Tainan green tunnel is famous for its beautiful green waterway surrounded by overgrowth to become a literal tunnel. One would think that this place was a pristine natural wonderland, but actually it is not. Keep reading. With no expectations other than seeing the photo, we visited the place with open minds. Below we have detailed our experience.
The Sicao wetlands are a protected area of 515 hectares, designated to protect the habitat and wildlife from encroachment by nearby industrial parks and factories. The area has a long history of Taiwan Aboriginal habitation, and then being an economic center settled by Fujian fisherman, Dutch, Chinese, then Japanese, and now the ROC (see further down for a more complete history of the area).
200 NT per person
8:30AM to 4PM every day
Driving a car, we simply used GPS to find the place, which consist of a Daoist temple, parking lot, shops, and ferry terminals (No. 360, Dazhong Road, Annan District, Tainan City, 709 台南市安南區大眾街360號). There is also a large temple in front of the river, Dazhong Temple (大衆廟), that according to our tour guide was supposedly 300 years old. Behind the temple is also the Qing era Sicao Fort（四草炮臺）which we will not cover in this blog. You can also get there via Tainan city bus no. 2.
We made our way to the ticket counter and quickly found that pets were not allowed, so my sister in law and her husband chose to stay behind and walk their dog.
If you can't read Chinese, that's 200 NT for an adult ticket, 150 NT for a child ticket, 100 NT for a disabled ticket, and 30 NT for an infant ticket.
We waited in line in the building next to the ticket counter; the air conditioning was very nice. We then watched a safety video and put on life jackets and straw hats, then got on motorized barges. The boat had about 20 other people on board, and everyone had their own little plastic stool to sit on. Later we started our journey. In order for you to experience the journey in the most authentic way, here is a video of the tour:
A man came and voiced us through all of the many plants and wildlife along the river. We passed quite a few other tourist boats along the way, all full of people. It was a hot day, but quite cool under the shade on the canal. Before we knew it the boat stopped in the middle of the river for the prize winning photos that you see everywhere:
I noticed that these trees were trimmed. I wonder if they didn’t trim the trees if there would be a tunnel at all. Also I noticed sandbags along the sides of the tunnel. The whole thing started to seem like a very artificial and manmade tourist destination money grab. But it was still beautiful.
At the end of the tunnel, our tour guide told we had arrived at the site of a Qing dynasty tax bureau. This apparently was the customs border for collecting tax from merchant ships, and the canal we were in was apparently built during the Qing dynasty.
There is also the site of fort Zeeburg, a Dutch fort, which consists of some oddly shaped stones on the shore.
Along the river there was abundant wildlife, such as many white egrets and crabs along the shore. We got off the boat and proceeded to the shops nearby, purchasing some delicious ice cream to cool us down on that hot day.
Forget Everything You Knew about the History of Sicao Tunnel!
After I got home and started writing this blog, I noticed that every blogger who has blogged a blog about this has blogged down pretty much exactly what the tour guide said and moved on. Then I came across a blog that rocked my world:
According to this Taiwanese blogger, the green tunnel was actually built as a drainage ditch by the Japanese. Also, the actual Qing dynasty bureau is located nearby at No. 150, Bentian Road Sec. 1 (本田路一段150號), and the real thing actually has been destroyed. And to put a nail in the coffin, he suggested that the Zeeburg fort is actually supposed to be at the bottom of lake next to the tunnel.
This blogger piqued my interest. After further research on the government's website, I found that he was right about the tunnel drain and Qing tax bureau placed elsewhere. The actual brick construction that you see is a bridge, water flow control, and a water pump all built by the Japanese.
Next I tested this bloggers theory on fort Zeeburg. This for was built north of Zeelandia by the Dutch but destroyed in 1656 by a Typhoon. Only 26 troops were stationed here, compared to over 300 on Zeelandia.
However, the fort Zeeburg (or 海堡） that the tour guide showed us is real. That rock I took a picture of is the true remnants of that fort. It was discovered in 1962 by local people doing construction in the water near there. And we know that it’s the real deal because local archaeologists, such as professor Chen Xinxiong 陳信雄, have studied and verified the site. One thing professor Chen suggested is that the government make a model of the fort or uncover it for the public to enjoy, which I think would be a great idea.
Finally, I did a search on Dazhong Temple. Just from Wikipedia, one can find that Dazhong temple is not necessarily 300 years old. No one knows for sure actually, because historical documents have been lost. The temple could have been built as late as 1801. The temple was badly damaged in a storm during the Japanese era, and then rebuilt in 1961, then refurbished in 1984 and 1987. Just from the naked eye this temple does not look anywhere close to 300 years old. However, one because there was likely a shrine here starting from 1700 AD, one could actually argue that the temple has a history dating back 300 years.
Even though some parts of the tour are misleading, it’s still a pretty place that is worth visiting. I didn’t know or care about the historical facts of the place before I went, and I’m sure most everyone else feels the same. Even if the tunnel was built yesterday and all the plants were imported from Vietnam I would still go visit this place. The facts about the history of the place may not be totally correct, but everything is still really old and has historical value. However it would be nice if the tour guide would provide more accurate information instead of telling everyone “alternative facts” about the history of the place to wow and inspire more ticket sales, which is really unnecessary.
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We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.