The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

The challenges of a westerner driving in Taiwan: touring Tainan

Written By: herbrunbridge - Aug• 09•11

We wish all street were as well-signed as Chiayi's Guangcai Street

Here at WoWasis, we love to drive, and you can see some of the best stuff in Taiwan fairly easily if you have a car. The roads are the best we’ve seen in Asia, and Taiwanese drivers are exceptional in terms of courtesy and technique. Taiwan’s  freeways and expressways are as good as nay we’ve seen anywhere. And for the most part, signage in English, pointing to historical sites, is pretty decent.

Where driving in Taiwan becomes cumbersome is when you’re in the city, and trying to find anything from a hotel to a historical building. This was never more apparent than in the historical city of Tainan, which has 700,000 people, and 8 or 9 historical places (e.g. Confucian Temple) that a visitor would want to see.  Those spots are spread around the city, and English signage is just about non-exist ant. We got lost immediately, and were assisted by Wayne Hsieh, who we accidentally ran into while scratching our heads, reading a map. Wayne took us around the city for an hour or so, bought us a great bowl of soup, and gave us a thumbnail history of his city.  In our opinion, the only way for a westerner to see Tainan is to book a tour from your own hotel, where you can engage a local person to navigate the city.

Later that same day, we found ourselves in Chiayi, looking for a reasonably-priced hotel. There was only one building we could find that looked like a hotel, but $200/night was beyond our limit. The nice lady at the desk found us a good, inexpensive alternative, booked it for us, and gave us a map and directions.

So if you’re driving in Taiwan, and neither read nor speak Chinese, here are a couple of things to remember:

1)      Not every Taiwanese speaks English, but those that do will do anything they can to help you, and they will often go out of their way in the process.

2)      When you’re hopelessly lost, the desk staff at a major hotel will probably speak English, and will graciously help you, even when they know you won’t be staying there.

3)       Particularlly in eastern Taiwan, places to stay, such as B&Bs, may not have English signage. Go to a business that sells to westerners (e.g. 7-11 stores), and you can generally find someone who speaks some English that can point you to a place to stay.

All in all, driving in Taiwan is fun, but there’s still a good degree of adventure involved. Unlike the Romance languages, you’re not going to pick up knowledge of Chinese characters overnight. But friendly people love to help here, and the serendipity of meeting them will add to the enjoyment of your visit.

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One Comment

  1. There’s another way of getting around Tainan, courtesy the local tourist authority. Too bad it’s only available on weekends and holidays… read on:

    The Tainan City Tourism and Recreational Bus includes 2 lines of service: Anping Line and Tai River Line. The service is offered in Saturdays, Sundays and National Holidays. These lines take the visitor directly to the main spots of historic interests, shopping area and parks. It connects Confucius Temple Cultural Zone, Chihkang Cultural Zone, Minsheng Park Cultural Zone, Five Canals Harbor Cultural Zone, Anping Harbor Historical Park and Taijiang Ecological & Cultural Zone. Thanks to the eBus mobile information system, the visitor can know easily when the bus is arriving to each stop, and plans the visit schedule without difficulty. The bus is the most convenient transportation for tourist and visitors in Tainan City.

    Anping Line (Line 88): A bus each 30 minutes.
    Train Station-> Coxinga Temple->(Mingsheng Park Cultural Zone)-> Cultural Center-> Confucius Temple (Confucius Temple Cultural Zone)->Chihkang Tower (Chihkang Cultural Zone)->Shuehsien Temple (Five Canals Harbor Cultural Zone)-> Municipal Center-> Eternal Golden Castle-> Ancient Anping Fortress (Anping Harbor Historical Park)-> Anping Harbor Tourism Fish Market.
    Departing from Bus South Stop in front of the Train Station
    Departing from Anping Harbor Tourism Fish Market
    Taijiang Line (Line 99) A bus each hour
    Train station->Chihkang Tower (Chihkang Cultural Zone)->Shuehsien temple (Five Canals Cultural Zone)-> Anping Fortress (Anping Harbor Historical Park)-> Sihcao Bridge->Sihcao(Taijiang Ecological and Cultural Zone)->Salt Pans Ecological Village

    Departing from Bus South Stop in front of the Train Station
    Departing from Salt Pans Ecological Village
    Ticket Fare
    Regular Ticket: Same as the city bus fare: Adult Fare NT$ 18, Half Fare NT$ 9
    Travel Tickets: Adult Fare NT$80, Half Fare NT$ 40
    (Promotional Price: Adult Fare NT$ 60, Half Fare NT$ 30)
    Where to buy the Travel Tickets:
    Visitors can buy Travel Tickets at Traveler’s Information Center at Tainan Train Station and in Tainan Airport, Bus South Stop in front of Train Station, Ticket Booth at all Historic Sites and on the Tourism and Recreational Bus.
    Benefit for Travel Tickets:

    1.Unlimited access to the Tourism and Recreational Bus for one day and one person in the day of use of the Travel Tickets.
    2.Unlimited free access to City Bus service for one day in the day of use of the Travel Tickets.
    3.20% of discount for tickets to all Historic Sites.
    4.10% of discount for all purchase in the following eateries and restaurants along the bus lines: Tainan City Master Hsue’s Angelica Duck, Shenmau Bowled Rice Cake, Tainan Fulo Cake, Songtsun Smoked Food, Ajunshi Old Style Taiwanese Noodle with Thick Soup, Shijinjio Mutton, Minfong Fresh Shrimp Cookie, Refu Cow Tongue Cookie, FanUen Flavored Popsicle, Narrow Door Café, Hsiaonan Rice Cake, Maoji Black Bean Curd Pudding, as well as discounts in all purchase in Far Eastern Department Store.
    Visitors can buy the Tainan City Tourist Passport, which includes ticket for the Tourism and Recreational Bus. With each ticket, visitor can have unlimited access for one person to service of Tourism and Recreational Bus in the day of use.

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