The city of Tainan (台南) reminds me a lot of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. It is an old city located in southwest of Taiwan. Tainan used to be the port city where Dutch East Indies settled in the island. This city was also the capital of Taiwan up until Japanese colonial time when Japan annexed Taiwan as the result of China’s lost in Sino-Japanese War. Then Japan moved the capital to Taipei. But Tainan still remained the richest city in Taiwan at that time.
Visiting Tainan means walking around and visiting ancient temples that are spread all over the city. Some of the big temples located about 30 minutes bus ride outside of the city. But no need to worry, there are plenty to see in the Old Tainan, and it only requires around 15 minutes walk from temple to temple. Tainan does not have the cosmopolitan feelings like Taipei, Taichung’s airy charm, nor Kaohsiung’s metropolitan life. Most of Tainan’s attractions are within the old district, which is around the train station. Tainan’s main charm is the atmosphere of Old Taiwan that gives you that nostalgic feeling once your foot touches the ground of the train station. It seems like I have found my own Yogyakarta here in Taiwan.
National Museum of Taiwan History
If you’re coming from north of Taiwan, either by bus or train, you’ll pass Yongkang (永康) area. You can take any bus that goes to the museum from there. The museum itself is very new and just opened at the end of 2011. It is a grey stone building in the middle of a field. It has a “National Museum of Taiwan History” written on a row of solar panels in front of the building.
The museum is consisted of 2 floors: the ground floors has exhibitions about the ancient history of Taiwan, while the basement houses exhibitions about Taiwan’s modern history. If you think that you can explore both floors in half a day, you are wrong. Each diorama has detailed explanations about certain events, so it will consume at least 4 to 5 hours to explore each floor.
The ground floor houses exhibition about Native Taiwanese, also known as the Aborigines. It also chronicles the time when people from South China, mainly from Guangdong, Guangxi, and Fujian Provinces crossed the strait using small wooden boats. As you walk along the exhibition, you will be introduced to when and how the Portuguese explorers come to Taiwan and named the island Isla Formosa. Later on, Dutch East Indies Company came and started trade with the locals. The basement tells the story of Taiwan’s modern history; starting from when Japan took over Taiwan from China, to the birth of Kuomintang (KMT), how KMT migrated to Taiwan, and more recent events such as the “No Nuke Protest”. Overall the museum is worth visiting as it summarizes Taiwan’s history nicely. Taiwan is a relatively new country indeed. But it has a long and rich history behind the banner of Republic of China’s name. If you are too lazy to pick volumes of history books, then I really recommend you to visit this museum.
the Amitabha Japanese Police. symbolising the importance of police officers in Taiwan during the Japanese occupation times.
Sanshan Guowang Temple (三山國王廟)
From the museum take any bus that goes to Tainan Train Station. The train station is located in the old district and only within walking distances from many temples that are hidden behind the streets. One of the nearest temples is the Sanshan Guowang Temple. If you get the map of Tainan from the train station’s information centre, you can see that this temple is one of Tainan’s must see spots. It is a nearly 400 years old temple built by the Hakka people in Tainan. The name of the temple literally means Temple of the Kings of Three Mountains; referring to Mountains Du, Jin, and Ming. Those 3 are very important mountains for the Hakka people in Guangdong Province. When they migrated to Taiwan during the Qing (清) or Manchu Dynasty, they brought this belief with them.
there are several seafood vendors in front of the temple, giving a unique eating experiencegate to the future
Kaiji Mazu Temple (開基天后宮)
10 minutes walk from Sanshan Temple is the Kaiji Mazu Temple. Mazu temples are usually very very grand and elaborate, but this one particularly is very very quaint. Located in a small alley and stuck between 2 unattractive buildings, it is very easy to pass by this temple without noticing it. The temple was built in 1662 and is a shrine for Goddesses Mazu and Guan Yin (girl power!). Daoism believes in many deities, so they even adopted deities from Buddhism such as Guan Yin. Despite the small size, this temple is very important for Taiwan’s Mazu worshipers and not to mention very beautiful to look at.
Chikan Lou (赤坎樓)
Chikan Lou or Fort Provintia is an important building in Taiwan’s history. Chikan Lou was built by Zheng Chenggong (鄭成功), also known as Koxinga (guoxingye 國興業). Koxinga was a Ming general who came to Taiwan to expel the Dutch from the island. He blocked the way from Tainan to Anping Port, making the Dutch surrendered. The Dutch were wrong to assume that they could leave Taiwan peacefully as Koxinga killed many of them and gave their women to his soldiers. To commemorate his victory on the siege of Tainan, Koxinga became the governor of Taiwan and built Chikan Lou on top of Fort Provintia’s remains. So nowadays Chikan Lou is a silent proof that beauty did come with pain and sacrifices.
Random shots of Tainan
this temple alone has lights enough for a football stadiumsome of those delicious Tainan munchiesanother beautiful templeintersectionsa very cheeky billboard literally says LOOK AT MEposing with Confuciussome of the churches in Tainan