
Shennong Street is considered the best preserved in Tainan with its beautiful traditional buildings. It’s also known to be an art street where you can find a few nice galleries. There’s a smallish temple at the end of the street, so you can see a temple without going out of your way if you’re not really into those things. The street is short and not very commercialized yet. Great for those black and white pictures that make you seem more artistic than you really are. We were there during the day, but I hear it’s pretty at night with the new lanterns the city put up so the tourists feel like they’re in an old Taiwanese city.
We partook of Tainanese historical heritage by having fantastically well-prepared drinks at TCRC, a speakeasy-style bar housed in an old building. The atmosphere was relaxed, casual, and quiet enough for adult conversations about the dangers of drinking alcohol and using squat toilets. I love everything about these old buildings except the toilets. I can barely pop a squat when I’m sober so I only had one drink even though I would’ve loved another. There’s also a temple directly in front of this bar, so there’s another chance for you to see a temple without looking too hard.
And, don’t forget to visit the night market. I mentioned it briefly in our last post, but I didn’t tell you about the non-food stuff there. They sell EVERYTHING there! If you’re out one night and have a sudden need to buy a jigsaw puzzle, Super Mario USB stick, dress pants, Carl Kaien jean belts, or nail clippers then you’re in luck because this is your one-stop shop for all of it. They also have a live auction for random junk. It looked like fun.
Go to Tainan for the food and in-between meals check out some of the cultural and historical stuff.
More pictures on our Flickr album!