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Anping Treehouse (安平樹屋) is one of the most popular attractions in Anping District of Tainan City, and one of the most well-known things to do in Tainan.
The “tree house” is actually former trading warehouse that has been totally taken over by the sprawling roots and branches of banyan trees, leading some to compare it to the famous Ta Prohm temple in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
The warehouse is located on the grounds of the Former Tait & Co. Merchant House (英商德記洋行), which requires a ticket to enter. The sight is 5 minutes’ walk north of the famous Fort Zeelandia (安平古堡 or Anping Old Fort) and adjacent Anping Old Street.
I’ve visited this eerily beautiful attraction a few times in my decade-plus in Taiwan. Most recently I visited while the COVID outbreak was raging in Taiwan – as a result, I had this normally packed attraction entirely to myself.
In this guide, I’ll provide a brief history of Tait & Co. Merchant House and the treehouse, how to get there, what to expect when you visit, and other things to know.
Table of Contents
History of Tait & Co. Merchant House
This area of Anping was originally inhabited by the Tayouan aboriginal tribe, whose are the source of the name Taiwan. The Dutch arrived and built Fort Zeelandia (Anping Fort) starting in 1624.
Koxinga, a local hero in Taiwan and especially Tainan, was a half-Japanese half-Chinese Ming loyalist pirate who arrived at Anping in 1661 and expelled the Dutch from Taiwan. However, Qing Dynasty armies arrived in 1683 and took over until 1895, when the Japanese arrived.
During the Qing Dynasty, Taiwan was known as Taiwan Prefecture (臺南府 or Taiwan-Fu), and Anping/Tainan was its capital for most of that time, until it was moved to Taipei in 1894.
The Tait & Co. Merchant House was a trading house and warehouse built in 1867, in the late Qing Dynasty. It was near the British Consulate and only 200 meters north of Fort Zeelandia, which by that time was in ruins.
The company’s main business was exporting tea, sugar, and camphor, while importing opium. The building behind it, which is now the “tree house”, was mainly a storage facility for these goods.
Tait & Co. Merchant House is built in the Western Colonial style, with a white exterior, dormitories on the ground floor, and a railed arcade on the second floor. Today, this building houses a museum that most people visit shortly before exploring the treehouse behind it.
The company continued operating into the early Japanese colonial period (1895 to 1945), when it became a salt trading company (read all about Tainan’s salt history in my guide to Jingzijia Wapan Salt Fields). After the Japanese left Taiwan, the building was taken over by Taiwan Salt Works, but the warehouse at the back was abandoned.
In 1979, Tait & Co. Merchant House was transformed into a museum called Taiwan Development Wax Museum. More recently, the wax figures were mostly replaced with exhibits covering the early history of Taiwan, but the web of banyan trees covering the warehouse at the back grew into the star attraction.
Staying near Anping Treehouse
I highly recommend Anping Inn Here (see on Booking / Agoda). The clean, modern hotel features an elevator, free drinks, rooms with bean bag chairs, super friendly owner, and views of Anping Canal. It’s a short walk from Anping Treehouse.
While many people visit Anping as a half-day trip from Tainan’s city center, I personally recommend spending the night in Anping. That way, you can arrive at Anping Fort and/or Anping Treehouse as soon as they open before the waves of tourists come in the late morning and afternoon.
Spending the night also gives you enough time to fully explore Anping, including a possible trip to Sicao Green Tunnel and the truly impressive Luerhmen Matsu Temple.
Learn more about Anping’s many attractions in the Anping section of my things to do in Tainan article.
Getting to Anping Treehouse
Tait & Co. Merchant House and Anping Treehouse are located at the northern tip of Tainan City’s Anping District. Famous Anping attractions like Anping Old Fort, Anping Matsu Temple, Anping Old Street, and Sio House Salt Museum are all within walking distance of it.
When touring Anping, it makes most sense to start your morning at Anping Matsu Temple (opens 5 AM). Right behind the temple lies the entrance to Anping Old Fort (opens 8:30 AM), which is on the southern side of the fort.
The fort’s exit, at its northeastern corner, is just 200 meters (5 minutes on foot) from Tait & Co. Merchant House, so it’s logical to walk in this direction. I don’t recommend visiting Anping Old Street (back by the fort) until around 11 or noon, when most of the stalls start opening.
The below map shows the location of Former Tait & Co, the Anping Tree House (marked as “安平樹屋”), Mr. Zhu’s Calligraphy Exhibit (marked as “朱玖瑩故居(因鹽玖定)”), and Anping Treehouse Cafe (marked as “安平樹屋咖啡館”). I’ve also marked the nearby sights Anping Old Fort, Anping Old Street, and Anping Matsu Temple.
