Our Ray of Sunshine Part 2
Our trip of Tainan continued in the afternoon with Ray.
After lunch, we walked to the Old Fort of Anping. The grounds were lovely, well-kept with beautiful Phoenix trees in bloom.
The only remnant of the Dutch defence Fort Zeelandia, built in 1634, is the southern brick wall. We could see Banyan trees have tried to overtake the brickwork, but someone in their wisdom has cut part of the trees to prevent more destruction. Ray pointed out that the mortar was made from Oyster shells and sticky sugar and rice; we could see quite a few pieces of shell in it.
Ray was very disappointed to see that the small museum was closed; however, the Fort observation tower was still open for us to climb. He said that he needed to do some business on his phone so he wouldn’t come up with us. We both laughed as earlier he shared that when he visits his Mum if he looked at his mobile phone, she tells him to stop playing games and each time he responds with “Mum, I am doing business”. We both jested “Stop playing games on your phone”.
When we reached the top, we saw many locks had been fixed to rails and even to a light fitting with notes of undying love. Apparently, the locks are removed after a while – I wonder if they are then resold. We had great views of the sprawling city from here, and we found it strange to think that this was on an island 300 years back surrounded by sea.
As we walked back to the car, Ray said that usually, he would be at the fort for 2 hours, but as part of it was shut we were much quicker. He mulled over where to take us next and quickly contacted a friend.
We arrived by the river – Ray had arranged for us to have a boat trip to the Sicao Green Tunnel, which has a canopy of trees over a mangrove swamp. I had mentioned to Ray the day before that I’d like to go there; how kind and thoughtful that he remembered.
As we got out of the car, the heavens opened, but luckily we had our raincoats with us. It didn’t last long, though. However, the humidity went up a few notches. We climbed on the boat and said hello to Ray’s friend. Ray had met him when they were both learning how to captain a boat.
The boat ride took about 30 minutes with a lady giving commentary in Chinese. Sadly our repertoire of Chinese didn’t allow us to understand what she was saying! It was a pleasant ride, and often we had to duck under the canopy of trees. Along the side, we could see different types of crab scurrying over the mud. They were too quick for us to capture a good photo, though. I had read that mudskippers can be seen here, little amphibious fish that manage to skip across the mud. We saw them in South Korea, but sadly they must have all been in hiding today.
Suddenly the guide pointed a light at something moving on the riverbank. It looked like a young heron and was not perturbed as we rode right alongside it. It was more interested in catching its dinner. How it walked over the needle-like roots, we never know.
We thoroughly enjoyed our short trip and very grateful that Ray bought us here. When we got off the boat, he informed us that before Covid 19, people would need to queue for up to 4 hours to get a boat, and six vessels would continuously go up and down this short part of the river. His poor friend would complain that he didn’t even have time to go to the toilet!
Ray looked at his watch; we had time for one more place to visit. He drove into town and parked opposite the Tiantan Tiangong Temple. As Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan, you can imagine that there are a lot of Temples here, over 1,600. Tainan claims more Buddhist and Taoist temples than any other city in Taiwan. And we were visiting the oldest of them all. It is also known as Temple of Heaven, as it is believed that it was at this place that Koxinga (remember him from the previous blog?) honoured Heaven.
As we walked towards the Temple, Ray said that on January 9th each year, the path is packed with local people celebrating the birthday of the Jade Emperor, the great high God of the Taoists who rules the Heaven. The people hope to be blessed with fortune and wellness, so buy “pretend” money to offer to the gods. We could see many shops selling this yellow “money” around the temple. It’s a great business to be in as after the money is offered, the monks burn this in the ornate chimney next to the temple.
We really appreciated being with Ray as he explained some of the rituals and relics. One plaque had a single stroke, representing The One, respecting the most powerful of all the deities and is one of the three most auspicious tablets in Taiwan.
Ray dropped us back at our accommodation and said that he would pick us up at 10:30 am tomorrow for some more adventures. We were thrilled as we so enjoy our time with our Ray of Sunshine.
That was not the end of our day. After doing our laundry, Tim found a great Vegan restaurant. As we sat down, we were given two small dishes of tofu and vegetables with a glass of tea. After ordering, some soup arrived with our main meals which had stacks of different ingredients in each, next, some fingers of toast, a glass of fruit salad with a fermented drink, and to top it all, some sweet lentil pudding! And the price? Twd230 each (Approx. £6.20 – bargain). We were stuffed. So much for the eating until we’re 80% full (I read about this in the book Blue Zone). We waddled back for a game of cards and a good night’s sleep.