When you want to get to the heart of Taiwan, a great place to start is, Taiwan’s oldest city. During Imperial times, this was the capital of Taiwan. Today it is the fifth largest city on the island.
To get the best sense of life in the olden times, there’s no better place to head than the Anping District. Here you’ll find the sites of old forts and an impressive but odd tree house; not to mention an ample supply of night markets.
Anping Old Fort
When Tainan was founded by the Dutch in 1624, they erected a fort, taking over 10 years to complete it (Fort Zeelandia). It was later rebuilt by the Japanese during one of their occupations and renamed Anping Old Fort. Today, it’s a popular tourist destination.
Ascending the central stairs to the top of the fort, visitors are afforded great views of the city in all directions. Beautiful Mexican Frangipani trees drop their flowers around the parapets, and children love to collect “bouquets” of the petals while their parents look over the historical displays inside.
Anping Tree House
Right in the business area of the city, there once stood the warehouse of Tait & Company, selling tea, then salt to the world. Sometime after World War II, the warehouse was abandoned but never leveled.
Along the perimeter of the building, mighty Banyan trees took control of the property, continuing to grow and shade the building. Eventually the trees have “become” the building…covering walls, creating its own shaded roof and filling in windows. The trees have effectively eaten the building alive.
Visitors can now wander through the building and walk among the upper branches on aerial platforms. Picture taking opportunities abound.
This may be Tainan’s most famous historical site. Another Dutch built fort (Fort Providentia), it was later taken over by the Chinese and renamed Tower of Red-Haired Barbarians. Today it just goes by Chihkan Tower.
The courtyard is a veritable museum of ancient carvings, steles (large flat stone slabs), stone horses and tortoises, and weight lifting rocks.
Far Eastern Plaza Hotel
While this article just touches on a couple of things to do in Tainan, (check here for a cool coffee-house in Tainan), you’ll probably want to spend at least a few days here. Here’s a highly recommended hotel that would be great during your explorations.
Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel has a most impressive lobby with a local art collection that deserves a few minutes any time you arrive. The lobby is also the location of high tea, if you can spare the time. You’ll want to dine upstairs in the Shanghai Pavilion (level 38) at some point during your stay, as the views over the city are truly remarkable.
I love staying in sustainable, ‘green’ hotels and Shangri-La’s sustainable policy extends not only to maintenance, but to their seafood as well. They’ve discontinued ordering many fish known to have dwindling populations and have created eight new soups to take the place of shark fin.
The rooms are all super comfortable with great, free Wi-Fi, flat screen TV and coffee/tea service. Be sure to check out the health club, spa and outdoor pool.
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