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Published: October 15th 2014
We arrived back from our day trip up the coast, collected our bags, chose food for our train dinner from the gourmet delights at 7/11 and happily settled in with the free wifi at the station until it was time to board our train for Tainan. After a three and half hour trip we arrived at the large station right in the centre of Tainan. Tainan is still culturally alive, particularly around the temples, of which there are many. However with no accommodation booked at the beginning of a weekend - any place in Taiwan can be a weekend destination for local people as the distances are not great and public transport so efficient.
We walked out of the station into neon lighting central - a very busy shopping area, buzzing with people at 9pm at night. We spotted a hotel sign further up the street so negotiated our way to it. It wasn't east as every shop overflowed onto the footpath, there were rows of motorbikes parked on the edge of the road which itself was four lanes and very busy. To top all that off all the footpaths outside each shop were at different levels, with differences of
a foot or me. Tainan footpaths were all like that we were to learn.
A room was found at a surprisingly reasonable price - they were also sold by the hour as well but we only saw giggling young couples partaking. Next morning we 'enjoyed' a very interesting breakfast - one plate of sweet fried bread (nice) and sausage with tomato sauce and tiny slice of bright pink ham. Other plate had cucumber with mayonnaise, cold mashed potato, watermelon, shredded cabbage, honeydew melon. All accompanied with a bowl of tepid chicken soup and iced tea. Something to look forward to the next day.
Next morning we followed the temple walking tour in the Lonely Planet guide. The first temple we visited was one of the most famous and my favourite. The Confucius Temple was set in spacious grounds and was a very traditional Chinese temple - all gilt, red walls with many rather fierce looking statues of Confucius with his long black beard and side burns. The temple was built in 1665 and was the first temple of it's kind in Taiwan. The day we were there it was full of primary school children doing art projects -
some of their drawings were wonderful. Check out the photo with the tourists face upside down looking at the temple which was being drawn by a boy of about ten years old. Across the road from the temple was an old stone arch built in 1777, which now leads the way into a tourist eating street.
We kept doing the rounds of the temples visiting at least another five more. They were all very similar and it was interesting watching the local people worshipping. At one temple - the Lady Linshui Temple - women come yo ask Lady Linshui to protect their children. It was very busy with lots of temple offerings - in fact so busy that Lady Linshui 'employs' thirty six goddess assistants to help her. These goddess statues were placed around the perimeter of the temple in groups of three and all had plenty of offerings placed in front of them. Offerings included cooked chickens, baskets of fruit, alcohol, trays of lollies and paper money in amazing origami shapes. Another pretty temple was the Wufei Temple, very small which was built in honour of the emperor's concubines who hung themselves from the beams of his bedroom
just as the emperor committed suicide. In the garden of these temple were trees cut into wonderful shapes and we watched a gardener balance on a wobbly ladder trimming them.
There are only so many temples you can see - we managed half a dozen - before you go into overload. We went back to the hotel for a rest - the weather is just too hot here around 2pm - and ventured out later that afternoon by bus to visit Anping old streets, which are some of the oldest streets in the city. Our first stop was surprising fascinating. It was an old merchant house from the 17th century which had reconstructions of the lifestyles of early Dutch, Chinese and Aboriginal (the name given to the indigenous people here). Behind the house however was the ruins of the back quarters (servant areas) which had been totally taken over by an enormous banyan tree. These trees are extremely destructive and this one had enveloped the house with it's massive tentacles. The trees are all over Taiwan but this particular one was particularly large. Across the road was Anping Fort which was a stronghold of Dutch power in 1661. We
then before ventured out into the crowds on the surrounding streets but soon decided that it wasn't for us. Crowds and the usual row upon row of souvenir stalls and fried food.
However it took a long time for the bus to arrive and an even longer trip back to the train station. An hour later we arrived, hungry and tired, at the station from where we had to battle the traffic to find something to eat. We did eventually and were very pleased to see our bed when we finally arrived back at the hotel. It had been a long day.
Next morning we were going to Kaoshuing, only half an hour away by train (we had passed through it enroute to Tainan) which was our departure city from Taiwan.
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