Tainan II (Feb 15-18): A Treehouse, Anping, and a Rukai Village

My second time in Tainan was just as good as the first, but this time I got to spend longer than just one night. I left my hostel in Kaohsiung at check-out time (12pm) with a guy who I had met at breakfast (Krister from California). We took the MRT to the main station and then stood in line to get tickets to go to Tainan. The ticket only cost 68TWD ($3.02AUD) but what I didn’t realise was that I could have swiped my Easycard for even cheaper (which Krister did), although it wouldn’t guarantee me a seat. However, the train was quite quiet so Krister and I both got to sit down. The ride to Tainan took just over an hour so I arrived just after 2pm. After hotspotting Krister so that he could figure out where his hostel was, we said our goodbyes and I started the 30-minute walk to my cousin’s school. Mike and Sandy weren’t going to finish work until about 9pm so I was planning to drop off my bags and keep myself entertained until they finished working. About halfway through my walk, I saw a soup dumpling (xiaolongbao) restaurant called 郭記蒸好味湯包 and I realised how hungry I was, since I had only eaten a couple pieces of toast that day. I decided to sit down and have a late lunch… 8 dumplings only cost me 55TWD ($2.44)!

I’ve noticed that xiaolongbao is very inconsistent, and it can be pretty difficult to find some that are done right. Now that I’m somewhat of a connoisseur (haha), I can tell you that anything from the thickness of the dough, the flavour of broth and meat, and whether there’s actually broth IN the dumpling will have a massive effect on the outcome of the dumpling. This restaurant wasn’t the best, but it also wasn’t the worst (and at least it was an actual SOUP dumpling – many places don’t put any broth inside, or the dough breaks and all of the broth leaks out 🙁). Anyway, I arrived at the school right at 3, which was conveniently when Mike had a two-hour break. The kids had done a science experiment that day (making lemonade), so they had a bunch of fresh lemonade leftover, which I got to enjoy. The kids were also very curious – many would look over and wonder who I was, some would say hello, and some would ask Mike or Sandy who I was – they were pretty sweet though! Mike and I walked to the nearby shopping centre so that he could get something to eat, and then we picked up some breakfast stuff for the next day. We went back to the school, then Sandy and her coworkers suggested some places that I could check out for the next couple of hours. Luckily, Sandy was finished work at 7:30 so I didn’t have to keep myself entertained for too long. Everyone was so helpful with printing off metro maps, showing directions of where to go, and Mike even helped me look for flights to prove that I’d be leaving Thailand (I’ll get to that in another post). I decided to start my time by walking to the Confucius Temple, which was less than 15 minutes away. Unfortunately, it was undergoing renovation so I didn’t get to see much. One of the workers let me come through the barrier to take a couple of pictures. There was even a bride doing a photo shoot, which was nice to see!

I then walked to Wu Garden before it got dark, which wasn’t much… just a little area where people could sit and read a book or something.

I kept walking to an area where there was a bunch of food vendors and shops, and even stumbled upon a street that was filled with lanterns for the lantern festival – it was really nice!

I picked up a passonfruit bubble tea for 65TWD ($2.89) and then I noticed a shop trying to get rid of their last desserts. I’ve had them before – they’re kind of like two pancakes stuck together and have a filling inside. The guy said that they were 12TWD each ($0.53) so I asked for a chocolate one, and then he threw in a cream one for free! I headed back to the school and waited for Sandy to finish up, and then we took her motorbike to the Dadong night market. It was a pretty busy night market – people were everywhere and you had to get pushed with the crowd because the aisles weren’t very wide. We started by getting some barbecued pork, which is always so flavourful – I really need to learn how to barbecue like that! We then ordered an avocado milk smoothie, which was different but good. Then we got a beef soup, where they get the freshest beef (likely killed that day), put the raw slices in a bowl, and pour some extremely hot broth on top. The broth completely cooks the beef! However, as with basically everything in Taiwan, it’s difficult to eat anything without burning your mouth. You either have to wait for awhile for everything to cool, or just grin and bear it. Even the lids on their coffees say: “Caution, contents 120 degrees,” which seems overly hot. We got some stinky tofu (for my second time) and then sat down to eat all of our treasures, which were all so tasty!

I’ve joked that I’ll gain all of my weight in Taiwan because not only is the food amazing, but I seem to be eating constantly. And when I’m not eating, I’m offered more food! We walked through the rest of the market and then Mike had finished work so we went back to the school to get all of our stuff, and then headed to their house. We stayed up and chatted for a bit, and I was happy to get some cat cuddles from their two cats.

