Nov 24, 2019

Of mud hotsprings, heritage minsu, salt fields & Xinhua Old Street: Who knew Tainan can be this fun for families?

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We visited Tainan, the oldest city in Taiwan and the former capital back in the Qing Dynasty, in December last year and fell in love with its charm and distinct laidback feel as compared to other Taiwan cities. You can read my first-timer family travel guide to Tainan HERE and all its family-friendly activities the city has to offer HERE.

Well, it turns out a travel agency in Tainan read my blog posts, loved them so much and promptly declared that there are more to Tainan that we had experienced. So over the long Deepavali weekend, we were in Tainan again for 2 nights.

And while it was a relatively short trip of 3D2N, we managed to pack so much to see and do (and eat!) that everyone in the family agreed that it was a completely different experience this time round - with more nature and culture.

And we had out fantastic Fucity Chartering (府城國際租賃) to thank for not only planning the itinerary according to our family's profile but also driving us to everywhere in Tainan and beyond - from the airport, to every attraction and back to the airport for our flight to Singapore.

The thing about Tainan is it does not have an underground train or metro system so the main modes of transport for getting around are by bus and taxi. Which are not exactly that convenient if you are travelling with kids, because the last thing you want to fret about is how to get to a certain place when lugging along kids - and luggage!

So chartering a private driver while in Tainan is probably the best thing because not only do you NOT have to worry about getting around, you can actually customise your travel itinerary based on your preferences! Fucity Chartering will be able to provide recommendations and in addition, the cars that they use are relatively new... and the monkies LOVE our chartered car, primarily because it comes with so many charging cables and hotspot WiFi! 😂😂😂

And because we had visited the attractions in Tainan before, Fucity Chartering arranged for us to visit places that were located in smaller cities and towns outside of Tainan... all of which were about 1 to 1.5 hours drive away. Pretty doable even for families with young kids, I say. So this was what we got up to - our 3D2N itinerary:


We arrived at Kaohsiung airport at about 10am and our driver, Willy, from Fucity Chartering met us at the Arrival Hall. Tainan was about a one-hour drive from Kaohsiung but our first stop was actually Guanziling, located in Baihe Town, Tainan County. It is a small village located in the mountains of central Taiwan, between Chiayi and Yushan National Park in Tainan County and it is famed for its many hotsprings.

But first, we had the small task of satisfying our rumbling tummies because it was already lunch time by the time we arrived at Guanziling. And we just could not resist the fragrant and juicy grilled chicken!

In addition to being famous for the hotsprings, Guanziling is also famous for grilled chickens, or rather 'pot chickens' as the chickens are roasted inside the huge pots, hence the name. And the internal parts of the chicken are used to flavour the porridge. Yes, it may sound disgusting if you are not a fan of gizzards and stuff but the porridge is really soooo good. Even the kids who were initially repulsed by the idea lapped everything up!

You can literally spot shops selling the chickens along an entire stretch of road and there are A LOT of them! However, we had our lunch at Rock Top Coffee House (岩頂餐廳) because of its family-friendly factor. Yep, there's a huge outdoor play area catered for kids AND animals such as cats, rabbits and birds to keep the kids occupied while the adults tuck in.

And since it is not good to soak in a hotspring immediately after a heavy meal, our driver brought us to Red Leaf Park, a park with hills of maple trees which turn red during autumn creating a stunning scene.

Pity it wasn't Autumn yet when we visited but the thick foliage and scenic greenery truly made a park a joy to walk through.

And then, we were off for our mud hotspring bath!

Oh, I didn't mention it was a MUD hotspring??? There are only 3 spots in the world which have mud hotsprings. Kagoshima in Japan and Vulcano in Italy being two of them, and the third? Yes, you guessed it. It is in Guanziling in Tainan. The water quality of the mud hotspring contains mineral-rich clay deposits and is supposed to be great for skincare.

And there is no better place to have our mud hotspring session than at Mu Spring (沐春溫泉湯宿). When I first stepped into the place and saw that there was even a sand pit play area for kids, I knew it was a superb family-friendly place.

And I wasn't wrong. If you do not like being in a public-style hotspring with other strangers, Mu Spring has private hotspring rooms for 2 persons, 4 persons and even 6 persons! And since we had 5 of us, we went for the biggest 6-pax hotspring room for 90 minutes.

