Last weekend, Yini and I planned to go see the famous beehive fireworks that kick off the lantern festival each year in Yanshui. We failed to actually see the fireworks but went to Chiayi and Tainan all the same. What happened was that I checked the date for the beehive fireworks and saw that it would be this weekend so we figured we could go see the fireworks on Saturday evening. What I failed to pay attention to was the fact that the main event was on Friday evening and that the whole thing ended early Saturday morning. I only noticed this around midday on Saturday when it was already too late. Simply put, I messed up. If we want to see the fireworks we’ll have to wait until next year.
Even though we failed to meet the main goal of the trip we still had some fun which I think could be worth to write about. Our original plan was to go down already on Friday so we booked to hotel for two nights. Later it turned out that Yini had something important at work on Saturday morning so I set off alone on Friday and she came down on Saturday afternoon so we could meet up and go to the fireworks together. Being on my own I turned it into a bit of a road trip but riding all the way would never work so I sent my motorbike to Changhua train station (about half way) ahead of time. This service that lets you send small motorbikes from one train station to another used to be wide-spread but nowadays it only works at a few stations, sorry I can’t tell you which ones. Basically you fill in a form and pay a small amount, however you need to be able to read and write Chinese to be able to fill in the form so you might have to ask for help. If you send your bike before lunch it should arrive the next day otherwise it will take two days.
As I had a whole day to get from Changhua to Tainan I planned a rout that would take a bit more time but would take me on some nice curvy roads through the mountains. So, I picked up my bike by late morning and set off towards the south-east. I had done a good job at picking my route because I got to ride two excellent curvy roads, country road 139 between Changhua city and Mingjian township in Nantou county, as well as a section country road 3 between Meishan in Chiayi county down to Yujing district in the eastern part of Tainan. The former road is nice and fast, and passes by the Sunny Hill pineapple cake factory were you should definitely stop by for some tea and pineapple cakes. The latter goes is a bit slower but goes deeper into the mountains and passes by Zengwen reservoir which gives you some excellent views along the way. You can see the two roads on the maps below.
Country road 139
Country road 3
I was so thrilled with riding I didn’t stop to take a lot of photos but I did snap a few.
I realized I had messed up the dates for the beehive fireworks on Saturday morning but since we had already paid for the hotel we decided that Yini should come down in the afternoon like originally planned. While waiting for her I set out for a bit of sightseeing. Even though it’s early spring, Tainan still gets pretty hot during the daytime so to escape the heat I spent the hours round noon in the National Museum of Taiwan History. The permanent exhibition which gives an overview of Taiwan’s entire history is just so so but they did have an interesting temporary exhibition called Taiwan History in Maps which shows how maps of Taiwan have evolved over time. If you are in Tainan before August 12, I recommend you go see it.
Even though we missed the fireworks there are other things in Yanshui worth seeing, so after picking up the wife at the station we headed there. We visited the Wumiao temple which is one of the main sites for the beehive fireworks, the Yanshui Octagonal Pavilion and the Holy Trinity Catholic Church. Though most of the trash from the fireworks had been cleaned up, a lot of the racks and other equipment was gathered in the temple plaza which was interesting to see but made me regret missing the fireworks even more. The Octagonal Pavilion is an old building the looks like something from a Chinese movie but it was packed with tourist which made it less fun. What was more interesting was the little system of small alleys leading to it which look like time has been frozen for a hundred years. The Holy trinity church is interesting in that it is a catholic church but it looks very much like a Buddhist temple with a Chinese style painting of the last supper behind the altar and typical temple style decorations. From the outside it would be easy to miss the little details that give it away as a church like the crosses but once you go inside it becomes clear with the pews all facing the altar.
Remains of the beehive fireworks at Wumiao temple
Old buildings in the alley near the Octagonal Pavilion
When we got out from the church it was getting dark so we headed over to Yuejin Riverside Park (月津港親水公園) where they have set up a number of light art installations as part of the lantern festival. You can walk along the canal and see the lights both in the water and on the banks. Some of the installations are just so so but several of them are really beautiful.
I really like these things
I thought that would be it for the evening but on the way back to a hotel we spotted an alley full of colorful lanterns so we had to stop by. It turns out the entire street, as well as the area around the nearby temple, is full of painted lanterns hanging overhead. It’s really beautiful and well worth stopping by if you’re in Tainan. You can find it here:
The alley of lanterns.
My motorbike has been acting up a bit lately and not wanting to put too much stress on worn out components we decided to take it a bit easy the last day. We started by visiting two art villages in downtown Tainan, the Blueprint Culture & Creative Park, and the 321 Art Alley Settlement. There were a few interesting pieces in both of them but nothing really spectacular. Stop by if you are in the area but no need to go to Tainan just for them.
Some of the more interesting pieces in the area
The 321 Art Alley focused a lot on installations in an around some old houses, many of them involving light bulbs.
I managed to find a couple abandoned buildings so I was happy
After visiting the art villages we headed north to Chiayi station so we could send the motorbike home. On the way we stopped at the Tropic of Cancer Monument as well as the Hinoki Village. The Tropic of Cancer Monument is an old run down park with a couple of monuments in it and, for some reason, an exhibition on space exploration. In my opinion it’s not worth visiting. The Hinoki village is an are of old wooden houses that used to be dormitories for the logging industry during the first half of the twentieth century. The houses have all been renovated and turned into little shops and cafés. It’s a pretty nice area to go for a stroll in and the old houses are beautiful. However, it’s also very popular so in the weekends, it’s full of people and the small shops quickly start to feel crowded. If you are in Chiayi on a weekday I think it could be worth a visit but in the weekend I would recommend you stay away.
Despite failing to see the beehive fireworks it was a good trip and we did have some fun. For me the best part was the ride on the way down, those roads really were great. That’s it for now.