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Taiwan’s capital of Taipei has long been in vogue. Its modern, up-to-the-minute energy nabs tourists who seek the excitement that comes with visiting a major metropolitan hub.
But take Taiwan’s High Speed Rail system 2.5 hours south of Taipei, and you’ll land in Tainan City, the island’s first capital and its oldest city.
Make no mistake: Tainan may be 300 years old, but it’s anything but passe. In fact, the city’s unique blend of Taiwanese tradition and modern appeal makes for a perfect day trip from bustling Taipei.
Curb Your CravingsLocated on trendy Zhengxing Street, Tainan’s Jia-Jia-at West Market Hotel is sleek and stylish, offering a stark contrast to surrounding city blocks that boast well-preserved, traditional architecture. The boutique property’s 30 guestrooms are all designed by local artists and follow different themes. Don’t have a night to stay? Book the hotel’s cooking class and spend an afternoon whipping up local delicacies instead. Both guests and non-guests can don traditional Taiwanese attire — designed by the hotel’s owner and available for purchase in the property’s gift shop — as they create dishes such as spring rolls, “Coffin Bread” (grilled bread topped with chowder) and Ai-Yu Jelly, which is similar to Jell-O.
Serious Spending Shopaholics, take note: Hayashi, the oldest department store in Taiwan, is worth a splurge. Located down the street from Jia-Jia, the multilevel shopping center has everything one needs, from clothes and jewelry to food. The establishment traces its roots back to 1932, when it was one of only two stores in the country with an elevator. Although the space is renovated, clients can still see damage to the building caused by U.S. air raids in World War II and take a ride in the building’s original elevator.