My three months in Tainan 台南 are up. I have had a productive time here in Taiwan’s historic old capital. It feels like there hasn’t been very much for me to do apart from hunker down and get some work done in various cafes around the city. I met a few cool people, went to a handful of parties, but otherwise kept to myself for the most part. I am not usually so antisocial but I knew my time here would be short—and I had important things to do. I wasn’t here for sightseeing, though I did manage to see a fair amount of the city and the surrounding area. I moved to Tainan to experience a different side of Taiwan while getting things done.
I have only blogged a small sampling of my various adventures and experiences here but I certainly plan to share more in the months to come. To recap just a few things that come to mind: I went to Ānpíng 安平 and all the major night markets several times over; embarked on several short road trips through the Tainan countryside on scooter and bicycle; visited the hot springs town of Guanziling twice—without trying the hot springs; explored several ruins like an abandoned hospital and this accidental bat cave; scaled Qigu salt mountain, making up for when I skipped it on my bicycle tour last year; nearly ran out of gas in the mysterious badlands of Zuǒzhèn 左鎮 in eastern Tainan, to which I will return; found (but did not necessarily try) all sorts of famous food, mainly by following the crowd; appreciated several high-quality cocktails at TCRC, Tainan’s homespun answer to Ounce; marveled at countless temples (some of them rather strange); stayed up too late most nights, satisfying my midnight hunger with traditional Taiwanese breakfast more than I’d like to admit; watched a wide variety of street performances, from hand puppet shows and traditional Chinese theater to more colorful examples of local culture such as the electric flower car 電子花車 (sexy dancing and even stripping for the gods) and jitong 乩童 (spirit mediums); gawked at “weird Taiwan” things like Nazi flag throw pillows (see also: Nazi imagery in Taiwan), a salt sculpture of Robocop, a dentist’s office in a giant tooth, these terrifying giant bunny rabbits towering over the entrance to a preschool, and (are you sensing a theme) these giant tits; commissioned copies of my favorite shorts from a tailor next to the fabric market; and generally ate well for very little money. I suppose that looks like a lot to pack into three months!
Tomorrow I will be taking advantage of not having rent to pay by setting out for the distant hills on the eastern horizon. My plan is to take a short bicycle tour through Kaohsiung 高雄, Pingtung 屏東, and Taitung 台東, retracing part of my round-the-island bicycle tour. Last year I had to rush through this part of the island as Typhoon Usagi was bearing down on the island. This time I mean to head inland and hug the foothills all the way to Héngchūn 恆春 before looping back and getting lost along highway 26, the most isolated stretch of coastline highway anywhere on the island of Taiwan. Eventually I have to make my way back to Taipei 台北 by the end of the month. And from there—well, I’ll say more later on. (Update: I made it no further than Měinóng 美濃 before turning back due to the heat but later completed the mission in early 2015.)
So, with that, it’s time to say goodbye, Tainan 台南. See you again, Tainan 台南再見!