Our day in Tainan was filled with fascinating cultural enrichment that deepened my love for Taiwan as our first stop was Ten Drum Cultural Village, an abandoned sugar refinery that had been re-purposed to become an artistic destination and performance venue. Original warehouses and machinery from the Japan-ruled period still remained, but the area was refurnished to add a modern touch, creating a gorgeous area for visitors to witness. The entire factory takes up 12 acres, so there were too many attractions for us to cover, but we first walked through a winding path with arching trees hovering above us to enter a spacious tree house resting upon thick, warped tree trunks. Inside contained around 30 drums, so I sat down on a stool when a tall, slim lady with braids waltzed in and greeted us. She informed us that we would be playing a simple drum piece today and reassured us not to panic because it was a relatively simple piece. A large sheet music was in the front and different notation stood for hit with right/left stick, or together, or hit the sides of the drum. Thus, there were four different moves to make sounds so we began steadily and roughly, until everyone got the feel of the drums, and 5 minutes later, we were all drumming in sync as the sounds filled up the tree house. The lady ecstatically congratulated and complimented us for being musically gifted as we exited the tree house and toured parts of the village, full of aged chimneys, rusted pipes and colossal vats complimented by the modern architecture, vibrant, with unique colors and structures.
We later entered the inside of the factory to see that they had built a magnificent performance venue with wooden seats above a glass floor on top of the sugar vats, and a spacious wooden stage with blue and green hue spotlights shining down. The entire room was dim, but we were soon about to witness a jaw-dropping performance of music to our ears. Placed on the stage were ten drums of several sizes such as small and medium bongo sized ones as well as larger ones, and in the back was a mighty massive one. Audience chatter ceased as extremely muscular men and women dressed in black marched out onto the stage and positioned themselves by their respective drums. They all had a fierce demeanor as they began their first piece which started off with slow and steady beats from the massive drum, which was controlled by the most robust man on stage. One by one, each drummer began to join in and soon they were all frantically contributing each sound to the piece as well as jumping and dancing along. The job looked meticulous and tiring as they glistened in sweat after the first piece was complete. Of all the drummers, my favorite was a tall, model-like woman with long flowing hair who played small bongos with thin sticks at the speed of lightning. Constantly, she twirled her sticks and produced several beats per second while showing the audience how much of a badass she was. The crew performed six more pieces and were cheered on with a standing ovation from the crowd members who were whistling and hollering in delight.
We all reluctantly headed out the sugar factory, wishing for more, but it was time for dinner as we feasted on a traditional Taiwanese meal of bamboo shoots with Kewpie mayo and dried squid shreds, sauteed Taiwanese cabbage, steamed pork patty, dried tofu and green onions, and pork soup. Dinner was splendid, but dessert was decadent, perfect for those with a sweet tooth. We were able to enter a bakery and buy whatever we desired, but with so many options along with my indecisive self, I personally couldn’t make a selection, so my friends purchased wheel cakes stuffed with custard and matcha choux pastry, which I delightfully consumed both and was unable to sleep afterwards.