Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Temples and Alleys of Tainan

A couple of weeks ago I had a couple of hours to walk around Tainan's alleys and take still more pics. Haven't had a chance to put up many pictures this week, so brace yourself while I indulge. Here my friend Peter Huston makes sure I don't see anything indecent before we set out on an evening stroll.....

Some nutter scrawled incomprehensible nonsense graffiti in the pedestrian tunnel under the train station.

One of the little Thai eateries around the corner from the train station has great simple Thai food.

Nothing like a spicy Chicken dish to make your day.

We stopped at Crosby's to enjoy a beer and the good atmosphere.

"Have a nice day, Ma'am."

A DPP candidate's sign overlooks a Tainan street.

Tainan's streets have a nice crowded Taiwan feel....

...but it is the alleys that are really special. The city has paved many of them with red bricks that give them a sweet Old Taiwan look. When I look at Tainan, and Taipei, and the improvements to Kaohsiung, I can only shake my head at my home city Taichung, the Sick Man of Taiwan.

Inside every alley there is a temple hoary with 300 years of tradition.

...and locals having a chat.

Tainan's temples are elaborately beautiful.

Of course, alleys are useful places to stash one's stuff.....

Taiwan is often criticized for being dirty, but notice how every alley is spotless. Residents work hard to keep their local environments free of dirt and litter, and given its massive population densities and indifferent businessmen and governments, Taiwan does a pretty good job of keeping its lived environments clean.

One of those brave dogs, running away as he is barking at me.

Tainan, the old capital of the island from the 17th century to the 19th, has plenty of historic sites.

In city centers all over Taiwan, old Japanese style wood buildings persist.

The True Jesus Church. Must be good to have the right Jesus, out of so many choices...

Workmen scramble to get a road fixed....

...while traffic impatiently waits.

One of the many religious institutions in Tainan, Taiwan's answer to Kanchipuram in India.

Not every alley is picturesque.

More storage space.

I stumbled down an alley to find this massive temple, the Jade Emperor Temple. Huge, old, and very interesting.

So big the ghost money burner has a smokestack.

And no wonder: look at the size of that pile of burning ghost money.

Outside the temple small shops sell ghost money, incense, and other necessities of temple interaction.

A shop outside the Jade Emperor Temple sells ghost money.

Here a vendor inside the temple offers the necessaries for temple-goers.

Visitors pay their respects.

In Taiwan's traditional religion, big trees are objects of veneration. Many of them have small temples located nearby.

Not ten meters from the giant Jade Emperor Temple is this tiny temple tucked into a corner between two buildings.

The temple actually gave me this book when I asked if they had anything. It contains text in both Chinese and English, and gives the story of the temple.

Plenty of old buildings, but not all in good condition....

Wherever you see a gate like this, it leads to (yet) another temple.

I was not the only person walking around imaging temples.

Stopped by for a chat with these wonderful women, who turned out to have kids in the US studying.

This one had no kids in the US.

Further down the alley there was another tiny temple. The family that ran it was eager to show me around, although they knew very little about it, as it turned out. It had originally been located elsewhere and moved here.

A view of the interior.

Everything was hoary with age.

A set of faux carpenter's tools carved from wood. What are they for?

This is actually a text in highly stylized Chinese characters.

Underneath the main altar was this secondary altar with this interesting tiger figurine.

A reminder that not everything in a back alley is a temple. People are hard at work everywhere in Taiwan.

One of the many alleyways.

Taiwan would be a poorer place without its colorful street vendors.

One of the city's many parks.

It's a good thing mom has chosen to protect herself.

A slow day at the pineapple vendor's.

The fruit stalls.

Plenty of abandoned lots litter the alleyways.

The Armory, a favorite Tainan expat hangout.

As you walk up and down the alleys....

...you never know what you'll see....here are some items used in temple processions.

Oddly, this alley took me above the rooftops of Tainan, Mary Poppins-style.

There's always room in an alley to park a vehicle.

A meter maid hard at work.

Temple after temple.

Alley after alley.

Temples are great places to lounge, apparently.

Small treasures like an old wooden door make the alleys so interesting.

What's down this alley?

More Big Trees and Temples.

Lest you think every house is cramped, many alleys offer large, beauitiful homes.

Without yards, the alley is the place to play.

Loud conversations in small barbershops.

A temple dominates an alley.

Who will use this wreck right next to the foreigner bars in Tainan?

Exploring yet another alley....

A market rests during the long hot day.

In Tainan, I worship too.

16 comments:

Chihwei Tsao said...

beautiful and nostalgic pictures!

Anonymous said...

"Residents work hard to keep their local environments free of dirt and litter"

Maybe, but they don't give a f*** about the areas outside their hoods.

Thoth Harris said...

"The True Jesus Church. Must be good to have the right Jesus, out of so many choices..."



At first, I thought the sign on the Church in your photo said, "The Blue Jesus Group."

Dan. said...

Amazing pictures, wish i was there... never been to tainan myself, think i passed by it on the highspeed rail though.

Thoth Harris said...

Speaking of Blue Jesus - who's up for having a Blue Jesus Rampage? Maybe you start a Taichung Chapter of the Cacophony Society?

fiLi said...

Heartwarming. Wonderful.

名華 said...

Dedending on your photos, I could tell you walked around the streets near by the train station. Also strolled the streets opposite to the Confucious temple. Do you Want tasty food? Allow me to introduce my favorite local restaurant--- Acutually you did put the picture just right on your blog. See the "Blue Sea" tea shop? Right, it's just next to the back door of Mitsuikashi Dept. . 鍋太郎is located in the same street next to the tea shop. It cost $55-$60 for a meal. Outrageously inexpensive, I know. The "鍋太郎"--> Sounds like a name for Japanese food but it's not. They offer the best fried pork with curry as well as braised pork rice( I feel hungry now...) You must try it!!

D&D said...

You photos made me homesick!! I live in NYC now and haven't been back to Taiwan for over a year now!! nicely done store and photos!

Kaminoge said...

Actually 鍋太郎 sounds more like a really strange name for a Japanese man - "Taro Saucepan" or "Taro Pot"!

Anonymous said...

Your photos sure brought me back in time. Lived in Tainan (us military)1958-1961 took a bunch of photos myself of Tainan no where as great as yours. I to this day wondered what it looked like today and now I know thanks to you.My mind is made up now, I'm going back to visit the wonderful people of Taiwan. You are right the alleys are what stayed with me to this
day, and wants me to return.
Thank You

Taryn said...

Wow... I'm planning on moving to Tainan for a while next year to teach English, and your photos have really given me a nice idea of what I'm in for. Looks exciting! Yet confusing!!! haha - imagine getting lost in all those alleys!?

Anonymous said...

Michael, i was again turn to you and your beautiful pictures to take me back to my younger years. Spent 1973 - 1979 in Tainan (USAF) and visit your site 2-3 times a week. You are a very good link to Taiwan from the rest of the world. Thank you for what you do.

Jazz said...

Wonderful pictures that show Taiwan just the way it is - a heartwarming country! Acutally planning a trip to Tainan this weekend...

Salt and Light of the World said...

wow.. a great blog and really attractive pic you have there.

are you a member of TJC?

God bless~

Anonymous said...

Lived in Tainan as a USAF dependent at Tainan air station, early to middle sixties, visited a temple of the Golden Mother where nearly everybody put themselves in a trance. Very interesting. Good pics thanx

Sean Galloway said...

I miss Taiwan. Looking through your blog has made me feel home in the heart again! Thank you.