Tuesday, May 11, 2010

tourists in Taiwan, part 2: historical Tainan

The sightseeing part of our Tainan tour was less extensive than the eating part, but I thought it was also worthwhile.

Taiwan was occupied by both the Dutch and the Spanish in the 1600's. The Dutch settlement, based out of "Fort Zeelandia" in present-day Tainan, lasted nearly forty years. In 1662, a Chinese naval officer named Koxinga expelled the Dutch from Taiwan and ruled the island from Tainan for another twenty years. As a result, there are a variety of colonial-era ruins still remaining in Tainan.

The first one that we visited was the Dutch-era Fort Zeelandia.

We were told that the actual cannons were original but the bases were replicas.

Next we visited Fort Anping, which was built by Koxinga.

Finally, we visited 赤崁樓 ("Chi Kan Lo"), also built during the Dutch occupation. The name literally means "Tower of the Red-Haired Savages" and refers to the Dutch invaders.

Chi Kan Lo is famous for its nine stone turtles bearing tablets inscribed in both Manchurian and Mandarin. It's thought that the tablets were brought during the Ching dynasty Chinese occupation.

I liked this visit the best of all; there were fewer tourists (the other two sights were swarmed of hordes of tourists, mostly from China), and the grounds, including this coi pond, were very pretty.

Overall, Tainan felt a lot more laid-back than Taipei, and seemed to be imbued with a lot more history and culture. For instance, I took this photo out the window while whizzing past a local cemetary.

One notable exception: drivers in Tainan are insane, fearless, and they completely ignore red lights. I asked my aunt about it and she said (my translation), "a red light is just a recommendation".

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