Tainan: worth a 6,000nt cab ride

The last Friday of Chinese New Year, I scheduled a trip down to Tainan to visit my friend Yvonne and her family. Though my trip was a lot shorter than expected, it wasn’t any less wonderful. I rode the High Speed Rail an hour and twenty minutes south from Hsinchu and met Yvonne after taking a taxi to the slow train station downtown.

This is Yvonne, the same Yvonne from my Yilan trip. It wasn't cold, but both of us had our jackets after being trained by Hsinchu's miserable weather.

The sun was bright, the sky blue. Not gray, not smoggy, not hazy, but a brilliant, springtime blue. The weather was perfect for walking around, so Yvonne and I visited several sites clustered together, taking our time and walking from one place to the next.

We first visited an old, famous temple that reminded me of the Forbidden City in Beijing; it consisted of a central building surrounded by a wall and narrow rooms. As the photographer extraordinaire, I forgot to charge my battery, so I took pictures using Hipstamatic on my iPhone. All the Photoshop fun with none of the effort!

There were people everywhere, and most of them had cameras bigger than mine.

After the temple we ventured into an open air market, then to a secondhand bookstore across the street. The bookstore was one of the highlights of the day.

I like to photobomb. A lot. Sorry, Yvonne.

We entered a narrow, artistic shop. I walked to the back, stepped through a bright atrium, then found myself in a two story, tall, comfortable room. Old ladders made of bamboo reached up from the first floor to books at the top of the second floor. Books were stacked neatly along the walkways, on shelves, and anywhere they would fit. There was an impressive section of used English novels, where I snuck a picture.

English novels - a few hundred of them! It was like finding a secret treasure that the citizens of Tainan already knew about.

Back at the front I browsed through a few postcards with Che Guevara on one side. Venturing back outside, we went next door to a quirky restaurant called the Narrow Door.

It was a tight fit.

The entrance was a claustrophobic walkway between two buildings, then up a set of stairs wide enough for one person.

Yvonne walking out the entrance while I stand by the stairs.

In the second-floor restaurant, the sun brightened the room and the assortment of collectibles gave the space a great personality. I felt like I was back in Austin.

At the top of the stairs, you can see the urinal area. If a guy needed to go number one, he'd have an audience.

"Yvonne, did you see this? Golden Opium!" "Yes, and I ordered it."

Thin slices of lemon, coffee and sugar sprinkled on top.

First the lemon zaps your jawline, then the coffee makes your eyebrows arch, then the sugar balances it out. And then the lemon rind makes the hairs on your arms stand on end. It's actually pretty good.

Post Golden Opium and dim sum, we were on our way to the port.

Look at that sky - blue. No Photoshopping required.

We explored an old fort and spent the afternoon taking pictures and people watching.

We passed an intricately carved, carefully painted, beautifully maintained temple on our way to the fort. They also decorated with hanging water bottles.

Important stuff happened here. The day we visited, there was a crowd listening to some performers sing and play instruments.

Those soldiers must've been in good shape.

I wonder how the other side of the story goes.

Tainan is my new favorite Taiwanese city. If Taipei is the New York of Taiwan, I’m thinking Tainan is San Francisco. Even though I had to pay 6,000nt and spend 4 hours in a taxi in order to get back to Hsinchu, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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