To immerse yourself in Tainan’s essence, you need to sharpen all your senses and open your mind.
Alleys and lanes twist and turn under the shadows of old dwellings. Reaching what seems to be a dead end, you come to a majestic temple and the smell of incense. You hear the murmured wishes of temple-goers who pray among majestic carvings and paintings. On stools in the temple square sit locals with bowls in hand, skillfully manipulating noodles and slurping up broth. Steam wafting from bowls of clear broth carries with it spiced scents as the appetizing aroma spreads.
These locals embody the city’s charm.
Inhabitants of the oldest city in Taiwan, there is something mysterious in the Tainan temperament. It may seem that nothing could quicken the pace of the relaxed locals, but you won’t forget the look of concentration as they work, even at tasks as simple as boiling noodles. They are warm-hearted and easy-going, but uncompromising in shifting circumstances. Perhaps as descendants of those who lived in Taiwan’s capital for two centuries, they know to cherish simple everyday delights and the effort needed to make such delights a reality. They’ve also seen how easily a city can decline and so remain composed, knowing that the truly fine things will stand the test of time.
Tainan remained unnoticed during Taiwan’s economic boom. After the economic bubble burst, people began yearning for the original tastes of life - and here the value of Tainan shines through.
Soon, artists and craftsmen began arriving in Tainan. These young entrepreneurs easily fell in love with Tainan’s historic atmosphere and opened cafes, art studios, and even street food stalls. They retained the typical style and craftsmanship of Tainan while transforming old buildings and alleys with new ideas of beauty and creativity, thus turning Tainan’s winding lanes into an unforgettable attraction.
You are invited to slow to Tainan’s leisurely pace, open your senses, and enjoy all the charm Tainan has to offer.
❥ Be dazzled by folk art treasures as you visit historic temples.
❥ Spoil your taste buds as you wander through Taiwan’s slow food capital.
❥ Be enlightened by history as you trace changing eras and the collision of cultures.
❥ Encounter ingenious modern design as you are surprised by street-art installations.
❥ Let your heart be touched as you hear vivid stories of Tainan’s people and places.
❥ Snail Alley - A Coversation about a proper Lifer.
Yeh Shih-Tao, a seminal figure in Taiwanese literature, chose a tiny old house on this street as the residence in the mid-20th century. He adored the narrow alley, "it is a tranquil valley in the downtown," and affectionately called it "Snail Alley."
Yeh's literary life was tightly bonded to his hometown, Tainan. Over a decade of his
death, his works are conversely shaping these backstreets. Young artists are inspired by Yeh and interpret his writing in a modern form - with a touch of humor. Therefore, while you strolling in Snail Alley slowly and quietly, you can hear Yeh's words echoing around the painted walls, corners of installation and studios of craftsmen. He said, "it is a nice place suitable for dreaming, working, being in love, getting married, and living leisurely."
❥ Baobing/ Shaved Ice - Simple pleasures under Sun.
No one can appreciate the simplest pleasures more than Tainanese. What is better than
shaved ice and fruit in this tropical city? However, Tainanese demand shaved ice with homemade syrup and various toppings. Toppings are made of natural ingredients and simmered for hours with care and patience. And fruit must be in season, fresh and ripened, sweet and aromatic. That is why you may not always get what you want, like all the fine things.
Tainanese are famous to be picky eaters, even light refreshments are granted to be slow food. Nothing to do with the fashion trend. They just take it granted since it is the way they were grown up.
❥Fan Liao Street - Where Hundreds of Sailboats Moored.
Feel the rhyme under your steps when you are walking through lanes and alleys. The pavement undulating as smooth waves reveals a bygone scene. Initially, there was a
lagoon here, and then it became a beach with dunes as the lagoon shrinking. As its old name "Fan Liao" reveals, in the past sailboats reached here through the channel, and it was a dock where hundreds of sailboats moored to get sails mended.
The forces of nature continued, even the old channels have silted up. The past
flourishing dock left a dark and narrow street, along with a three-hundred-year-old temple which has been damaged by storm and war and rebuilt again and again.
Some craftsmen are fascinated by the old streets. They take root here and persist in
meticulously doing their job. Among them, you will not miss the tatami makers of three generations, including the nonagenarian grandfather and the tricenarian grandson. They start a day with sharpening knives and then concentrate on cutting and sewing the
Japanese-style straw mats by hand. It was exactly how the grandfather did over 70 years ago.
❥Chuan Mei Theater - A Gem of Old- School Cinephiles.
Chuan Mei Theatre illustrates the essence of typical Tainanese craftsmanship perfectly. It
is one of the few remaining cinemas which continue the age-old tradition of displaying hand-painted film posters.