On Saturday, I was on my own for most of the day because Mike had to be at work from 9am-9pm. Sandy was up when I got up, so I had some of the cinnamon buns that we had bought the day before, and then she drove me to Anping, which is a historical part of the city. I started by going to Fort Zeelandia (which is coincidentally the same name as the small town of Zealandia near my hometown), which cost 50TWD ($2.22) to enter. Honestly, I wasn’t too interested in the fort or the ruins (which isn’t any different from other ruins I look at).

I didn’t spend too much time here and continued to the Tree House, which is a house built within and amongst a bunch of trees. This was definitely more my thing, and I was fascinated by how cool the structure looked.

There, it was the same cost to enter (50TWD) and when I entered, I met another Canadian named Andrew (from Toronto). We walked around the Tree House and then decided to check out the Old Town of Anping. We walked by the cutest ice cream stand (which had a huge line), and when I saw the ice cream cones it made, I had to buy one. The name of the ice cream cones that we got were literally called “Cute Ice Cream Cones,” and we got to choose from an assortment of animals. I chose a pig and Andrew chose a bear, and it cost us 70TWD ($3.11) each, which was definitely worth it!

Not only did they look nice, but they also tasted delicious on such a hot day. We continued walking through the Old Town, and then walked towards the central part of Tainan. We stopped at a famous shrimp roll restaurant called 周氏蝦捲 (Choi’s Shrimp Rolls), which obviously also had a huge line. I got two deep-fried shrimp rolls for 65TWD ($2.89).

They were really good! I was planning to go to Decathlon (a French outdoor store) because it’s my favourite store, and offers so many products at a good price. Andrew and I walked for about an hour together and then parted ways when I had to turn to go to Decathlon. My plan was to get some type of knee brace since my knees have been hurting lately. I got a compression band for each knee, for 199TWD each ($9.03), but I somehow walked out spending 1543TWD ($68.58)! I ended up buying a “few” new things such as some hiking sandals, a hat, a shirt, and a waterproof phone case – I just can’t resist when I’m at this store, I love it! I then walked back down into central Tainan to look at Chin-Men Theatre. Why? Because it’s one of the only cinemas (if not THE only cinema) that actually paints their movie posters. Master Yan Zhenfa spends his time painting these beautiful posters, which look so realistic. I was even lucky enough to catch him across the street painting the movie schedule, so I snuck in a cheeky picture.

I walked to the Blueprint Cultural and Creative Park, which starts with a 3D blueprint of a house, which is completely blue with white lines of the furniture. It was definitely creative! I then walked down the little streets of shops, which had some other artwork hidden all over the place.

I was close to the school so I went back to the shopping centre nearby, ordered a burger from Freen for 115TWD ($5.11), and worked on my blog until it was about 8:30. I headed back to the school and then when Mike and Sandy were finished, we drove back to the house to drop everything off and then went to go watch the fireworks for the lantern festival. There were a bunch of people parked on the side of one of the highway-like streets so we followed suit, waited until 9:30, and then watched the fireworks from there. We headed back home and of course, Mike and Sandy were starving. It was funny because Mike made his own Western-style meal of a turkey version of beef dip, and Sandy made her own Taiwanese-style meal of ramen noodles and fish sausages. I had both, which was a delicious mix, and I was so full afterwards!

On Sunday morning, we all slept in and then Mike and Sandy made a delicious American-style breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, and the bagels we had picked up from the bakery (chocolate with cream cheese, and sesame seeds with cream cheese).

Everything was so good, and it was nice to finally have a full American breakfast after such a long time. That day, we took the car and drove to the Maolin District, to a little Indigenous (Rukai) village called Duona. It probably took about 2-3 hours to drive, but the time went by so fast because the scenery was beautiful to look at. We walked around the village, checked out the elementary school, and walked up and down the streets, which were filled with their traditional slate-slab houses.

Everything was so colourful, which made everything really welcoming. We found a little restaurant at about 4pm and decided to get some food, but what was suggested as a “light snack” again ended up being so much! We had some barbecued pork and sausage, sweet potato, a dragon whisker dish (which was new for me), and some bamboo rice.

After our great meal, we started the drive back home. We didn’t get back until about 7pm so we watched “When Harry Met Sally” and ordered some pizza from Pizza Hut, which was another treat for me since I don’t remember the last time I had pizza. Mike and Sandy bought me a high speed rail train ticket, which is already a perk in itself. However, they didn’t buy me a regular ticket – they bought me a business class ticket, which was even better! I feel like they really spoiled me while I was there – I had such a great time!

On Monday morning, Mike and I left at 10am so that he could drive me to the station. I got there with about a half hour to spare, so I just found some coffee and relaxed before my train came. That day actually marked the halfway point of my entire trip, which made me sad that I was closer to the end than to the beginning. However, I was also a bit relieved and was looking forward to getting settled again. I had a great time in Tainan, and I’m sure I’ll be there again! Love always

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