An overlooked second city and a history buff’s dream
Think of Tainan as Taiwan’s version of Kyoto: an ancient city with its own unique culture, thriving in the shadow of a more renown metropolis. Arriving by the country’s high-speed rail (seemingly one of the few things modern day has touched) you’ll find a charming, lively city so dominated by old temples and monasteries that anything less than century old looks almost tacky by comparison.
Yet from the past you can bring yourself firmly into the present. To view ornate, beautifully preserved buildings, head to Tainan Confucius Temple, Chikan Tower, and Grand Queen of Heaven Temple. Meandering through Hai’an Rd and Shennong St is a trip through hip cafes, bars, and art venues. At night, it’s thronged by live bands and a spectrum of locals, packed into small shops that serve traditional and modern twists on Tainan delicacies.
Speaking of food, blogs tend to praise foods in Taipei, Taiwan’s better-known destination, but those in the know go to Tainan for its rich, delicious array of traditional Taiwanese snacks: oyster omelets, fried shrimp rolls, milkfish, danzai (“peddler’s”) noodles, a deep-fried bread stuffed with chowder called “coffin” bread, and tofu pudding. In Tainan, seafood dishes are king. Here good eats are hastily whipped up by small streetside vendors and makeshift kitchens, without care to how they look or are presented. Unlike so much in Tainan, they’ll disappear soon enough. -- Stephanie Lee, Thrillist contributor