I was looking forward to Tainan. It is the oldest city in Taiwan, and the former capital. Crystal is from there too, and she always used to talk about it, painting a picture of a peaceful, cultural place, with the nightly markets the highlight of the day. Arriving in Tainan, I caught the shuttle bus to the Confucian Temple stop, and checked into the Confucius Inn, a nice place in a very convenient location.
It was only 2:30, so I had all day to go exploring. I set out on this lovely sunny day, following a walking tour in the lonely planet. I started a Confucius Temple, an elegant, calm place set in leafy grounds behind a huge banyan tree. From here, I crossed thestreet and went through a stone arch built in 1777, which forms the gateway to a lovely pedestrian street lined with quaint tea-shops, coffee-houses and restaurants. I doubled back and went down to the Great South Gate, with its cannons and defensive wall still intact, though with thick roots growing over some of them like an octopus. I wandered towards Wufei street, but got lost and some giggling university students came to help me, walking me to Wufei Temple. Tainan has a real university town feel to it, and exudes calm and an air of regal significance and opulence. I liked it already. Quiet streets, unhurried people. The girls said goodbye. I had a look around the temple grounds, and outside bought some dumplings, and headed on to the 300 year-old Fahua Temple, then Koxingas Shrine, set in lovely well-maintained grounds, with a pond where a Chinese dragon spouts water. I went to Lady Linshui’s temple next, then stopped at a lovely coffee shop for a cappuccino to refresh and relax.
Darkness fell, but I continued my tour. I wandered into Dongyue and City god temple, where I saw worshippers bobui which means tossing divination sticks on the floor, which they do to help them make a decision or take the best course of action. So traditional. It’s always quiet and respectful in such temples – people lighting joss sticks, praying, kneeling in front of the Buddha images and praying….lovely. I walked then on to the Alter of Heaven. It was busy here, with people pulling up on their scooters and praying for help, like they do in all the many, many temples of Tainan, like they have done for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Modernity hasn’t got in the way of tradition here. The two exist side-by-side, and there seems to be no danger of traditional values falling under modern societies relentless crush of commercialism and selfish values. I carried on my interesting walk to the Official God of War Temple, and finally to Chihkan Towers. This lovely place had a mandarin concert going on in the leafy grounds, with 3 women singing old favourites, much to the delight of the mainly OAP spectators. I went to the top of the temple behind for a better view. It was a lovely evening, perfect for wandering. I wandered all the way back to my hotel, my walking tour complete.
Showered, changed, and headed out for a fruitless hour of trawling the dark streets looking for food. Eventually, as I was just about to give up and go to 7-11 for dinner, I stumbled into an alley that had a restaurant open, where I could point at food on the streetside to be grilled for me. I played it safe, getting sticks of chicken and pork, prawns and vegetables. A lady led me into what can be best described as a warren. Students were busy with their hotpots and beer, sat at little tables of various shapes and sizes, The ceiling was low, red-brick walls, lanterns and old paraphernalia everywhere. It was full of random trinkets and posters and other weird and wonderful fragments of Taiwanese culture, in no particular order. I ordered a local beer, chosen myself from the fridge, and sat down on a rickety wooden chair to wait for my food. 3 bottles and loads of food later, I left happy, giving a generous tip of 180NTD This restaurant was a lucky find, and the end of a great day and evening in Tainan