The Department Store, Dessert and Ducks in Tainan
Day 940 – 941
Ray took us out for the morning where we were to the oldest Department Store in town, in fact, now in Taiwan. but what've ducks got to do with today's blog?
At 10:30 am, Ray turned up to show us around some of Tainan, this time on foot. The first thing I said to him was “What did we eat for breakfast?” and with perfect pronunciation, Ray replied “Porridge.” We cheered.
The men walked ahead. It was sweet watching them gas away like a couple of old friends. We passed a grand statue of Koxinga on his horse; I especially liked the painted electricity box in front of it. While walking down one of the many narrow alleys, we came across Poli, the cartoon police car that is the trigger for Ray to remember the word “Porridge”.
At the end of the alleyway was the Panging Stone Archway, the main entrance to the Confucius Temple, located across the road. We walked into the grounds, and like the Confucius Temple in Hanoi, the outside world seemed to stop. Peace, calm, tranquillity. A magnificent gnarled tree was there for a hug. It’s sometimes known as a Rain Tree because of the umbrella-shaped canopy.
Ray explained that one of Koxinga’s wise counsellors recommended that he built the Confucius Temple to educate the people, giving long-term prosperity to the Cheng Kingdom.
This stirred us to have a conversation about every successful leader has a great right-hand person. I shared that when I used to work in the corporate world and was mulling over something, I would ask a colleague to be my “Brick wall”. I would talk through the issue and usually found a solution with the other person not needing to utter a word. Tim stated that he called this “The Rubber Duck” based on people talking to a little yellow rubber duck in their bath while soaking. Ray thought this highly amusing.
We continued walking around the grounds and came across a small lake with a few turtles sunbathing with their little smiling faces pointing to the sun. One was walking along the path; we didn’t have a clue how he got out of the pond.
We carried on our tour and reached our main destination – the Hayashi Department Store. It is now the oldest Department store in Taiwan, opened in 1932. I say “now” as Kikumoto Department Store in Taipei opened its doors just three days beforehand, but that store doesn’t exist anymore.
Back in the 30s, Hayashi was the tallest building in Tainan, and the locals used to call it “Five-story-house”. Sadly it was severely bombed by the American troops in WWII and was left empty. Thankfully the store was resurrected in 2014, keeping the authentic 1930s feel to the place. Two original cabinets were on display; a retired staff member kept these when the shop closed and donated them back when he heard it was reopening. It was lovely also to see the original elevator with the old-style dial.
Ray took us to the 5th floor – the rooftop. There was a concrete cube with a metal handle sticking out, and he asked us to guess what it was. We had no idea. It was used to fix machine guns on ready to shoot at the planes! On the walls, we could see quite a few bullet holes made by the allied forces.
Ray needed to leave shortly, but we just had enough time to have a Douhua, a Taiwanese dessert of soft tofu with red beans. It was remarkably refreshing.
While eating our dessert, Ray gave us another lesson about Koxinga. He drew a map, showing the islands where Koxinga first sailed his ships, waiting for the high tide. This enabled him and his fleet to navigate through the water which usually was too shallow, taking him to Ch’ih K’an Lou Fort. Bypassing Fort Zeelandia, he surprised the Dutch resulting in their defeat.
Ray then told us that Koxinga’s son, who took over after the death of his father, organised the soldiers and farmers to swap roles to strengthen both the army and food supply. He created legions, called Liao and sent these to various fertile areas. When I looked on the map, I could find lots of villages with “Liao” at the end. For example, Xucuoliao, Hou’anliao and Yangcuoliao. Ray would have made a great teacher; he makes things so interesting.
It was time for Ray to go for a business meeting. Hugs all around, we were so blessed to have met Ray, and we do hope to keep in touch with him.
We carried on walking around the department store and then went to see the Ch’ih K’an Lou Fort where Koxinga landed over 350 years ago. I don’t think we did this place justice without our intrepid tour guide, so didn’t stay very long. Just enough time to take some photos. We were both hot, tired and hungry, not a great combination. Even the fish in the pond looked as if they felt the same way.
After another successful vegan restaurant discovery, we wandered down alleyways which is always fun to do. You never know what you will discover. One alley, popularly known as “Snail Alley”, was where Tianan-born writer Yeh Shih-tao used to live. Many nearby lanes are mentioned in several of his novels. We did notice a map highlighting notable places, but as we don’t know the writer, it didn’t mean much to us.
The next day wasn’t one of our best. Both of us hadn’t slept well and were grouchy. I spent the morning researching and writing my blogs and got frustrated that I was taking too much time and for what purpose. Not many people read them. Tim reminded me that these blogs are also for us, and I do love writing them – that’s the main thing.
However, we can all have our off days. I was like a bear with a sore head, and Tim was, unusually for him, biting back. I deserved it.
We needed to get out otherwise we’d miss lunch. Tim found a small local Buddhist café for a cheap and delicious meal. On the way through more narrow alleyways, we discovered a tiny plot growing dragon fruit, a recycled fence at its best, and the lowest bridge we have ever seen.
Later we walked to Tainan Park, which was a bit run down and in some areas needed a power-wash to spruce it up. The entrance of a long line of Palm trees was grand, demonstrating that this place had better days - haha - a bit like us! I sat for a while under a beautiful old Buddha tree hoping to be enlightened.
On the way, we decided to buy a little gift for Ray. We found some porridge oats easily but knew, in our hearts, there was something else that we really wanted to buy him.
We popped into a shop, a bit like Boots back in the UK. Would we find them? Nothing on the ground floor, a potential on the second floor, but not quite right. We searched on the third floor, down many aisles, looking at the shelves. Tim showed a picture to an assistant. She shook her head. Suddenly we spotted what we were looking for – that certainly cheered us up – a pack of little yellow ducks.