I’d been in Taipei for almost 15 months and hadn’t made it to the second foodie capital of this great island. A friend was over from HK and we made an impromptu decision to head to Tainan for the weekend. It is certainly the most unorganised I’ve been before going away for a weekend, but Taiwan is nothing but convenient. We made the decision to go at 10am on Saturday, and by 12.30pm we were on a fast speed train having already booked a cute Airbnb over a Taiwanese rice ball 飯糰 breakfast.
The fast train is great, the only thing I would say is that the Tainan HSR is a fair way from central Tainan, but a 30 min taxi isn’t too bad and I’m sure there would be a bus if I felt that way inclined. If you have more time, another friend suggested taking the slower normal TRA which arrives in Tainan central cutting out the 30min taxi. I still like the novelty of going 200+km/h.
Our Airbnb was on Guohua St Section 3 – a really local and lively area of town. It was my first time staying in a real old school Taiwanese walk up apartment. We had to bend over to walk through their tiny door. The Airbnb ad was all in Chinese and I gave it a quick skim, but missed the bit about the shared bathroom. Normally I’m a bit of a princess, but it was comfortable and clean and the room and area had character. Couldn’t complain about the location either.
After checking in we stumbled across 赤崁擔仔麵 at about 4pm. I’d seen this restaurant featured as the place to try Tainan style food. We tried their must-eat Danzaimian and were not disappointed. Shrimp broth, meat sauce, garlic infused noodles topped with a single shrimp and coriander. The garlic flavour was strong but not overwhelming. I’ve since had this style of dish again in Taipei, and it just wasn’t the same. We came back for lunch the next day and ordered the Danzaimian, potato leaves, monkfish belly, bamboo shoots, fried shrimp roll, Tainan rice cake, and tea. It all came to 425NT and comfortably fed two hungry people. Some complain online that the portions were too small for the price, but I thought it was great value and would rather a smaller portion so I can try more dishes. My only complaint was that I didn’t like the bamboo shoots. They were raw and served with mayonnaise, rather than the steamed variety I’d come to love over the winter.
[赤崁擔仔麵 // http://www.chikan.com.tw // 180 Minzu Rd, Section 2, Tainan]
We walked to the tourist headliners nearby, the Confucius Temple 孔子廟 and the Fort Provintia 赤崁樓. The displays at both places were interesting and worth a visit to understand the history of the area. Both historic sights have gone through substantial restoration and some of the buildings look very new. I’ve seen photos of the Fort Provintia at night and it looks stunning. I should’ve gone with more of a historical appreciation of the history of the island in order to appreciate these sights better…
Nearby the Confucius Temple is the 窄門咖啡館, literally Narrow Door Cafe. The entrance is hard to find and is only 40 or so cm wide. We ran out of time but I’ll check it out next time.
For dinner we headed to the Tainan Flower Night Market, apparently the biggest night market in the city. It’s equated to Taipei’s Shilin night market, but I didn’t that put me off. I’ll leave my rant on Shilin to another time. The night market was great, after a quick scoping loop we first settled on Oyster egg pancakes, and Tainan rice cake in easier and aesthetically more appetising bite size pieces. I had fried mushrooms and a lemonade ,and my friend had corn on a stick. Taiwanese food is generally sweeter than I was used to back home, and Tainan was a level up. Still delicious. We finished off with a fresh mango combo, including a couple of pieces of the sour-sweet green mango. After a late lunch and a big dinner we decided against rolling home and hailed a cab back to our Airbnb.
We started off the day with a local style danbing 蛋餅 for breakfast, before taking a ten minute taxi out to Anping. There is a bus, but the departure times weren’t playing ball with when we wanted to go and it was only a short taxi.
We went to the Anping Old Fort and then to the Old Tait Merchant House to see the Anping Treehouse. The treehouse was a highlight – more a tree in a house than a treehouse. It’s a huge banyan tree that has overtaken a building and they’ve built a viewing platform overhead. You can wander through the building too and see how the tree roots have taken over. The gift shop and cafe served a good coffee and I bought a couple of pretty things for presents and a couple of art postcards. I like buying arty postcards and decorating my fridge with a bit of colour.
After a nice morning adventure, we bused back to Tainan central and had lunch nearby at 赤崁擔仔麵. After a late checkout we headed back to the HSR station and back to Taipei.
It’s certainly easy to do the main sights in a day and a half. I’ll be back in Tainan at some point before I leave to check out the lanes of cool cafes. It’s even doable as a day trip if you take a late HSR back. If I had more time, I would’ve got off the HSR at Chiayi and gone to the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum. I sense a foodie/art weekend away in the near future.