TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- After a 9-year break, the Tainan City Government announced earlier this week that cruise ships are once again going to be docking in the historic Port of Anping this year. Two large cruise liners are scheduled to arrive in March and May this year and the local government hopes that this will be the start of a new influx of cruise ship tourism into one of Taiwan’s oldest districts.
The Director of Tainan City Government's Economic Development Bureau, Yin Shih-shi (殷世熙), expressed his hope that the return of cruise liners to Anping would help boost the area's international profile as well as stimulate the local economy, which is already very tourist-focused.
But what can visitors disembarking from these cruise liners expect to find in Anping? And what attractions should they be heading for?
For the benefit of them and anyone else planning a visit to the historic Anping district of Tainan, here is a rundown of the areas highlights:
Anping Old Fort 安平古堡
Fort Zeelandia (Wikimedia Commons Image)
Anping Old Fort, which is also known as Fort Zeelandia, is the oldest fortress in the country and dates back more than 300 years. It was on this site that Dutch settlers first built a stronghold in 1624 and Fort Zeelandia became a crucial outpost in Dutch Trade with China, Japan, and the whole Southeast Asian region.
In 1661, the Dutch colonizers were defeated and expelled by Koxinga (延平郡王) and Fort Zeelandia became his residence until Taiwan surrendered to the Qing Dynasty forces in 1683. Today, this historic fort is one of Taiwan’s must see destinations and some sections of the original fort can still be viewed, including a 70 meter section of outer wall which built from brick blocks mixed with glutinous rice, sugar and oyster shells.
Anping Old Street 安平老街
Anping Old Street (Wikimedia Commons Image)
Anping Old Street is located just next to Fort Zeelandia and is thought to be the first street developed by Dutch settlers in the area. Today, it is home to a veritable hotchpotch of architectural styles, with traditional rammed earth houses (土角樓) sitting alongside low brick houses and more modern Western-style mansions.
Today, it is a street-food Mecca and most visitors to Anping will stop by to try just a few of the many local delicacies that are on offer. A few of the many delicacies you might want to try for yourself include fried wontons (扁食), milkfish soup (虱目魚湯), shrimp rolls (蝦捲),and deep-fried sandwich (棺材板) which are far more palatable than their English names might suggest. Taiwan is renowned for its street food and if you are only stopping off in Anping, this is the place to experience it.
Eternal Golden Castle 億載金城
Eternal Golden Castle (Wikimedia Commons Image)
The Eternal Golden Castle is the most modern fort built in Taiwan. It was constructed in 1874 by Shen Baozhen (沈葆禎), a Qing era official and was intended to protect Anping from the threat of Japanese invasion. It quickly proved necessary as it was involved in the Sino-French war of 1884 and after China ceded Taiwan to Japan in 1895, it was the sight where locals fought against arriving Japanese forces under the banner of the Republic of Formosa.
Under Japanese occupation, the Eternal Golden Castle quickly declined in military importance, and eventually fell into ruin. But it has been painstakingly restored and can today be seen in all its former glory. As well as the fort itself, the grounds also make for a pleasant stroll and are a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch.
Anping Tree House安平樹屋
Anping Tree House (Wikimedia Commons Image)
The Anping Tree House is one of the areas most popular attractions. It is a former Warehouse, once operated by Tait & Company (德記洋行) and was a vital trade hub where goods, primarily sugar and camphor wood, were exported from. Under Japanese occupation all such trade was state-operated and private companies were forced out.
Some of the buildings on the site (see below) became part of the Japan Salt Company (大日本鹽業會社營業所), later known as Tainan Salt Works (台南鹽場). But this warehouse was abandoned and slowly overtaken by giant Banyan Trees.
Today, the building is overgrown with more than 100 years of tree roots and offers a stunningly beautiful glimpse of the power of nature, showing how even the largest of man-made structures can quickly be reclaimed. Local tourists love a photo opportunity and the Anping Tree House is a great place for that, as well as offering interesting insight into this area’s trading past.
