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2018-03-09

[Town Wanderings] Anping: Taiwan’s Modern-History Fountainhead


 A Day in an Imperial-Era Harbor Area Steeped in Cultural History

Text: Rick Charette
Photos: Vision

  • Anping Fort

    Anping Fort

  • Sicao Green Tunnel

    Sicao Green Tunnel

What better way to launch your exploration of Taiwan – or deepen it – than a day spent in old Tainan City’s Anping District– named one of Taiwan’s “Top 10 Tourist Towns” in 2012 – where the island’s modern history was given birth?

Tainan was for two centuries Taiwan’s capital, and only gave up its crown in the 1880s. Anping, originally a place of thriving coastal indigenous communities located around a large and inviting natural harbor, was where Taiwan’s modern-history influx of Han Chinese and others from the outside sailing-ship world began in earnest in the 1600s. The many vestiges from centuries past have made this district a premier Taiwan tourist attraction. Following are Anping’s top must-explore attractions.

 

Anping Fort

This is ground zero for modern Taiwan history. In the 1620s the Dutch landed here, their goal to make Taiwan a colony and control regional maritime trade, developing Anping as their base (silting has since moved the coastline a fair distance west). During the same era the Spanish set up bases up north in the Taipei region.
Anping’s Fort Zeelandia was the imposing Dutch base of power. Today, the ruins are the key draw at what was renamed Anping Fort. You’ll find good English signage explaining the ruins and on-site digs, plus a small museum in a hilltop maritime-customs building built by the Japanese during their own time as Taiwan’s colonial masters (1895-1945). A highlight here is a model of the complex as it looked in the 1650s.

 

Anping Harbor

The key to Tainan’s imperial-era wealth was Anping Harbor, today much smaller and more closed in because of the aforementioned silting. In recent times the city government has focused on revivifying the harbor area – residents and tourists now flock here to stroll and cycle the pathways, head out on guided boat tours, view fishermen working the offshore oyster farms and fishing craft headed to/from the Taiwan Strait, and explore Anping Harbor National Historic Park, home to historic sites, temples, and heritage eateries, the latter renowned for just-plucked-from-the-saltwater seafood. 

 

Anping Tree House

The Old Tait & Company Merchant House was built by a British trading firm after the Second Opium War forced the opening of Tainan and other Chinese ports in 1858. The firm eventually left Taiwan when the colonial Japanese took over the lucrative opium and camphor trades. Later used by a salt company, the structure today houses a museum on the Dutch through Han Chinese pioneer periods. Behind it is a one-time company warehouse, today renowned as the Anping Tree House, completely overrun by massive banyan trees inside and out, creating a fairytale maze. A display center introduces the facility and local ecology.

  • Anping Tree House

    Anping Tree House

  • Anping Harbor

    Anping Harbor

 

Sicao Green Tunnel

Just northwest of the above-described attractions is the Sicao area, a mini-world of estuaries, alluvial terrain, old irrigation canals and small-craft shipping channels, mangrove swamp, and wetlands. Much of today’s land was once open water – part of the great bay or “Inner Sea,” formed by a line of offshore sandbars, that so enticed the Dutch. The popular Sicao Green Tunnel, shaded with mangrove trees, is explored on guided-tour boat excursions (in Chinese; NT$150 per person). This is a long-disused section of Taiwan’s first canal, built in the 1870s, used to transport sugar and salt from local farms. This is a natural zoo of crabs, mudskippers, egrets, and other small creatures.

 

Tainan Milkfish

Aquaculture has been a keystone in Tainan life ever since the Dutch began recruiting Han Chinese farmers to emigrate from the China mainland in the 1600s, and fish farms are a visual staple all along the low-lying, silt-rich Tainan coastal region. The milkfish is king. Bringing high nutritional value, rich in protein, pectin, and vitamins – and most importantly, delicious – it’s been called the “household fish of Tainan folk.” Take your palate on a walkabout in the Anping Old Street area, teeming with long-established eateries, for standards such as milkfish soup and congee, plus creations more unusual such as milkfish sausages and dumplings.

  • Tainan milkfish

    Tainan milkfish

The Crowne Plaza Tainan in Anping

The first international-hotel-chain 5-star hotel to be established in Tainan City’s Anping District, Crowne Plaza Tainan opened in September 2017. It stands on the south side of the mouth of Yanshui River, next to the 13-hectare Lakeside Waterbird Park, and faces the Taijiang National Park, which covers 39,310 hectares of land and sea. Offering stunning views and an ecological corridor, the hotel is not only blessed with abundant ecological resources, it is also ideally placed for guests who want to view the famously beautiful sunsets at Anping.
The hotel has 231 guestrooms, ranging from 37 to 170 square meters in size. To allow guests to conveniently tour Anping, adult and children’s bicycles are provided free of charge. Ride along the Yanshui River embankment breathing in the fresh air or go further to Anping Fort to take a nostalgic trip back in time… among many other things. Enjoy all this historic district has to offer in a leisurely way!

  • Crowne Plaza Tainan

    Crowne Plaza Tainan

Crowne Plaza Tainan (台南大員皇冠假日酒店)
Add: No. 289, Zhouping R.d, Anping Dist., Tainan City
(台南市安平區州平路289號)
Tel: +886-6-391-1858
Website

 

Getting There & Around

The fastest and most comfortable way to get from Taipei to Tainan is the High Speed Rail (HSR) system. In Tainan, a spur line provides rail service (15-minute ride) between the HSR station and downtown Tainan Railway Station. Within slow-paced, spread-out urban Tainan, scooters are the most convenient form of travel; rentals are available directly across the street behind Taiwan Railway Station (i.e., Tainan Rear Station), international/local license and passport/Alien Resident’s Certificate necessary.
The 88 Anping Route of the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle service connects Tainan Railway Station with the Anping Harbor area.

 

English and Chinese

Anping District 安平區
Anping Fort 安平古堡
Anping Harbor 安平港
Anping Harbor National Historic Park 安平港國家歷史風景區
Anping Old Street 安平老街
Anping Tree House 安平樹屋
“household fish of Tainan folk” 台南人的家魚
“Inner Sea” 內海
Sicao Green Tunnel 四草綠色隧道
Tainan Rear Station 台南後車站

 

 

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