Top 10 Alternative Places to visit in Tainan

There are still plenty of places in Tainan that are off the usual tourist trail left for you to explore

Hayashi Department Store.

Hayashi Department Store. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- As the old capital of Taiwan and home to a sizable proportion of the country’s architectural and historic heritage, Tainan is a fixture on the tourist on the tourist trail for just about everyone traveling in Taiwan. And rightly so.

There are many interesting places to visit and sites to see. Most of these are well documented in the usual travel guides and there is no shortage of tourist brochures available in all languages to help you find your way around.

The downside to this is that the usual sites in Tainan can be extremely busy and rather over-commercial. Some people will not mind that of course, but for others it can be a bit frustrating. Some just want to get away from the crowds and enjoy a more authentic Tainan experience. Fortunately, as well document as Tainan is, there are still plenty of places in the region that are off the usual tourist trail, left for you to explore.

  1. Soulangh Cultural Park - 蕭壠文化園區

(Wikimedia Commons image)

Soulangh Cultural Park has been created on the site of the old Jiali Sugar Factory 佳里糖廠), which ceased operations in 1995. The factory building dates to 1906 and was the first modern refinery of Japan’s Meiji Sugar Corporation (明治製糖) Since the Tainan City Government took over the site, the building has been preserved and turned into a cultural destination.

The Soulangh Artists Village is home to a number of artists-in-residence which sees local and international artists working and exhibiting side-by-side. There are other exhibitions, including permanent displays about Tainan Folk Art and the local indigenous Siraya Tribe, as well as a great range of facilities which includes a large playroom, library, and art museum.

  1. Yuguang Island - 漁光島

(Image from nihaotaipei Facebook page)

Yuguang Island is located just across the harbor from the bustling Anping but is a world away from the hubbub of this tourist hot-spot. Yuguang Island is a quiet and peaceful place, which still has the feel of an undeveloped fishing village despite its proximity to the city. There is a large beach, which is growing in popularity with local families, which boasts some interesting sculptures which artists have created from driftwood.

There are various stalls close to the beach where you can buy herbal tea and other local delicacies as well as handmade arts and crafts. There is also a nice B&B which serves a popular afternoon tea and a number of old temples to explore in the village of Yuguang itself. It is a great place to escape Anping too for a few hours of rest and relaxation.

  1. Ciaonan Street - 橋南老街

(Wikimedia Commons image)

Tainan is home to quite a number of well-preserved old streets which are worth exploring. But Street in Yanshui (鹽水 ) is among the oldest and most interesting. The name Ciaonan Street means south of the bridge, and it is named as the street sits to the south of a small bridge over what used to be part of Yuejin Harbour (月津港). It used to be home to many tradesmen and merchants, but the harbor closed in 1900 and the area went into decline. However, many of the old buildings remain and in more recent years, the area has been tidied up to attract tourists.

There is an old blacksmiths shop which is still open for business as well as an old movie theater which still shows old films projected in the same way as when it was opened. Other interesting buildings in close proximity to Street include an old Catholic Church (鹽水天主堂) and the Yanshuei Octagonal Display Hall (鹽水八角樓), a beautiful wooden building which took 10 years to build after construction began in 1947.

  1. Tainan Martial Arts Hall - 台南武德殿

(Photo by David Spencer)

The Tainan Confucius Temple is a must-see on the Tainan tourist trail, but few tourists seem to make the short journey next door to take a look at the Tainan Martial Arts Hall. It was originally built around 1910 while Taiwan was under Japanese occupation, and is one of a surprisingly small number of traditional-style Japanese buildings to be found in Taiwan. The original wooden building was in the east of Minsheng Green Park (民生綠園), but this reinforced concrete version, which looks identical, was constructed in 1936.

It is now situated in the grounds of the Tainan Municipal Jhongyi Elementary School (台南忠義國小)where it serves as the school hall. It is not officially open to the public, but outside school hours, the grounds are open for the public to view the building from the outside (and have a peek through the window). If you are there during school time, the best views of the building can be had from the west gate of the Confucian Temple.