Its façade with enormous oil-painted posters recall us the heydays of movie theaters when Chuan Mei Theater was inaugurated. Chuan Mei Theater enlightened the reputed director, Ang Lee, who has spent countless hours here during his adolescence and finally
made his dream come true in Hollywood.
Another cinephile nourished by Chuan Mei is its manager, Wu Jyun-cheng. He witnessed the decline of this family business, however, he insists on running the theater under the unfavorable circumstance and preserving the human touch of film posters. As like he has
a lifelong commitment: for better for worse, for richer for poorer, to love, honor, and cherish.
When you arrive at the theater, pay attention to the pavement across from it. The poster painter may be working with his brush and buckets of paint on huge canvases.
❥State Temple of the Martial God - A Classical Imagery of Tainan.
This temple is dedicated to the deity Guan Gong, a legendary Chinese general who died heroically in the early third century. His image of bravery, royalty, and righteousness is so profoundly imprinted that he is widely worshipped by Chinese people.
But you do not need to know Guan Gong's life story to appreciate his temple, because its beauty is apparent. You will not miss the distinctive red walls. Five roofs with various shapes above the long walls gracefully outline the imagery of Tainan.
The temple was built in the mid-17th century, along with the first major inflow of Chinese immigrants, and was the only martial temple in Taiwan granted to perform official sacrificial rites. The exclusive prestige is not only embodied by its grand layout and structure but also by its exquisite decoration.
If you happen to walk into the temple in winter, delicate poetry may diffuse from the rear courtyard - against the background of red walls, snowy-white blossoms are blooming in silence on the hundreds-year-old plum tree.
❥ Grand Matsu Temple - A Treasure Hunt in the Glory of Goddess.
One thousand years ago, a pensive maiden waited on the coast determinedly and guided the seafarers through a typhoon. Her legend has spread throughout Chinese communities and has become the Taiwanese's closest deity. There are more than 500 temples dedicated to her on this island. Every spring when she goes traveling over 300
km in a nine-day round-trip for her birthday, over one million Taiwanese line the route seeking her blessing. She is well-known as Matsu, signifying "Maternal Ancestor." Sometimes Taiwanese regard her as "Queen of Heaven" suggesting exceptional glory, sometimes they just call her "Granny Matsu" as like they are her spoiled children.
This Temple is the oldest officially built Matsu Temple in Taiwan, thus it is regarded as "grand." The architecture implies that the temple once faced towards the dock. From the front hall to the rear hall, the temple is getting higher and more expanded, as like the goddess is overlooking the sea.
The 5.45-meter tall main statue of Matsu is a must-see - it is a masterpiece of traditional clay sculpture which can be traced over 300 years ago. Her face was once blackened by incense smoke, a recent restoration has recovered the shiny gilded face. Around her, Countless sculptures, stone carvings, paintings and inscription boards make the temple a
gorgeous gallery. Even for atheists or agnostics, it is a treasure trove.
❥ West Market - The Best Years of Ours.
Many locals are still used to calling it "the Grand Market," even the building has been dilapidated for decades.
The West Market was the largest retail market in South Taiwan. It once housed nearly a hundred booths, providing from foodstuffs to exotic goods. Whatever for weddings or funerals, Tainanese could get everything they need at once here. The market was crowded all the time, and the vendors used to pass nights in the market to receive customers. Restaurants, discos and movie theaters surrounding the West Market made it the hub of Tainanese's social life.
Nowadays the West Market is much quieter, but if you listen attentively, the ensemble of sounds, sharpening knives, scooping noodles up, shaving ice, and frying fishes is playing a lively tune lingering in the hall. Inside the market, a colorful exhibition of folk art is holding by a cluster of fabric shops. Even most vendors left, the leftovers keep turning
on lights and receiving customers day by day, generation to generation. They are pound to work in "the Grand Market".
No. 5 Ln.115 You-ai St. West Central Dist. Tainan City
What to bring?
Comfortable walking shoes, bottle of water, a hat or other gears to protect you from the sun.
No Microphones, Flags or scripts. A personal and intimate experience make you like a local.
❥ Tour requires a minimum of 2 guests, the tour may be cancelled if the participants don't meet the minimum.
❥ Cancellation 30 days prior notice to the tour start day will be refunded 90% of the full payment, 20 days prior will be refunded 80%, 10 days prior will be refunded 70%, 2 days prior will be refunded 50%, 48 hours before the tour start day will allow for refund.
❥ Travel will not be cancelled on rainy days. Cancellation will only be cancelled if the government cancels the work or if the conditions are considered to be very dangerous weather, such as a typhoon.
❥ Cancellation can be initiated by email (email@example.com), we will get back to you within 24 hours.
❥ DearTaiwan reserves the right to alter itinerary or cancel tours under certain conditions such as bad weather, minimum of participants or other uncontrollable situations.
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