May 22, 2014

Tainan – Day 1

I was in Taipei for work in May, and few colleagues and I, planned a side trip to Tainan.  Since it was Mother’s Day weekend, few of us also brought out mums along for the trip.  One of our Taiwanese colleagues arranged the itinerary for us, and he and his wife even accompanied us for the trip.

We took the high speed train to Tainan, and it took less than two hours to reach Tainan.  Upon arrival at the Chiayi station, we were picked up by our chartered van.  Our first destination was the Taiwan Salt Museum, with a double pyramid structure.  The salt industry in Taiwan dates back over 300 years to the early Chinese settlers.  But with cheaper salt being imported from other countries, this is a dying industry in Taiwan.

The museum has four floors of displays detailing the science of salt, the history of the salt industry in Taiwan and the use of salt world-wide.  There are also exhibits on salt industry around the world by with replicas of the salt mine in Poland and well-salt in Sichuan.  But most explanations are written in Chinese, for a banana like me will not be able to fully appreciate and understand the exhibits.

Nicely crafted wax recreations of workers in the salt fields in the 1960s

Model of a well salt production facility in Sichuan

Outside of the museum are examples of salt flats.

Located near the museum is the Qigu Salt Mountain (七股鹽山).  The mountain is a two hectare mound of salt left over from the Taiwan Salt Corporation’s Qigu Salt Fields.  The Qigu Salt Field was once the largest solar salt field in Taiwan supplying salt for the domestic agricultural and industrial sector.  Through changes in time, solar salt was no longer economically viable; hence the Qigu Salt Field ceased production in May 2002, marking the end of 338 years of solar salt history in Taiwan.  It is climbable, with steps carved into the hard salt to make for easy climbing.

Lunch was at Ah Cheng Seafood Restaurant, serving typical local Tainan food.

After lunch, we went on a boat tour around the Qigu Lagoon (七股潟湖), the largest inland lake in Taiwan.  The lagoon is rich in ecological resources with more than 30 species of crabs and 200 species of fish, shrimps and shellfishes.  We also saw plenty of oyster farms.

The tour ended with a feast of eat-all-you-can grilled oysters.

Our next stop was the Sio (salt in Japanese) House.  Established during the Japanese occupation as an official building related to the salt industry, its Japanese-style architecture has been preserved.  In its compound is a century-old banyan tree which has become a wishing tree, with lots of hanging wooden wishing tablets.

Inside the building are exhibits that tell the past history of Anping Salt industry, salt sculptures and special salts from all over the world.  There are also rows of different colored salt representing 366 birth dates and a personality description associated with each one.

We then walked past the Anping Tree House (安平樹屋).  It was originally an office and warehouse of Tait & Co, one of the top five trading companies in Anping area during the period of Japanese colonization.   It was abandoned after the decline of the salt industry in Anping.  A gigantic banyan tree has taken over the warehouse in various ways, including its aerial roots and trunks that have became part of the architecture.  As it was getting late and we needed to cover the Anping Fort, we didn’t visit go in for a visit.

In the early 17th century, European seafarers came to Asia to trade and develop colonial outposts.  In 1624, the Dutch occupied today's Anping and took ten years to build a fort named Fort Zeelandia.  During the Japanese occupation, it was rebuilt and named Anping Fort (安平古堡).  All that remains from the original structure are a few crumbling walls that used to make up the foundation.

The statue of Koxinga (鄭成功) in front of the fort.  Koxinga was a Chinese military leader born Japan.  He led the Chinese military to defeat the forces of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in Taiwan.

This is part of the better preserved southern outer fort wall.  As there was no cement in the past, the walls of the fort were laid with bricks and glued with a mortar which was a mixture of grounded oyster shell, syrup and glutinous rice.

It was already dark when we left Anping Old Fort so we didn’t have much time to wander around Anping Old Street – just caught glimpses of narrow streets and alleyways packed with vendors, eateries, shops and stores – before heading for dinner at a restaurant named Chou’s Shrimp Roll (周氏蝦卷).  Our delicious course dinner included a sampling of all the famous cuisines in Tainan.

Glimpses of Anping Old Street 


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