Old Tait & Co Merchant House 德記洋行
Old Tait & Co. Merchant House (Wikimedia Commons Image)
Located adjacent to the Anping Treehouse, the Old Tait & Co. Merchant House is another attraction well worth a visit. This western colonial style building was home to Tait and Co., one of the five biggest foreign trading companies in Tainan, from their foundation in 1867 until there were forced out by Japanese occupiers in 1911.
But the building was repurposed as the headquarters of a Salt Company and is one of few in this style to survive in Anping. Today, visitors can marvel at the stunning architectural features which include a excellent example of the "Arcades" which were seen on most colonial buildings in Taiwan.
Julius Mannich Merchant House - 東興洋行
Julius Mannich Merchant House (Wikimedia Commons Image)
Another of the big five trading companies based in Anping was Julius Mannich & Company and their Merchant house also survives. Julius Mannich was a German businessman who also primarily traded camphor wood and sugar and began operations in Anping in 1875.
His company was also forced out by the Japanese and this time the building was turned into the Anping District Office. It later became a police station and a dormitory before finally being turned into a museum in 1986.
Visitors today can enjoy another great example of colonial Taiwanese architecture including a unique long front veranda with a brick arcade and shuttered windows. It is smaller than the Old Tate and Co. Merchant House, but today has no museum which allows visitors to wander around freely. There is also a German beer garden where visitors can relax with authentic German beer and entrees, along with various other snacks and drinks.
Haishan Hostel - 海山館
Haishan Hostel / Anping Cultural Museum (Image from Tainan City Guide website)
When Taiwan was under Qing occupation, their military forces constructed five temples around the Tainan area as places where they could worship the various gods that were revered in different villages of Fujian province. Haishan Hostel was one of these temples, but when the Japanese took control of Taiwan, it quickly ceased to be a place of worship.
The building was eventually bought by the Tainan City Government and repurposed as the Anping Cultural Museum. Today, in addition to seeing this unique and very beautiful building, visitors can also peruse an impressive collection of historical artifacts from the Anping area and learn more about this region's rich and varied history.
Tianhou Temple - 安平開臺天后宮
Tianhou Temple (Wikimedia Image)
No visit to Taiwan is complete without visiting at least one Taoist temple and in Anping, the best example is the Tianhou Temple. Tianhou Temple, which is also sometimes known as the Kaitai Tianhou or Mazu Temple, is a temple to the sea goddess Mazu. It was founded in 1668, the same year that it is said the goddess Mazu helped Koxinga to reclaim Taiwan from Dutch settlers.
Tianhou Temple is thought to be the oldest temple of the Taiwanese mainland and its history is a dramatic one. When the Japanese arrived in Taiwan, they slaughtered and buried many Qing soldiers in this temple and as a result locals were afraid to visit the temple and risk the wrath of its ghosts for a long time. But after it was restored in 1966, these feared eased off and today, while undoubtedly touristy, it remains a great and historic example of Taoist temples in Taiwan.
Yuguang Island - 漁光島
Yuguang Island (Image from Nihao Hostel Facebook page)
Anping is an undeniably touristy part of Taiwan and while the rich history of the area makes this worth enduring, it can be a bit much sometimes. So, if you want to escape the crowds, Yuguang Island, located just across the harbor, is the perfect place to head. This quiet and peaceful place still feels like a rural fishing village despite its proximity to the city. It has a large beach, which is increasingly popular with local families, and is also home to some interesting sculptures which artists have created from driftwood.
Close the beach, there are various stalls where you can buy herbal tea and other local delicacies as well as handmade arts and crafts. The local B&B serves a popular afternoon tea, and there are also a number of old temples to explore which are far less touristy than Tianhou Temple. So, if you need to escape the hubbub of Anping, Yuguang Island is a great place to visit.