Tainan is a special place, very different from all other cities in Asia. The oldest town on Taiwan, Tainan was the first settlement on the island and a capital of Taiwan throughout most of its history. First thing that someone will notice here are temples , they are everywhere , Taoist , Buddhist, Confucionist , even churches . Tainan can be called a city of temples . Some of them are centuries old , pilgrims from everywhere are coming to worship their gods , not only from Taiwan but also China , Hong Kong and other places .Although Chinese have great respect for their culture which general foundation is Taoism , there is no place where that is so obvious like in Tainan
Technologically in 21th century , socially people are still in a distant past . Here , the way of living is still unchanged and still the same as it was during the Ching dynasty, well, not exactly unchanged because even the old people are using modern technology but culture, behavior , way of life ,social rules , ethics ,perception and attitude towards time and life has remained unchanged for centuries. Spirit of ancient China , China before cultural revolution , even before republican period can be found only here. There is no place where old customs are more important, no other place can be found where people still strictly follow social rules defined by Confucius himself long time ago. People are different , open and polite more than anywhere else on Taiwan. While I was living in Taipei , I haven’t seen much difference from any other big city anywhere on the world , all big cities are pretty much the same and they share some common characteristics like extremely fast tempo of life, chronic alienation of the people , the eternal race for material wealth and success…
Tainan is totally different ,everything is slow and relaxed , everything besides traffic. Traffic is completely chaotic and no one pay any attention on traffic rules , more than 1\3 of all drivers do not own a driver’s license .That relax atmosphere can be felt anywhere , in the stores , on the street , markets , parks , among people in the air.. . Everything is slow and relax , there are no signs of perpetual busyness and eternal run , so common in other places .I have a feeling I am on vacation all the time, even I have to work a lot there is not so much pressure like on some other places , Taipei for instance.
Living here is something special, something like a time machine that brings a person to the past and gives the opportunity to feel and taste life of ancient Chine .That feeling of the past is extremely strong and overwhelming at the moments, especially when person enters some of the small back streets where old houses are hidden and old people sit aside drinking tea and greet and invite anyone to join them whether they know him or not .
Streets are full of food vendors and other little restaurants ,food is very important and respected in here . I am not a complete westerner , I am coming from the culture which shares a lot of similar values and even beliefs with ancient Chinese culture, a culture that can be considered eastern , but that respect , cultural and social importance of food was not easy to comprehend .
Food is special here, different from any other place on Taiwan . People from all over Asia are coming just to enjoy food and special drinks. Dishes are based on sea food, mostly shrimps, squids, sea weed, specific domestic sauces and spices, vegetables and fruit characteristic to this area.
On market places everything can be found, from fresh sea food and vegetables to clothes and cheap Chinese electronics.
Night markets are heart of public social life for Chinese as have been for more than a thousand years. They have long tradition on the mainland and have started in Tainan in the 1600’s . Much of the political and social history can be found in the bends and curves of night markets. Under the Japanese, night markets were under a strict control of the police . Night markets are much more than a place for shopping , they have always been meeting grounds in which people have gathered to socialize.
Night markets are crowded, hot and noisy places filed with overwhelming number of different flavors , colors , goods , people…Here , everything can found, favorite food, games ,clothes, drink ,massage ,tools , pets, plants , friend, spouse…everything.
Being the oldest settlement on the island in Tainan can be found enormous number of historic sites, starting with several the most important places in Taiwan’s history like Confucius temple or Koxinga’s fortress . Interesting stories and legends are connected to every place. People who love history can stay Tainan for a long , long time discovering rich and beautiful past of this place.
Parks are very important part of city life. Physical activity is very important for all generations and parks are the places where most of the people exercise every day .In the early morning , before heat of the day takes over , enormous number of elder people coming to the parks to exercise .Earliest of all , Tai Chi practitioners coming to the parks to practice as well as people who practice qi gong. Every park has tai chi group and possible another kung fu group. At late afternoon and evening time younger people are in the parks for jogging, simple walk or other sport activities.
Kung fu here has a flavor like nowhere else on the world . Attitude toward kung fu practice is unique. All people, no matter whether they are actively involved in kung fu or not have highest respect toward it. Kung fu clubs are much more than a martial clubs . Of course , if someone wants to learn how to fight there is no better place but kung fu club is a very special place , some kind of social club before everything else. People here do not practice for titles, black belts, self-defense, ego boosting or any other stuff so common in the West. To be accepted as a member of a club is a matter of honor. People practice kung fu because they love it. People on other places love their arts as well but it is different than here, I cannot explain how, but it is. I have practiced in Taipei, went to Hong Kong and some other places but that specific feeling of deep respect, pride and love toward kung fu I haven’t found anywhere else. Here, to practice kung fu means to become a part of tradition, part of historical heritage. Highly aware of the importance of their personal involvement kung fu people have high sense of duty on the first place ,and they take kung fu practice very seriously. Oftentimes sense of duty and preservation of the style is exaggerated, there are still a lot of secret schools reserved only for family members and even more semi secret schools , hard to find and even harder to be accepted in .Tainan is truly one of the last oasis of traditional kung fu unspoiled by modern world.Place where kung fu is the same as it was before 100 or 200 years . Way of life , culture, people and their mentality,climate, food, architecture, history, all of it creates an unique experience which cannot be found anywhere else on the world