It’s actually silly how I ended up spending the rest of my spring break in this city. The original plan was to hitchhike from Kenting to the east coast so that I can stop by Taitung and visit the farmer who helped me before, wander around Hualien and see the famous Taroko Gorge, move to Yilan to hone my surfing skills, and end at Fulong for scuba diving.
After the Kenting party on the beach for three crazy days, I was supposed to stay longer to dive with Sia who works at the Taiwan Dive Centre located there and surf in either Jialeshuei or Nanwha. Infused with so much toxicity, my mind and body just rejected all the partying and influenced my decision of taking the way back up north. I had plenty of options to choose from: couchsurf with Efy in Taichung, hike with Max and Niuniu (his adorable dog) in Chiayi, visit Dennis in Tainan, or go directly back home!
It was already the late afternoon and hitchhiking at night didn’t sound good to me. I stood beside the highway and went thumbs up! An old Taiwanese couple gave a ride to Hengchun bus station since they thought that the idea of hitchhiking is crazy. They didn’t exactly say it in English, but I figured that they thought so. Walking a bit farther from the station, I met a girl who gave me a ride all the way to the highway where I can hitchhike. She exclaimed, “You want to hitchhike all the way to Taoyuan? That’s so cool! I’m going to make you a hitchhiking letter just in case. It’ll be easier for you to let the Taiwanese know where you want to go.” We rode together for about half an hour. During this time, I learned that she visited the Philippines before. It definitely hyped up our connection!
After no less than a minute of being left on the highway that goes north, I got a ride! I showed the hitchhiking letter and easily got a ride. It was a long ride. Despite the fact that the people in the car cannot speak much English, it didn’t stop us from knowing each other! They reached out to me through a translation app which was actually funny since some of the translations were weird. They even offered me a couch to sleep in because they were worried that I might have no place to sleep that night.
Which option did I choose? I took up Dennis’ invitation to visit Tainan from that morning since I met him at the party. (Note: He was the guy on the mankini. Look at this video! I’d like to think I found a unicorn, haha.) He picked me up from the train station and we rode his motorcycle to this huge night market in Tainan. There were a lot of delicious food that I didn’t get to try because I just had a heavy but amazing Taiwanese dinner. I was so tired and was relieved when we went back to his place. We chilled at the living room for a while with Noah who was Dennis’ roommate who played the ukulele very well. (No offense, Dennis, but Noah is really skilled!)
Since Dennis teaches Mathematics and Science during the mornings till 4’o clock in the afternoon, he gave me suggestions on where to go and what to see. Everything was set. I thought to myself, “Oooh! Something different, I get to be a full-on tourist here.” (It was a shift from doing a lot of physical activities (surfing, scuba diving, hiking, etc.) to just walking, biking leisurely, and sightseeing while traveling.)
West Central District (04/05)
Waking up at 9 in the morning, I creeped out of the house. Eventually realizing that I don’t have a key to go down the elevator, I waited for someone who lives on the same floor to go down. Not too bad, just about a few minutes and someone went down. I walked out of the building and pulled out my phone. Bingo! Lots of stars on the map which means there are a lot of places to see. Just a few meters away, there was a temple (關帝殿) standing nearby. I walked towards it and there were a lot of elders just relaxing in the morning.
Moving on, I figured I didn’t want to walk too much since the sun was starting to irritate me. I located the nearest bike rental and hopped on a bike. It was cute, Ubikes no more; Tbikes are in! A nice Taiwanese helped me register my card on the machine even though I already knew how to. I tried to tell him, but she insisted.
Mapping the West Central District, I started biking around the city. I felt really safe taking the bike since there were bike lanes all over the city. I aimed to go to the Confucius Temple Dennis told me about, but I found a bike station along the way with a scenic spot. I sat down by one of the benches and relaxed for a bit. As I walked around, I read that I was at the Koxinga Shrine.
Just across the shrine, there was another temple. The vibrant colours attracted me to take a look around the temple. (臨水夫人媽廟) Despite seeing numerous temples in every city I go to in Taiwan, I am still equally fascinated about how intricate the architecture of these temples are. This temple is called the Lady Linshui Temple. It is special because most idols in this place are female.