The room comes with both hot and cold bath tubs, complete with an outdoor seating area.

And if you are thinking that the mud hotspring involves thick gooey mud, it is not. In fact, the water that flows from the tap is like normal liquid water but in a greyish colour.

And even though I cannot verify if the minerals from the mud is indeed good for the skin, I can say for certain that the monkies really had a bubbling good time, as you can tell from the photos, 🤣

After the recharge, we arrived at Dongshan 175 Coffee Road which is a 30min drive away from Guanziling. It is a stretch of hilly road filled with coffee plantations but that's not the main attraction. The reason why many people come here is because of the numerous coffee cafes located along the road.

And because the area is slightly above ground level, the view is simply magnificent... plus the temperature is much cooler too.

Nothing like sipping our coffee and tea, and muching our slices of cake while chilling amid the scenery.

TIP: head there in the late afternoon to catch the stunning sunset while sipping a cuppa. Bliss.

It was time to rest our bodies for the night and our first accommodation was at the homely Salt Country Home Minsu (盐乡民宿) located in Beimen County, a 40-minute drive from Tainan.

Salt Country Home Minsu exudes that homely charm and that charm also shows in its homecooked dishes. Must-trys if your are there include the fried oyster mee sua and grilled milkfish (milkfish is a HUGE thing and delicacy in Tainan).

Accommodation-wise, we stayed in a home which used to be the actual home of the owners. They converted it into a minsu which has three bedrooms.

While everything inside looks retro, the minsu is clean and functional. Definitely worth a stay if you are looking for something different!


Our day began with breakfast at Salt Country Home Minsu and erm, an BBQ Oyster buffet!

If you read my previous article on Tainan's activities, you will know that oysters are a BIG thing in Tainan. And while we may eat them raw in Singapore, the people in Tainan have their oysters barbequed and can I say the oysters are so juicy and flavourful. No seasoning required!

The other great thing about staying at Salt Country Home Minsu is it's near to all the attractions in Beimen - in fact, they are all within cycling distance which was what we did. We rented a quadcycle and peddled our way around.

Compared to other Taiwan cities, Beimen is a rural district and has that laid back vibe. And you know what's the best thing about the attractions in Beimen? Most of them are FREE To visit. So away we went on our quadcycle to explore!

One of the must-see attractions is the Jingzaijiao Tile-Paved Salt Field ( 井仔腳瓦盤鹽田) which is only 600m away from the minsu.

Here, kids get to see how salt was harvested from sea water manually before machines took over. It's really fascinating because it's something you don't get to see anymore.

You can even head down to one of the salt field to have a taste (not literally) of how heavy the salt weighs!

Or simply pose for that IG shot. 🤣

And do make a stop at the visitor centre to try the curry-flavoured salted ice cream too - it's delicious! And the tea eggs too which are the best we have ever tasted. No kidding.

We then head further into the Beimen town area on our quadcycle. The good thing about cycling around in Beimen is there are dedicated cycling paths around.

Along the way, we stopped the many wetlands which used to be salt fields many many years ago.

Once at Beimen town centre, there are various attractions to visit... like this highly Instagram-worthy Crystal Church which is the first church in Taiwan designed with a wedding theme.

Do stop by the Beimen Visitor Center (北门游客中心) too, which was once a salt-cleansing factory. Now, it has been converted into a center which details the past history of the salt industry in Beimen, its culture, arts and including this whale skeleton whose carcass was found on its shores many years ago.

Of course, there are also no lack of photo opportunities around the town.

In fact, the town is so small that you can just park your bicycle at one spot and explore the town on foot. Which was what we did.

We also popped by the Money Coming Grocery Shop (钱来也杂货店). Its claim to fame is the 2005 Taiwanese drama《王子变青蛙》(The Prince Who Turns Into a Frog) where many scenes in the serial were filmed at.

The building was initially a shop for salt workers to purchase daily necessities and also a recreation center. When the salt industry exited Beimen, the house was converted into a shop selling everything retro - from old school snacks to toys to even cute knick knacks.

We also visited the Taiwan Black-foot Disease Socio-Medical Service Memorial House (台灣烏腳病醫療紀念館 ), a memorial house which used to be a clinic for Wang King-ho, a doctor who had fought against blackfoot disease for 25 years by offering free medical services to patients from Beimen and the surrounding regions.

Definitely worth a visit as you get to step into the actual clinic and operating theatre that Dr Wang used to work in, including real specimens of amputated feet of patients due to the disease. Very sobering.

On our way to lunch, we also made a brief stop at Beimen Blue House (北門出張所) which was constructed in 1923 and is extremely well-preserved for a timber-built Japanese office building.

We then had our lunch at the air-conditioned 北門嶼廳餐 which gave us a respite from the sun. Heh. Oh, and do go for the hotpot if you are dining there. The soup base is delicious!

Our driver, Willy from Fucity Chartering then picked us up from the restaurant and we continued on our Beimen sightseeing tour. We stopped by the Nankunshen Daitian Temple (南鯤鯓代天府(大鯤園) which is the largest and oldest Wangye Temple in Taiwan. In 1983, Nankunshen Daitian Temple was registered as a national historic landmark and a three star tourism destination by The Michelin Green Guide.

And as luck would have it, the temple was having its annual salt festival on the day of our visit so we got to witness some pretty colourful and loud festival proceedings. Not to mention there were loads of food stalls too - it was like a night market! Burp.

Since we had some time to kill before dinner, our driver brought us to an oyster farm where we could see how oysters were harvested at sea.

I guess that's the beauty of having a private driver, no? The flexibility to change the itinerary when circumstances dictate it.

Again, I have to say that Beimen is easily one of my fave small towns that I have visited... primarily because ALL of the attractions we visited above was FREE entry! 😁😁😁

For dinner, we headed to Zhu Xin Ju Traditional Taiwanese Cuisine Restaurant (筑馨居 ).

For a taste of classic Tainanese home-cooked flavors, dine at Zhu Xin Ju. Only thing is, there is NO menu here. You eat what the chef serves on that particular day. How it works is the chef goes to the market to source for the freshest catch and produce during the day time. So what you can be sure of is the dishes will be of the highest quality!

Even dining within the restaurant is an experience in itself. Housed in an old heritage house right smack in town, the cosy restaurant is adorned with red bricks, old-school Chinese Wine Bottles, wooden tables and traditional Chinese knick-knacks.

And equally an experience was our accommodation for the second night.

Sai Kau Kin Manor (屎溝墘客廳) was built in 1897 (that's more than a century old in case you are figuring the Math) and has been completely renovated in 2011. There actually isn't any romantic history of the house because the word 'sai' in the name literally means 💩. Yes, poop. 🤣 That's because in the past, the area was used to transport manure!

But no worries, there isn't any lingering stench in the house. In fact, everything in the house has that old world charm to it. Definitely a lot of character, and all of us agree this was one of the best minsus we had stayed in.

There is a bedroom on the second floor with a queen-sized mattress, and you can add another single mattress too.

As for the boys, they loved the tatami loft!

Location-wise, the minsu is located in downtown #Tainan within walking distance to many eateries and shops. Nightly rates start from NTD2900 for 2 pax, NTD3900 for 4 pax and NTD4800 for 6 pax.


Day 3 saw us being immersed in a cultural Tavocan Adventure at Xinhua Old Street!

Before the Japanese rule from 1895 to 1945, Xinhua was actually called Tavocan, where the indigenous Siraya tribes (one of the Taiwanese Plains Aborigines) used to live. Tavocan means “land of hill and forest” in the Siraya language.

Strolling along the old street today, you can see plenty of Japanese-era shophouses with Baroque-influenced facades. And they are all conserved really well!

More than that, the street is still active with traditional shops. Shops that sell traditional sweets, pastries, coffee  and even rice!

We stepped into one of the old shops, Xinhua Old Street Coffee, and I was immediately struck by the retro vibes.

Of course, we couldn't leave without trying the coffee... which we did, and it was good! Loved the robust taste of the coffee beans.

More interestingly, we visited Jinfa Rice and Grains Shop which is a rice shop and still has a working rice machine in the shop that processes the rice!

I love the architecture of some of the buildings, including the Su Family Manor House which was built in 1842 during the Qing Dynasty.