For bus 99, you can board it at Tainan Train Station (South Station) stop (臺南火車站(南站)), which is at the southwestern side of the large traffic circle in front of the regular (not HSR) train station. Note that this bus has been scaled back to limited runs on weekends and holidays during COVID, but should be back to normal after tourists are allowed to travel in Taiwan again.
Bus 2 departs from Tainan Train Station (North Station) stop (臺南火車站(北站)) at the northern end of the traffic circle.
For either bus, get off at Fort Zeelandia (An-Bei Rd.) stop (安平古堡(安北路)) or Tait & Co. And Anping Tree House stop (德記洋行安平樹屋). The two stops are equidistant from Tait & Co. Merchant House, but the first one is closer to the fort.
Visiting Anping Treehouse
The grounds on which the treehouse and other sights below stand are open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
A 50 NT ticket for tourists (25 NT for Taiwanese or students, free for 6 and under) covers entrance to all of the following. If you pre-order your tickets online, you can save a little money.
Mr. Zhu’s Home & Calligraphy Exhibit
The first building you’ll face upon purchasing your ticket and entering the grounds is Mr. Zhu’s Home & Calligraphy Exhibit (朱玖瑩故居 or 因鹽玖定).
Zhu Jiuying (朱玖瑩) was a political figure and calligrapher who lived in Anping (1898 to 1996). He was the director of Salt Affairs in Taiwan’s Ministry of Finance and authored several books on traditional calligraphy. His home on site, where he resided in his later years, is now a small, 2-floor museum dedicated to his calligraphy work.
The museum also contains a small souvenir shop.
Former Tait & Co. Merchant House
After spending a few minutes in the calligraphy museum, a path to the left leads to Former Tait & Co. Merchant House. This was the original company office. The 2-floor white-walled compound is reminiscent of the historical buildings at Fort Santo Domingo in Tamsui district of New Taipei City, wits its railed arcade on the second floor.
The small but interesting museum inside today covers the early history of Tainan and Anping. The ground floor, originally a workers’ dormitory, doesn’t have a whole lot to see.
The upper floor is more interesting. It walks you through a timeline of Anping’s history, but most of the displays are in Mandarin. The air conditioning inside is a welcome addition.
To access the treehouse, exit Former Tait & Co. Merchant House and walk around the far (western) side, where the main bathrooms are also located. A small gate in the tall brick wall at the back of the merchant house is the main entrance to the treehouse.
As soon as you enter, the scene of the roots climbing up the warehouse ruins will take your breath away. A series of paths and elevated walkways through the multiple rooms start from here, with no particular route you have to follow. The ground route is partially wheelchair accessible.
If you turn left just after going through the entrance, you’ll enter a room filled with informational displays on banyan (fig) trees, of which there are some 25 types in Taiwan. This provides a good introduction to the treehouse and why it exists.
If you turn right, you’ll enter a series of rooms with carefully placed walls of mirrors to reflect the evocative scenes. Take the staircases going up and you’ll be able to look down on the scenes of twisting branches from above.
Allow yourself about half an hour to explore the various rooms and appreciate the ruins from every possible angle.
At the back, follow the elevated platform as it leads north beyond the treehouse over a pond and to a viewpoint of Yanshui River (related: read about my experience at the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival).
The best part is looking back at the treehouse, which is the only way to realize the full size and scale of the cluster of banyan trees growing upon the ruins. You can also walk down to the ponds and feed the coy fish (10 NT for a tube of fish food).
Anping Treehouse Café
A wooden path leads through a gate on the eastern side of the treehouse compound toward the exit.
The path passes Anping Treehouse Café (安平樹屋咖啡館) before reaching the exit. The café, which was only open from 10:30 AM to 5:30 PM when I visited (it normally opens from 9:30 when tourists are allowed into Taiwan), sells souvenirs, beer, treats, and soft serve ice cream by the famous local Tainan ice creamery Ninao (蜷尾家). The café takes cash only.
Note the stepped designs on the interior, which imitated the stepped platforms inside the treehouse. The AC inside is as strong as you could hope for if visiting Taiwan in summer!
Anping Treehouse is a truly unique attraction in Taiwan. It is a photographer’s dream and perfect way to appreciate the power of nature and local history of Anping.
The treehouse alone is reason enough to make the trek over to Anping. Add on the fort and Matsu temple and you can easily spend half a day in Anping, while there are even more possibilities for exploration on an overnight stay like I did.