How to Make the Most of Your Time in Two Tainan districts
Neighboring Madou (麻豆) and Shanhua (善化) districts are two places in Tainan any traveler should add to their itinerary. Both previously inhabited by Taiwan’s indigenous Siraya people, they were also heavily involved in the Dutch colonization of Formosa during the 17th century. Townships for the majority of their existence, in 2010, when Tainan County merged with Tainan City, both Madou and Shanhua were upgraded to districts of the city. Here’s what you can get up to, including what to see and eat, in this part of Tainan.
What to Do in Madou and Shanhua
Start off with some culture at Madou Datian Temple (麻豆代天府). A grand building, including a three-dimensional door god sculpture carved out of camphor wood, the models of gods, people and ghosts are in the classic style, giving the temple’s hell area in particular a feel that many refer to being like an early Taiwanese haunted house. (See also: Exploring Tainan’s natural side and a brief trip to Hell)
Stop off at nearby Madou Sugar Factory (also known as Tsung-Yeh Arts and Cultural Center) established back during Japanese rule in 1910. It belonged to a Madou-based Japanese sugar corporation that ran seven refineries across the island. The site is notably lush with several varieties of trees, adding a welcome touch of greenery to the surroundings.
In Shanhua, a stop at the cow market (善化牛墟) is worth your while. In operation since the 1870s, nowadays the trade of cows is long over, following it being banned in 1999 as a result of the Foot-and-Mouth epidemic. The market is now a popular farmers’ market, held on the 2nd, 5th, 8th, 12th, 15th, 18th, 22nd, 25th and 28th of each month. While there may no longer be any cows for sale, you can still get hold of some quality beef, including beef stir-fries and soup. (You may also like: Traditional Markets: Extraordinary Witnesses of Ordinary Times)
Shanhua Brewery Tourism Factory (善化啤酒觀光工廠) became Taiwan’s first beer-themed tourism factory in 2005 and has been a hit with visitors ever since. Home to a Beer Culture Museum, the factory also has plenty of beer on tap, including a mango-flavored one exclusive to the location. Also, if one sugar factory isn’t enough for you, there’s Shanhua Sugar Factory Cultural Park (善糖文化園區), where you’ll also find coffee shops, a bakery, art exhibitions and even a miniature railway showcasing the Taiwan Sugar Steam Locomotive, once used for sugar transportation.
Finally, visit another temple, this time Shanhua Qing’an Temple (善化慶安宮), one of Tainan’s city-listed historic sites. Built in 1810, the site was once home to Wenchang Temple (文昌祠), which was unfortunately damaged by a great earthquake in 1862. It was later rebuilt as a larger Mazu Temple (dedicated to the sea goddess), one of the main three in Tainan. (If you like temples: 8 Things to Do Around Longshan Temple)
What to Eat in Madou and Shanhua
When it comes to filling your belly in this part of Tainan, you have to try the local savory rice pudding, wa gui. Made in a similar style to radish cake, traditionally down in Tainan, this dish contains dried shrimp, pork, shiitake mushrooms, salted duck egg, soy sauce, shallots, rice wine, and sugar, which are sautéed before being added to uncooked rice paste to be steamed. It may sound a bit odd to those with a foreign palate, but it’s a genuine Taiwanese classic that you have to try if you can. (More street food to try in the Southern Taiwan: Netflix’s Love: The Best of Chiayi City’s Iconic Street Foods)
Pomelo, often served in bread form, is a tasty fruit common to Madou, while in Shanhua you’d be foolish not to order yourself a bowl of beef soup. At Ah Cun’s Beef Soup shop, Tainan’s most famous, beef soup is served as a traditional breakfast. That’s right, in Shanhua, nobody will bat an eyelid if you’re seen starting your day with a hot bowl of beefy goodness, a habit that is said to have been introduced during Japanese rule.
How to Get There
The easiest way to get there is by going to Shanhua via train, stopping at Shanhua Train Station on the TRA West Coast Line. If you take the HSR to Tainan, you can catch the train from nearby Shalun Station.