Local young folk in Tainan revel in giving new life, personality, and mission to the humbler old architectural jewels they’ve grown up with, creating a treasure map of small eateries, tea rooms, cafés, boutique hotels, and other cultural-creative enterprises for travelers to culture-spelunk.
The magnificent Alishan National Scenic Area, known for iconic Taiwan sunrises, narrow-gauge alpine railway, and “seas of clouds,” is divided into three main corridors, north, central, and south. The northern corridor is perhaps the quietest of the three, a region of steep-slope tea plantations, bamboo forest, scenic heritage trails, soaring waterfalls, indigenous-culture experiences, and much beyond.
Constructed over a century ago, the narrow-gauge Alishan Forest Railway branch line, today plied by tourist trains, is one of just three steep-gradient alpine railways on the globe. The others are also located in exotic locations off the beaten tracks: a line in India that runs through the Darjeeling tea-plantation region and one in Chile-Argentina that traverses the high Andes.
Chiayi is an old city sitting in the middle of the southwest plains with a pleasingly relaxed pace. It is filled with nuggets awaiting the history spelunker, more and more of its architectural nuggets now turned into places of trendy cultural-creative enterprise, joining the legion of friendly old-time shops and eateries.