Hi, I’m thinking about visiting Tainan and just wonder how it compares to other historical towns/cities in Asia? Places such as Penang & Melaka in Malaysia, or Hoi An in Vietnam? I’ve been to Penang and Melaka and enjoyed both of them. I get the impression that Tainan is actually a pretty modern city with historical buildings spread around so not sure how it compares. I know Tainan is also very famous for its food & snacks but I’m quite familiar with Taiwan snacks and that by itself wouldn’t really justify a visit to Tainan for us. I don’t live in Taiwan so the cost for us to visit Tainan on a stand-alone trip wouldn’t be much lower than many other places in Asia. Is Tainan worth it on that basis? Thanks for any advice.
If you enjoyed Melaka I think you’ll enjoy Tainan as long as you calibrate your expectations and have the time to explore beyond Anping. Tainan is not nearly as historic as Melaka nor is the European colonial presence nearly as obvious.
That being said, what I love about Tainan is how the city’s history is tightly-woven into the fabric of the modern metropolis that sprawls out to the east. It’s a living history, too; many of the famous old temples, like the Altar of Heaven, are still in use, and haven’t been converted into museums or whatever. There’s also a ton of cool stuff to see if you go exploring the many labyrinthine alleys… well, it’s “cool stuff” if you like random pockets of rundown old buildings and ruins smashed into the tightly-packed confines of a burgeoning Asian metropolis
In terms of historic sight-seeing you can probably do everything in two days but it’ll be nicer to take three, especially if you’re also interested in the more recent Japanese colonial architecture. Tainan also has many cool old restaurants and cafes built into old homes near the center of town… so you can take the time to really get a sense of the vintage quality of the city. This isn’t quite the same as wandering through some of the centuries-old temples but it’s still quite nice (IMO, of course).
Anyway, I was attracted to Tainan’s historic qualities and ended up moving there to live for three months earlier this year… so I ended up seeing all the sights in slow-motion, often just by riding my bike around and chancing on something new. If you’re interested in a bit of insider information this is the blog that got me up and running in no time:
This page lists all the historic sights you’d want to see:
tainancity.wordpress.com/tainan- … ric-sites/
If you’re looking to get more out of your time in southern Taiwan I’d also suggest looking up destinations like Beigang, Qijin (in Kaohsiung city), Meinong, Checheng, and Hengchun.
If you go to Tainan, you HAVE to try their “beef soup”. Hands down best beef soup in Taiwan. They cook the soup and then they toss in the beef raw and then serve it to you. The tender beef cooks in the soup and its so damn good. All cows are slaughtered in Tainan, so you know the meat is fresh and tender, compared to the meat that has to travel all the way up north to Taipei, usually on ice.
Beef soup is a must in Tainan!
Tainan bus tour article in Travel in Taiwan, including the beef soup restaurant