Last year I was given the opportunity to visit the city of Tainan in southern Taiwan. Tainan was the original capital of Taiwan before the growth of Taipei and has been a food and cultural epicenter ever since.
Settled in the 1600s by the Dutch, Tainan city's architecture is a mix of Dutch, Japanese, and traditional Chinese, with buildings dating back to the 1600s varying in style. Because of it's unique heritage, the city boasts everything from sprawling European style buildings to traditional Japanese hotels and everything in between. This rich history has added to a astounding amount of historic sites that tourists can visit, but many do not.
One of Tainan's best kept secrets is the Anping Treehouse behind the Tait and Co. building in the Anping district of Tainan. Named for the district it's in and for the living banyan tree that occupies the space, this Treehouse is a beautiful reminder of how nature always wins. Originally, the treehouse was a warehouse for a merchantile company called, you guessed it, Tait and Co. Presently, this building is part of a 3 building museum highlighting the merchant trade in Tainan between the Dutch and Chinese, calligraphy and other rotating exhibits. At this time, most of the walls are covered in thick tree branches and roots that give the treehouse it's name. Tourists do have safe, secure walkways that they can use while visiting this attraction.
One can not visit Tainan and not go to a night market. As the unofficial culinary and cultural capital of Taiwan, Tainan has quite a few night markets, however, they are regulated and do not occur every night. Night markets are where you'll see all types of food, games, or small trinkets that you can buy, you might even be lucky enough to see one of the many night market auctioneers selling toys! Here you can fill up on stinky tofu, Taiwanese sausage, fried chicken cutlets and even schwarma! I went with some exchange students and almost everything was $3 US or less (90NTD). It is insanely crowded and the perfect place for pickpockets so beware, however, crime is low in Taiwan so it shouldn't be too much or an issue. They do have seating areas for you if you need them (I would totally sit down and eat things like soup).
Autumn Souffle Cafe was once popular with tourists to the point that it was constantly booked and very difficult to get into. This is in part due to the absolutely insane amount of traffic that INSIDER created for them when they went viral a year ago. I didn't have an issue going to them when I was there and could walk up just because the hype had died down. You have to go though, their pancakes are out of this world! I hate the mango version of their pancakes which at the time was their special and it was crazy good, although that might just be because I love Taiwanese mango.... I've mentioned them before and I will never stop mentioning them because they are so good!
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine