It was Feb 7, 2017. The weeds on dangling power lines reminded me I was home. My 7 day Taiwan trip was over–two of which were spent in Tainan.
Two months before the trip, I met a cab driver who sold the idea of going to Tainan as though he was on Home TV Shopping. He spoke highly of Tainan and its locals. He even said that if you happened to lose your wallet, and somebody found it; he would look for you to return it.
Was I going to dreamland? Too good to be true, huh? I wasn’t ready to buy into that.
The cabbie’s testimonial did not get tested until Jan. 31st. When I got to Tainan station via THSR (Taiwan High Speed Railway), most of the shops were already closed.Luckily, a man, who introduced himself to me as Tank, a Tainan local who was spending his vacation from work in Shanghai, happened to be passing by.
Tank offered his help in finding a bicycle rental. We walked until we reached a dark sidewalk. He then asked me to show hand him my phone, so he could see as to where my transient home was, using Google Maps.
Cut scene: I’d seen this episode. After handing the phone, he would sucker punch me across the face and run off with my phone.
Not this one.
The man had a few drinks, and could not ride his scooter to his place.Since our search for a Bike rental went nowhere, he told me that he could take a cab and drop me of the transient house, an offer I initially declined. He eventually won.
I got into the taxi despite my fear of getting mugged. Tank and the driver were speaking Mandarin. I listened to every keyword as to what they were talking about that could give an idea about what fate awaited me— because me being fed to the fish wasn’t the plan. During the ride, Tank was chatting with his friends about a goofy foreigner he found at the train station—not doing any good to calm my nerves.
A few minutes later we arrived at MAMA house where Mama (the host’s mother) was waiting. I survived . Unscathed. Not even a Taxi fare poorer because Tank did not let me pay for my share.
Mama rushed to the fridge to us something to drink as soon as we were in her grocery store. After Tank left, she led me to my room. She pulled down the shutter of her grocery store, then she introduced me to Apple, their dog.
The next morning, I got up at 4 a.m. so I could catch one of Tainan’s most sought after food, The Ten Thousand Beef Soup.I took the cab going to the place. All was needed was show the piece of paper Tank had given me, and the driver knew where to take me. The note DID NOT have the restaurant’s address; just its name in Chinese characters, knew where to Yes, that how popular the place was.
The place was packed. I fell behind more than 10 people in the queue. The people didn’t even flinch when it started to drizzle. Thar’s how serious they were about their beef soup. It took me about an hour before I could get a seat and be served.
We had to share tables. so customers can be accommodated. Three other people joined me at the table: A couple, and the guy’s dad. Before the silence ruined our breakfast by making things awkward, I asked them if they spoke English. The guy replied, Yes. (Good at it,too). Apparently, he and his girlfriend had to catch a THSR train for Taipei, and they only had 10 minutes to finish their meal. The ten minutes expired fast. It was spent on having a good conversation over a delicious meal. Even better, the food was free. The dad paid for it. It was a welcome gift— Welcome to Tainan.
Taking occasional stops to take pictures, I allowed myself to get lost in the city before deciding to go back to my transient home… on foot.
I walked until there was only bridge that separated me and the part of the city where I was living. But I wasn’t quite sure whether one could cross it on foot or not, so I tried to ask Tainan locals, who knew better.
I asked a man on a parked scooter on the sidewalk. Since he may not have understood what I was getting at, he wanted to check my phone for the location as to where I was heading.
Cut scene: I’d seen After handing the phone, he would speed off with my phone.
He then gestured for me to hop on his scooter. He dropped me off MAMA house, said goodbye, and rode off. Day saved.
That afternoon I met my host, Candy, for the first time. We had only been trading messages through the Airbnb since September. She was cool and witty. It turns out that she was an English teacher, and she could keep up with the conversation until we reached Old Shennong street, a street-long marketplace.
Since I was a caveman on Shennong st, and didn’t know what to eat there, I landed at a vegan hub called Do Right and Green Cafe, since vegan food was familiar to me. I asked Kayhee and Quentin (who both work there) what they would recommend. They gave me Malaysian curry since it was not too spicy and had coconut milk in it.
The two kept their customers so engaged that they had smile on their faces as they leave the place. Some of their customers even asked to have a picture with Kayhee and Quentin— Such awesome people. I lost track of time just speaking with these two folks. They even let me charge my camera battery when they’d found out I needed it. Had it not for them I wouldn’t have been able to take pictures at Hayashi Department Store.
After being stunned by the Architecture of Hayashi Department store (and their pricey goods), I went to the Tainan Flower Market, the largest night market in the city, Because I had agreed to meet Candy there at 10:00 p.m. to pick me up, I got tempted to take the cab. But did not as it would hurt my budget. Sticking to the original plan helped—walk.
The food was great. The warm almond tea was simply heavenly.
Time to go home. My host told me take the cab as she would not be able to pick me up. But on my way out, she said she was on her way to pick me up.
We, along with her friend Lisa, got into the car. My host gave me the final instructions because she would not be able send me off for Taipei. Because she was a teacher, she simulated a class and quizzed me afterwards. I got an A+. (Kidding)
The next morning, I packed my things and headed to the grocery store where Mama waited. She gave me her final instructions to me in Mandarin, which lasted for about an hour, as we were doing “Charades“. (chalk it up to my lack of the language) I bade farewell to Mama and Apple, and left for the bus stop.
As I was waiting for Bus no.7, the one that would take me to the train station, a car slowed down at the stop. It was Candy’s. She knew that the buses were not as many since it was the holidays. She later revealed that she wanted me to see Anping, another tourist spot famous for its majestic temples and scenic views. But eventually, I chose to go to Xinshi Business District instead to check out some factories.
How my trip ended doesn’t outweigh the fact I enjoyed my trip because of the Tainan locals (plus Kayhee, who’s Malaysian).The people of Tainan give the warmest welcome and go out of their way to help you out. When somebody tells you that people in Taiwan (especially those of Tainan) are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, they kid you not.