Just outside the temple, there were maps and signs that lead people to the historical spots and attractions of the city. I thought it would be a good idea to just go around and follow the signs since I’d be able to hop from one place to the nearest sight. It was the best way to see everything. After walking through the Tainan Historical Core Walk, I ended up in 台南市德化堂, a small Buddhist temple. I was welcomed warmly by the buddhist monks and they showed me around despite not being able to speak much English.
After having lunch, I walked to the famous Tainan Confucius Temple (台南孔子廟). I sat down for a while and watched the tortoise and koi fish in the pond. Entering the temple, the atmosphere made me realize why Confucian temples are the heart and soul of Chinese culture.
Having its exit lead to another spot, I was able to see the Wude Hall (台南武德殿) which is the martial arts made by the Japanese. This explains why its architecture is distinct.
Standing right across the street is the Memorial Hall of Shitao Ye (葉石濤文學紀念館). I spent only a few minutes in this establishment since all of the characters were written in Chinese. I simply walked and looked around the building.
With the sun slapping me with its UV rays, I made my mind up to enter the National Museum of Taiwan Literature (formerly the Office of Tainan Prefecture/ 國立臺灣文學館 | 原台南州廳). Its European architecture was brilliantly constructed. Looking around, it felt like I was wandering in a different place. It didn’t feel like I was in Taiwan at all. There were numerous showrooms that showcases literary arts in Taiwan. It housed a vast collection of archives. There’s a library inside the museum and also a cafe worth checking out (Cheffresh).
Hungry for more, I followed the signs once again. It led me to the Tainan Meteorological Station or the Former Tainan Weather Observatory (原台南測候所). Seeing kids with their parents, I immediately knew that it was a fun place for learning. Since the place was under renovation, only two floors were open for viewing. Definitely worth the visit! The observatory had simulations for earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.
As the afternoon gets late, my stomach roared for more delicious Tainan food. I walked back to the Confucius temple and went to the street called Fuzhong Street (泮宮石坊). It was a street with cute cafes, artsy shops, and other interesting boutiques that can easily catch people’s eyes. Walking back and forth, I went straight to a Chinese restaurant right around the corner. I got a noodle soup which I don’t know how it is called. I just blurted, “Can I have your best seller?” And I got a bowl of noodles! (Honestly, I only went there just because there were a lot of people eating inside that small restaurant.)
After a good meal, I walked further and spotted 全臺開基永華宮. It’s another temple hidden in the streets. Just nearby the temple, there’s a cafe which serves good coffee and mouth-watering Quiche! It’s definitely worth checking out. Hunting for more food, I walked out of the cute street towards the main road and headed towards the park area. I found the Artisan Bakery (安堤生烘焙). I love how their bread is not too sweet, just perfect for my taste buds!
As 4’o clock came nearer, I sat down a swing in 南門公園 to wait for Dennis. There are a lot of families in the park since there’s a playground where the kids could play together. I talked to a few adorable children who were with their moms. It took a while before he found me, but eventually did! The park was huge enough to wander around looking for someone. (My phone ran out of battery, perfect timing. Haha!)
Ending the day, we went to have dinner at a Taiwanese restaurant where Dennis ordered a lot of Taiwanese food which were all very enticing. I specifically loved the soup with beef which he mentioned is very famous in Tainan city. I literally tasted why it was famous! The flavours just exploded in my mouth and satisfied my palate.
With full stomachs, we headed off to the cinemas to watch Beauty and the Beast! (I was actually shocked that he asked if I wanted to watch a musical type of movie. Of course, I said “Yes!” in a heartbeat.) I must say, this live-action version was presented gracefully. I was stunned by how they channeled the animated film into this beautiful movie. Growing up as a Disney kid, I was smiling all throughout the movie and singing every song in my head while watching. All of the songs in the movie were rendered excellently. A standing ovation for Disney! My heart fluttered with how grand the movie was and I must say, everyone must see it. Must. I emphasize. It was the best way to end the day.
Belle’s words stuck in my head as I looked forward for the next day, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can tell.” I was ready to see more of Tainan.