Tainan perhaps doesn’t get the play it ought to on Taiwan itineraries.
It’s not the bustling metropolis that Taipei is, nor does it have the size (or the beachy vibe) of Kaohsiung.
But the former Taiwanese capital is not without its charms, and I was excited to get to experience them firsthand when I visited this July.
Famed for its delicious food, colonial era architecture surrounding Fort Zeelandia, and long history as the nation’s capital – Tainan is well worth a short visit.
Things to do in Tainan
It’s true that Tainan doesn’t have the natural beauty of Hualien or Koahsiung, or the dynamism of Taipei – but there’s plenty of history and stunning architecture in the former capital to make it worth your while.
Visit Fort Zeelandia
Sometimes known as Anping Fort (Anping being the former name of Tainan), this Dutch East Indian Company fortress was both a major international trading point and a strategic military observation from which the Dutch could monitor their Spanish and Portuguese rivals in the region.
Today the fort is a popular tourist attraction, with much of its near two hundred year old architecture still intact and a bustling market district having sprung up outside of its walls.
Visit the Anping Tree House
Another colonial era building, this former warehouse has become a popular tourist destination due to the way the baobab trees have slowly devoured the building.
It’s somewhat reminiscent of the more dramatic Ta Promh in Angkor Wat, as powerful roots slowly pull down the former sign of western domination.
Wander the Confucian Temple
Dating back to 1655, this beautiful temple and its surrounding gardens are sometimes known as the Scholarly Temple.
A key location in politics over the centuries, today the temple is an island of serenity at the heart of a bustling commercial district.
Eat all of the things at the night markets
Tainan is especially famous for its delicious food, and that’s high praise given what a culinary haven that Taiwan is in general.
Like most Taiwanese cities, Tainan boasts a number of night markets in which visitors can try both traditional and fusion cuisine while also shopping and participating in fun sideshow style games.
The Garden Night Market is the most popular of these, and far wiser minds than mine have taken the hard work out of things by compiling a list of 25 foods you must eat in Tainan.
Where to Stay in Tainan
By the time I reached Tainan, I’d spent most of my trip staying in hostels such as Space Inn in Taipei and Koahsiung Backpackers Lodge.
The Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel were kind enough to let me pay them a visit for a few days, and that taste of luxury definitely gave me the perfect base from which to explore the city.
#5 – An Ideal Base to Visit Historic Tainan
The Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel offers five star luxury accommodation at the very heart of the city, just a short walk from Tainan Railway Station and a short cab ride to the city’s popular colonial era sites. It’s even walking distance to the Confucian Temple.
Like all five star properties, the staff are only to happy to provide travel advise or hail a taxi for you when its hot outside and walking seems like a bad idea.
Its proximity to the railway station makes it super easy to get to and from.
#4 – A Spacious and Stylish Room
I felt a wee bit of imposter syndrome as I entered my luxurious suite at the hotel.
A sprawling king-sized bed, a massive hardwood desk from which I could work, a comfortable couch, and full length windows affording me a great view of the city.
Despite my budget, I couldn’t help but order myself in some room service and enjoy my first afternoon there watching movies, getting some work done on the high speed WiFi, and sipping at my cocktail.
#3 – Best Bathroom Ever
In my eyes, a hotel bathroom isn’t worth the time of day unless it meets at least one of the following two requirements:
- Rainwater shower with great water pressure AND/OR;
- A big bathtub.
The Shangri-La Far Eastern has both, with the shower being a steamy cocoon and the bath tub being big enough to accommodate two.
What really stood out, aside from the addition of nice cosmetics and a scale upon which to shame myself, was the fact the room had speakers connected to the main room.
Want to keep up with the news or listen to MTV while you’re bathing? You can!
#2 – The Horizon Club Lounge experience
All Shangri-La properties have the option to visit the lavish Horizon Club Lounge, and I was lucky enough to be afforded the same privilege for my visit.
Located between the more lavish Horizon Club rooms and the standard accommodation, the Lounge is an island of peace away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Whether I was ducking in for the buffet breakfast, enjoying a coffee while reading on my Kindle, or taking full advantage of the free-flow happy hour cocktails, I loved every minute of the experience.
#1 – Delicious food
I made a point of doing at both of the Shangri-La Far Eastern’s on-site restaurants at my own cost during my visit, and I was happy to have paid the money.
While they’re on the pricier side of things by Taiwanese standards, both the Shanghai Pavilion and Cafe at Far Eastern offered up sumptuous food in very different settings.
Affording a stellar view of Tainan from its broad windows, Shanghai Pavilion, specializes in traditional Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine – with a focus being on Shanghainese cooking.
With both al-a-carte and set menu options, I splashed out on a nine course meal that featured a whole selection of delicious treats such as dumplings, soups, braised pork, and so much more. I was well and truly full by the time I finished!
On the more casual end of the spectrum, Cafe at Far Eastern offers both al-a-carte and buffet dining with a global selection of dishes.
I went with the buffet and wasn’t disappointed. You’re positively spoiled for choice when it comes to cuisines – and I barely made a dent in the food on offer.
I did, however, pay more than one visit to the lavish chocolate fountain…
My stay at the Shangri-La Far Eastern was one of the highlights of my time in Taiwan. While my budget usually keeps me in private hostel rooms or low-end hotels, I’d definitely consider splashing out on the Shangri-La if my travels do take me back to Tainan.
The entire experience was a pleasure from check-in to check-out, and I loved my hotel room almost as much as I loved exploring the city.
My stay at the Shangri-La Far Eastern was complimentary, but all opinions are my own.
A big thanks to my talented assistant, Zorica for helping to arrange it all. You can follow her at EuroTribe.
What’s been one of your most memorable hotel experiences?