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Tainan City (台南市) is Taiwan’s oldest and most historical city located on the southwest coast of Taiwan.
Tainan was rule and developed by the Dutch colonists in the 1600's. It was a massive trading port and city. Nowadays, Tainan is known for its historic buildings like its famous Confucian Temple and the Anping Dutch Fort. There are also many great snacks there such as Douhua (sweet Tofu) and the deep fried shrimp cakes.
Tainan is a quiet yet bustling town. It definetely has a slower pace than Kaohsiung City which is only 15 minutes away via the High Speed Rail. There is a large coastal area and beach as well as easy access out to the countryside in the east.
For those who enjoy a slower pace of life in the city, Tainan is the perfect place.
There is nothing more distinct than the weather systems in northern Taiwan and southern Taiwan. The north: cold and rainy winters, stifling hot summers. The south: cool/warm dry winters and hot but breezy blue sky summers with the occasional rains.
If you like dry, yet humid, conditions, then Kaohsiung is for you. The weather is suited for shorts and sandals and outdoor activities year round. People in Taipei carry an umbrella for the rain, but in Tainan umbrellas are for shielding the sun.
The summer months are hot and hover around 33 degrees Celsius most of the time. But Tainan's coastal position always allows for a nice ocean breeze to keep the air moving.
Autumn & winter are delightful. It’s dry and the temperature drops into the 20’s Celsius and yet the sun still shines. These are the best times for doing outdoor activities like bike riding or hiking.
Tainan is truly a low cost and affordable place to live or visit. Everything from food, housing, tickets, to a lunch rice box is considerable cheaper than Taipei. In fact, housing prices are so much lower that for the past several years, northerners from Taipei and Taichung have been buying second homes as an investment. Because of this, housing prices have risen slightly, but it is still possible for a family to buy an apartment somewhere in the city limits.
The main reason for the growth is Tainan's Technology Park area. The park area is south of the city and is home to many of Taiwan's tech companies. Chimei, a maker of electronics like LEDS tvs and monitors has a big presence here. Many workers in these companies reside in Tainan City or just outside of it.
Food prices are super affordable. A bowl of noodles with a side dish of veggies will cost you between 50-70NTD. Places like these are abundant. There are also many “all you can eat” hot pot and Korean barbecue options. Tainan people love to get a lot for a low price.
If you are heading out to a bar or club, you will be nicely surprised. Beers are between 80-180NTD at most. It is still rare to walk into a bar and pay over 200NTD for a draft. (That place probably wouldn’t get much business.) Club entrances on the weekend can cost between 200-400 NTD. And that includes 1 or 2 drinks!
The prices in Tainan truly make it a nice option for a short or long term stay. It’s a nice home for English teachers who want to bank some money to pay off college loans. It also makes it an attractive place to start up a business.
Mandarin is spoken in Taiwan as in the rest of the country. However, you will see a big difference in the amount of Taiwanese used when compare to Taipei. Locals will speak Taiwanese with each other more often than not. This especially applies to the older generation. There are still non-Taiwanese speakers, but they are fewer than up north.
English is Kaohsiung is spoken more and more but is still a bit behind Taipei. As Tainan is more of a “local Taiwanese” city, many people don’t see the international influence on the island. Taipei has the international companies and the large expat community, but Tainan's is much smaller. However, with each passing generation, more and more Tainan young people are speaking up. It’s more and more common to have someone at a 7-11, Starbucks, or large supermarket have some English ability. However, finding an English speaker at a local place may be more difficult. But as all over Taiwan, the Taiwanese will give it their best shot and try to bring back all that English they learned in public school.
Street signs, MRT signs, and the train station all have English or an English Romanization of Chinese. English newspapers are available at most convenience stores.
Tainan is quite a safe and quiet city and since its population and pace are more moderate, it may even be safer than Taipei. The city is open late and that means people are out on the streets. It is not uncommon to walk in a neighborhood in the early morning hours and feel completely safe. However, as with any place, one must remain careful and aware.
Taiwan does have its share of petty crime but as guns are illegal, violent offenses are rare. Most cases or violence or homicides occur between parties who know each other.
Drugs are illegal in Taiwan and punishment can be harsh. Being caught in involvement or even near involvement can result in a serious penalty. The drug trade is alive but is very underground.
Triads and gangsters are a part of the Taiwanese landscape. Tainan is no exception. After living in Taiwan for a short period of time, one can point out a heavily tattooed member at close range. Generally, gangsters won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. Most likely they are not spending time in your hangouts anyways. But at times, you may cross paths with some and you should be aware. For example, staring at their girlfriends or getting involved in an argument at a pub can result in serious injury to those involved. It’s best to mind your own business and they will mind theirs.
Traffic is a final caution to take in Tainan. Although it’s not as busy and congested as Taipei, Tainan people will still tend to ignore traffic rules and the occasional red light. This especially applies to scooters. Crossing the street can be dangerous and DO NOT think that you have the right of way just because you are a pedestrian. It’s wise to be extremely aware when crossing streets and check both directions several times. Make sure vehicles are stopped or not turning before you cross.
Tainan City and Greater Tainan boast a population of under 1 million. Although it’s a large number, Tainan doesn’t have the congested feel of Taipei and actually can feel more like a large town at times. The population is spread out, the roads are wider with less traffic, and there really is no central office district that concentrates the working population. The idea of having some space in a large city makes Tainan an attractive urban living environment.
Tainan’s population is more family based but it’s also aging. A better economy and more jobs have made North Taiwan a more attractive location for the younger working crowd so Kaohsiung, as other parts of Taiwan, has been drained of a lot of working talent. It’s one reason while it’s less crowded and prices have remained very affordable for most. If you don’t mind not being in cosmopolitan Taipei, and you have a nice career, Tainan can be a great place to raise a family.
While Taipei might be a bit more “stressed out” and “on the go”, Tainan retains a much more laid back lifestyle. Even more than Kaohsiung. Tainan people are polite, friendly, and willing to help out in any way they can. There is more of an old Taiwanese feel in the city. It’s not uncommon to see people hanging out in parks drinking tea, riding bikes, playing chess, or walking the coast line during warm summer evenings. As the city changes, grows, and becomes more open to the world, the attitude of the people has remained the same.
Tainan doesn't have an MRT. It also doesn't have a good road infrastructure as the city is old and was developed with tight winding streets. This makes driving around Tainan quite slow and congested at times. The newer developed areas of the city have wider boulevards that are more suitable for car traffic.
Taxis are an inexpensive and quick choice for getting from place to place. There are plenty of yellow taxis around town and fares are reasonable since journeys are usually not that long.
Bicycle riding has also become a common means of transportation for many. For bike enthusiasts and even weekend riders, bikes are an easy form of transportation around Tainan.
The Taiwan High Speed Rail’s has a stop in Tainan. It, however, is located outside the city and can be a bit more of a hassle to get to. Tainan is only 15 minutes from Kaohsiung City via HSR. It should be noted that Tainan is not a stop on the express line from Taipei to Kaohsiung.
There is an airport in Tainan. It is not very busy. There are a few flights leaving to China nowadays. Most travelers make the trek to the Kaohsiung City International Airport.
Tainan has no shortage of hotels space for anyone’s budget. There are several top end hotel choices located in the central part of the city. Some have magnificent harbor views. The price range is from 80-200 USD for a weekend stay. They are quite affordable compared to other Asian cities. They are usually smaller rooms, but clean and a good bargain.
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