It took me days to decide doing this blog because I didn’t want to oversell Tainan, but then I also want more people to know it. It’s like one of those secret hideouts you want to keep to yourself, but then you also want people to know there’s more beautiful places out there, and this hideout is one of them. In the words of Jessy Mendiola, “What am I to say to that?”
Anyhow, I ended up posting anyway because I think whatever economic dent (approximately .000001 percent) my post can do to help Tainan’s tourism is probably worth it. So here I am, about to talk about my favorite county in Taiwan, and hoping it’ll be kept vintage and clean by future tourists. Sorry Taipei, I love you to bits, but if I were to choose, I’d probably pick Tainan though it doesn’t have MRT. It simply has all the answers to my “What is Taiwan?” question that’s been on my mind since 2012.
If Taiwan is “the heart of Asia”, then I think Tainan is “the heart of Taiwan.” Inception at its geographical and historical finest. It’s also known as South Taiwan, sort of an internal rivalry with Taipei which is known as Northern Taiwan. If you’ve been here quite a while, you’ll know that the North really differs from the South–from people to culture.
Tainan is a place I can always go back to and to and to and to infinity. Like if I was born in Taiwan, I seriously want to be Tainanese. It’s on that level of awesomeness for me.
Also, I now truly understand why most locals say Tainan is their favorite place to visit, aside from Hualien. Ever wondered how Japan can ever mix with China, with a dash of Western influence c/o the Dutch? Well then, here you go, piping hot Tainan served on a golden platter of greatness.
But before we get into all that, here are a few starters.
Going to Tainan
If you already have an EasyCard or i-Pass card, load it up and bring it with you to Tainan. You can use it to pay for bus fares, the local train, and even on some taxis. You can top it up in any convenience store too, for a minimum of 100 NTD.
If you’re coming from Taipei, HSR is the most convenient and fastest way to get to Tainan. The trip takes about 2 hours, and the local train is just right off the HSR exit so you can easily transfer and be off to the city proper. You’d most likely do so if you’re commuting to where you’re staying in Tainan.
If you find the HSR fare expensive, you can get on an express local train instead via the TRA. It’s half the price, but double the time. Here’s a tip: when traveling to southern points in Taiwan, from Taipei, take one-way HSR then one-way TRA.
You can also take the bus from Taipei to Tainan, but I think the price difference against the local train isn’t that much and the length of travel time is dependent on traffic.
Tainan also has its own airport that caters to both international and domestic flights.
The main means of transport in Tainan is…drum roll please…walking.
Probably 80% of the time you’d walk from one tourist spot to the next. And that’s not in a “well, duh” kind of way but as in “best alternative to getting yourself somewhere” kinda way.
But that doesn’t mean Tainan’s too vintage for modern transpo. Actually, there are buses plying the roads, color-coded to mimic the Taipei/Kaohsiung MRT. However, I noticed these buses were few and their schedules were far apart. I often got tired of waiting that I ended up giving into and getting used to 10 to 15-minute walks coz the two bus stops on Google Maps ain’t worth waiting all that time for.
Suffice it to say, Google Maps is indeed going to be your BFF.
There are also taxis in Tainan, no Uber nor Grab, but if you don’t speak Mandarin better prepare your directions in Traditional Chinese, written and ready for the cabbie. You can also use Google Translate. In my experience, older cab drivers may have difficulty reading English. Not their fault, and this isn’t to discriminate k? I also think if you’re the tourist, it is your duty to adjust accordingly.
Tainan doesn’t have the same four seasons as Taipei. It’s not that they don’t have spring nor autumn, it’s just that they don’t get it as cold. If you’re from the Philippines, think Tagaytay (spring and autumn) or Baguio (winter). You’d still need a sweater to walk around in winter, plus a scarf, but it won’t probably reach one-digit temps.
Most of the counties south of Taiwan (after Taichung) actually has this type of weather.
Where to Stay
I stayed at Changyu Hotel during my 3-nights, 4-days trip. It was a 10-minute walk from Tainan’s TRA station aka local train. There are several hostels and AirBNB’s too, but I prefer having a private bathroom and breakfast each morning if I’ll be in town for a few days. I also like my room to be cleaned if I’ll be staying there for more than 2 days, hence hotels, and why am I even explaining? Hehe.
I thought of doing a full review for Changyu Hotel but I have mixed feelings about it. And that means I’d flip-flop ideas, mince too much words til they’re dust and nonsensical. One of my resolutions this year is to only review stuff I truly enjoyed as it’s the best way I can write a review. I don’t want to write about experiences that I didn’t like and wouldn’t be a fatal error if left unshared, you know what I mean? But I guess, Changyu Hotel has something about it that may be worth considering too.
In Booking.com, I gave this place 8.8 out of 10.
Most of the historical sites are within walking distance from each other, and these are located downtown. The scenic areas, though, are too far apart that you definitely need a ride to get to each of them, nevermind if you’re going from the city or from the outskirts of Tainan. Either way, the buses and local train will be your major means of transportation, so it’s wisest to stay within Tainan City/Downtown Tainan.
To be continued…