Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Seeing the Sights in the New Tainan (Taiwan Review)

Around 7 pm each Saturday, tour buses stop at a rate of more than one per minute outside Flowers Night Market in Tainan City, southern Taiwan. The peckish passengers they disgorge quickly join queues—some already a dozen deep—in front of the market’s 300-plus food and drink vendors. 

Many of those coming here to taste local delicacies like oyster omelets and dan zi noodles are outsiders, and not only from other parts of Taiwan. Mainland Chinese accents are often heard, and for most Hong Kongers and Singaporeans visiting Tainan, the night market is a “must-see.”
Tourism in Tainan, a special municipality created at the end of 2010 when Tainan City merged with Tainan County, is booming, and Flowers Night Market is not the only attraction drawing dense crowds. Tourist days spent in Tainan typically include visits to the city’s Confucius Temple and to Fort Zeelandia. The temple was founded during the Kingdom of Dongning, a mini-state established by Ming dynasty (1368–1644) loyalists who had fled from mainland China under the leadership of Koxinga. Better known to Chinese-speakers as Zheng Cheng-gong (鄭成功,1624–1662), Koxinga is remembered for forcing the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, or VOC) to leave Taiwan in 1662. Fort Zeelandia, built by the VOC soon after the trading enterprise established a colony in what is now Tainan in 1624, is one of the oldest European buildings in Asia.

According to statistics from the Republic of China’s (ROC) Tourism Bureau, since late 2011 around 80,000 people per month have been visiting Fort Zeelandia; in 2008, the monthly average was just more than 52,000. During the same period, the number touring the Koxinga Shrine, a temple where Zheng is revered as a deity, has more than doubled to about 25,000 each month.

“The former Tainan City has a high density of monuments, characteristic architecture and traditional culture, while the former Tainan County has folk customs, agriculture and natural ecosystems,” says the municipality’s mayor, William C.T. Lai (賴清德). “In addition, there’s a diverse festival culture. Other cities and counties have unique orientations, but none of them has as many resources as Tainan. The integration of festival activities, ecology, customs and local industries will naturally attract more tourists and boost consumption, and this is Tainan City Government’s core development concept for the tourism industry...”

The whole article can be read online, or in the July issue of Taiwan Review. The photo above was taken on a typical Saturday night in Flowers Night Market (that's the official English name; many sources refer to it as Huayuan Night Market). You can see I wasn't exaggerating when I wrote about dense crowds and long queues.

No comments: