Our Ray of Sunshine -Part 1
As promised our host, Ray came to pick us up to take us around Tainan. What a day, full of learning and laughter and what a Ray of Sunshine he is.
Ray seemed a bit embarrassed as we climbed in his car. He explained that he had a business meeting to attend and would have to leave us for a short while. The relief on his face was palpable when we insisted that it really didn’t matter and we were very grateful for him taking us on a trip.
And we were even more pleased when he parked the car right by a square with exercise machines and even a hula hoop.
For the next twenty minutes, Tim and I had fun rotating our midriffs, pushing our legs, whizzing our arms around and then deciding to sweep the playground.
Thankfully Ray returned just as the sweat was starting to pour down – it’s quite hot and humid here in Tainan.
Ray was driving us to #Anping, a historical place where the Dutch built up a commercial and military area called #FortZeelandia and then was defeated in 1662 by #Koxinga, who changed its name to Anping. More on him later.
This area used to be an island back then, and I wondered if it was the Dutch who reclaimed the land. But if Koxinga attacked the city by the sea, that couldn’t have been the case. Ray seemed to think that the movement of the tectonic plates raised the ground. However, Tim has since done his research and read that a great flood in 1823 deposited rich silts into the bay. Well done Tim.
Our first port of call was #AnpingTreeHouse where, for just twd50 (£1.35) each, we had three buildings to visit THAT used to be owned by British sugar company #Tait & Co (not to be confused with Tate and Lyle as I did).
We entered what used to be the Salthouse, named as the former resident #ZhuJiuying was once the director of the Salt Bureau. He was also a master of calligraphy, and this small building is now an exhibition hall of his work.
The place was very well laid out and interactive. For example, using water and writing brushes we could copy some of the Chinese characters. Upstairs were examples of Zhu Jiuying’s work, and we found it fascinating to see the different styles he used. Each of the four panels read the same thing!
While wandering around, we had such fun with Ray teaching us some Chinese. I learnt the words for writing brush “Máo bǐ”. Tim helped me to remember by giving me a visual of Chairman Mao holding a writing brush with a bee buzzing around his head. Tim learnt the colour red “Hóngsè and Ray learnt the English word Porridge. He wasn’t saying it quite right, but as Tim had recently been watching a Youtube video “How to Acquire any language NOT learn it” he discovered that one of the tips is NOT to correct people. Instead, we just kept repeating Porridge. Of course, all of this was with much laughter.
The next building was the original Tait & Co. Merchant House, built at the end of the 19th Century at the beginning of the Japanese Colonial Period. We learnt that most foreign companies were barred from trading in Taiwan during this time. However, due to the 1858 Treaty of Tianjin, five international companies were allowed to export from Anping: Tait, Bain, Boyd, Wright and Julius Mannich. The main exports were sugar, tea, deerskin and wood and the main import was opium!
Usually, I’d find this kind of museum a bit boring, but our Ray of sunshine kept us enthralled, bring the history to life and explaining the change from Dutch to Chinese to Japanese rule.
We came to the poster of #ZhengChenggong or better known as Koxinga and sensed that this guy impressed Ray. Ray told us that Koxinga’s mother was Japanese, and his father was Chinese.
When Koxinga decided to invade Formosa (Taiwan’s former name), he wanted his father to sail with him. His father refused, believing that his son would fail his mission. Koxinga amazingly defeated the Dutch (more on that another day), but the result was not good for his family. His father was murdered, as he and his family became a threat to the Qing dynasty. His mother, shortly after arriving in Anping, was captured by Manchu forces and committed suicide to avoid being interrogated. And finally, Koxinga died of malaria only a few months after defeating the Dutch.
The last building, which used to be a warehouse was an amazing sight of a take-over by nature. #BanyanTrees, also called #FigStrangler, have coiled their roots and branches around and through the walls, windows and doors and replaced the roof with their canopy. This place reminded us of Ta Prohm Temple in Angkor Wat – that sense of natural power is immense over time.
It was lunchtime, so we walked into the town centre. Ray admitted that when he heard that we didn’t eat meat, he worried where to take us for lunch and even phoned friends to (unsuccessfully) get a recommendation for a vegetarian café. When we told Ray that we ate seafood, he breathed a sigh of relief.
On the way, we saw a plaque of a lion with a sword in its mouth. Ray informed us that the Lion represented the shield of a soldier, which often was carved with a lion face. On the soldier’s day off, he would leave his sword and shield outside of his house. This insured that no intruders would enter the premises as they could see that the soldier was home. Other locals noticed this so would also leave swords and shields outside. It’s just like a modern-day version of Burglar Alarms!
Shortly after, we popped into a café for local food of oysters and shrimp in omelettes and fried rolls with some healthy greens. Ray was very impressed with our ability to use chopsticks!
This blog is getting long, so I will leave it here, but before that, why is our blog called "Our Ray of Sunshine"? Tim explained to Ray that to remember people’s names, we can associate them with a visual picture – And Tim gave an example of the name Ray as a beautiful ray of sunshine glowing down on Ray to signify his wonderful humorous and friendly disposition.
Next instalment soon...