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.
After eight days in Taipei the three of us headed south to the city of Tainan. Our ever thoughtful Chienya was worried that we would be bored in Taipei, so she arranged for us to visit the “Kyoto” of Taiwan for a couple days before we headed off to Hong Kong. I guess she forgot that we would be happy anywhere as long as food was being shoved in our faces. We’re really grateful that she took us to Tainan because there were new food items to be stuffed in our faces there.
I was excited to ride the Taiwan High Speed Rail since train travel is one of my favorite modes of transportation. The THSR is modeled after Japan’s bullet train system and the ride was rather enjoyable. It’s not as fancy as the last shinkansen that we were on when we traveled from Tokyo to Kyoto, but it’s respectable. The price for our one-way ticket from Taipei to Taichung, a 1 hour and 45 minute ride, was about $50 USD per person. Not bad.
After you arrive at the Tainan Rail Station, you have the option of taking a free shuttle bus or a paid metro train into the heart of the city. We opted for the free bus cuz we’s po! It was also closer to our rental apartment, so that worked out perfectly.
All of our friends from Taipei told us that the food in Tainan is especially delicious. Luckily our former NYC roommate was raised in Tainan so she made sure Chienya took us to eat all of the great food that Tainan is known for. It also helped that Chienya has been to Tainan before and was rather familiar with most of the tasty food spots there herself.
One of the spots that Chienya took us to was Yonlin Restaurant for a much anticipated fresh beef hotpot. According to Chienya, a professional hotpot eater, the beef at Yonlin is fresh and never frozen unlike other hotpot places in Taiwan. I don’t know what I’ve been having my whole hotpot-eating life, but this beef was fantastic! It’s tender and flavorful with just the perfect amount of fat-to-beef ratio. Divine! There’s a branch in Taipei too, but we heard it’s the same food with a higher price tag. But if you can’t make it to Tainan for this meal then you should fork over the money and eat it in Taipei. The other dishes we ordered were delicious too, so even if you’re not a big beef eater you won’t go hungry there. Oh, and don’t forget to try the 100% beef balls. Delish! I’d also recommend that you go here with a lot of people so you can try as many dishes as possible. The three of us only managed to finish six dishes. What a pity.