  1. Blueprint Culture & Creative Park (藍晒圖文創園區)

(Photo by David Spencer)

The Blueprint Culture and Creative Park is the name given to a small collection of old houses which have been saved from the wrecking ball and sympathetically restored into a little tourist hub. Situated directly opposite the new Shinkong Mitsukoshi Department store (新光三越百貨), Blueprint is so named for the ruined house closest to the road which has been recreated using the style of an architect’s blueprints.

Other buildings have been more fully restored and now play host to various independent arts and crafts retailer. There are a variety of different food and drink outlets too, including a rather Tapas restaurant, where the staff are less than friendly. But everywhere else is friendly and there is plenty for the whole family to see and explore.

  1. Qigu Lagoon (七股潟湖)

(Image by Pinterest user Stanchiou)

Qigu Lagoon is a stunning oasis and wildlife habit located just to the north of Tainan City. The sheltered tidal lagoon, which formed from the remains of the Old Taijiang Inner Sea more than 300 years ago, is a perfect ecosystem for hundreds of different species of birds, crabs, fish, and shellfish. It is also home to a thriving fishing industry and visitors can see the fixed oyster farms stretching as far as the eye can see.

The best way to explore Qigu Lagoon is by boat and there are plenty of local operators ready to give you a full guided tour. They will tell you everything you need to know and often give you a chance to try the fresh oysters for yourself. If you can, try to visit the sandbar located on the far side of the lagoon where huge numbers of Australian pine trees and vines grow wild making for some stunning scenery.

  1. Jingzaijiao Tile-Paved salt fields (井仔腳瓦盤鹽田)

(Wikimedia Commons image)

Also located to the north of Tainan City, the Jingzaijiao Tile-Paved salt fields

Can trace their history back some 338 years to the Ming Dynasty. It is believed that Yong- Chen (陳永華), a senior advisor to Koxinga (鄭成功) wanted to improve the salt-making techniques of the Pingpu Tribe and so had broken tiles laid down in the salt fields. This led to a new process of salt-refining which is still practised at the site today.

Visitors can enjoy the breath-taking scenery as well as watch the salt-making process and even have a go themselves. The salt-making industry was an important part of the local economy in this part of Taiwan for hundreds of years and a visit here gives a fascinating insight into how it was done and has much more to offer than the nearby Qigu Salt Mountain (七股鹽山)

  1. Hayashi Department Store - 林百貨

(Wikimedia Commons image)

The Japanese-built Hayashi Department Store dates to 1932 and is the oldest in Tainan as well as being the location of the oldest elevator in the city. The buildings been lovingly restored in recent years and now features exhibitions an observation deck, and western food outlets, as well as retail outlets. It is easy to just take a picture as you drive past, but the interiors have also been well restored and the building itself is worth exploring.

While you are in the area, why not take a closer at the Land Bank of Taiwan (台灣土地銀行)building just across the street too. This building can only be viewed from the outside but is of an interesting neo-classical design which many compare to an Egyptian temple and it too has recently been restored.

  1. Museum of Meteorology - 台南氣象博物館

(Wikimedia Commons image)

The Tainan Museum of Meteorology is a unique situated close to the National Museum of Taiwan Literature. It was built in 1898 and has been nicknamed the Pepper Tube because of its unique design. It used to be the Tainan Weather Observatory and today hosts a fascinating collection of historic tools which have been used to observe weather and earthquakes for more than 100 years.

The central tower was built to allow staff to literally climb up and view the weather conditions around them. Today, it is no longer the official weather observatory, but most of the equipment on display is still functional. It is a small museum, but an interesting place for the family.

  1. Sicao Green Tunnel - 四草綠色隧道

(Wikimedia Commons image)

The Sicao Green Tunnel is the canal which served Tainan. Today, it sits in the middle of a mangrove forest and the trees leaning towards the water have created a stunning natural tunnel which is increasingly popular with Taiwanese tourists. It can only be visited by boat, but there are plenty available from the nearby Dazhong Temple (四草大眾廟).

There is plenty of wildlife to be seen here too, including various different species of crab and mudskippers. If you are really adventurous, you can also take a boat trip to explore the nearby Sicao Lake, where you can see jumping fish, lots of birds, and more stunning natural scenery.