It is especially known for its underground air raid shelter, which provided a place for the Su family to hide during the air raids in WWII. The manor is built old-style, with traditional walls, pillars, and multiple yards, as well as carved and painted windows.

We also visited the Xinhua Butokuden, a kendo and judo training area built from 1925 to 1928 during the Japanese Colonial era.

What is unique about the place is it is the ONLY place in Taiwan with a unique wooden spring flooring. This is done so that when the judo athletes are thrown to the ground during sparring sessions, the spring absorbs the impact of the fall and prevents injuries.

And the monkies, being monkies, were only too happy to be putting the flooring to the test.... by jumping up and down continuously. 😅

And because we needed to rest those tired legs, we made a pit stop at the Searching for Spring cafe (找春文創食堂) which coincidentally was Totoro-themed!

Oh, and it certainly helped that it sold bubble tea drinks that came in Roblox-like containers too!

Besides selling food and drinks, the cafe also allows patrons to try out an interactive postcard activity.

Kids (and adults) will be provided with a drawing of a lady in kimono and they will be able to fill her with colours. Bring the completed artwork to the scanner and watch your creation come to life on the television!

And so while the kids were kept occupied by the colouring, the wifey and I headed out for some photo-taking. 😁

Simply love the lush greenery around the cafe!

And just because Xinhua Old Street has the word 'old', it doesn't mean that the street is behind the times. This old street is still keeping up with the times - you get FREE WiFi along the entire street! No wonder the boys were happy to walk along with us. 😅

Here's a handy map and details of all the sights to see along Xinhua Old Street.

Xinhua Old Street isn't that big area so it's good for a day trip from Tainan, which is only a 30min drive away. We even had time to drop by Sweet Potato Story House (瓜瓜园地瓜生态故事馆) on the way back.

Sweet Potato Story House is a sweet potato museum which allows visitors to understand the what else, the sweet potato.

With a growing environment and a nursery growing close to 20 varieties of sweet potatoes on site, visitors get to learn about the growth process, nutritional composition and also view the sweet potato nursery room through the glass. Entry is FREE so it's worth a stop... plus you can stock up on all things related sweet potato snacks at the shop too!

With our flight back to Singapore still a few hours away, the people at Fucity Chartering decided to bring us to one last stop - Chimei Museum.

Styled suspiciously like the White House in USA, the Chimei Museum is a comprehensive museum with wide collections of Western art, musical instruments, weaponry and natural history.

But if its exterior is somewhat tacky, the contents are NOT. Walking through every single exhibtion hall will probably require more than half a day (it's that big!) which we did not have the luxury of. So instead, we visited its travelling exhibition, 'Beyond the Shadows' which is running from now until 2 June 2020.

Beyond the Shadows is a collection of fifteen artists from Taiwan and abroad whose works have subverted the superior-subordinate relationship between light and shadow and will bring you the most astonishing viewing experience of “shadows” in life.

And my word, the shadow installations are indeed mind-blowing!

My monkies aren't exactly fans of museums and they let out a collective groan when they heard we were visiting a museum before departing Tainan. But this exhibition about shadows and how they are used to manipulate light totally blew their minds!

And my fave? Of course it has to be an Instagrammable one. 😂😂😂

If you are planning a visit to Tainan before 2 June 2020 with the kids, I highly recommend bringing them to this exhibition at Chimei Musuem!

And with that, our 3D2N jaunt to Tainan has come to an end.

A huge thanks to Tainan Linkin Plus and Fucity Chartering for putting together such a fun and interesting itinerary. Even though we had visited Tainan only last year, this trip has really opened our eyes to even more interesting activities that Tainan and its surrounding cities have to to offer.

Tainan may be a city that is very often overlooked by tourists visiting Taiwan but after visiting it twice in the space of less than a year, I can say that Tainan has that distinct heritage city feel and a much more laidback pace compared other bigger cities in Taiwan.

So whether it is delicious street food, interesting culture, intriguing history, or fun-filled family-friendly activities, Tainan has it all.

Useful Links:
- Tainan Linkin Plus Official Website
- Fucity Chartering service: Contact Amanda at +886 975577339 (WhatsApp)
- Xinhua Old Street Official Website 

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