The Danshui, or Tamsui district of Taipei is a lovely little retreat that’s a convenient stop at the end of the MRT line of the same name in New Taipei City, Taiwan. On a recent extended stay in Taiwan I made a couple of day trips to this river/seaside district that is a combination park, heritage site, night market, even carnival with it’s street performers.
One of the amazing things you’ll find when you visit Taipei is the world class MRT system that pretty much can take you to any corner of this region. Danshui, as most people still refer to it by is at the end of The Tamsui, or red line of the MRT system, is about a 45-50 minute ride from Taipei Main Station.
One of the reasons Danshui is a popular sunset gazing site is due to it’s location on the Danshui River across from picturesque Bali, a short boat ride away. Having the same name as a beautiful Indonesian island could set your expectations high but Bali is really quite a lovely place with cafes, parks, and the largest waterpark in Taiwan, Formosa Fun Coast. The breezes off the river and ocean from either side make it a cool retreat from the heat and humidity of Taipei City.
It’s also a great people watching and gathering area and with that comes – food!
On one visit my Taiwanese friend introduced me to A-Gei, a wonderful dish that is deep-fried tofu stuffed with glass noodles in a spicy sauce. Very tasty! Seafood is very popular here because of the seaside location and there are seafood restaurants all along the old street with fresh catches of the day.
There are two main thoroughfares for food stalls, restaurants, and shops. The Old Street which runs inside the town is parallel to the river and there’s the promenade which has the added attraction of encountering street performers. As I was walking along the promenade on my first visit I noticed line-ups for ice-cream cones the size of Jedi Knight swords.
The Turkish ice-cream stall had a crowd worthy of a really good juggler or busker. The owner had gathered them and was teasing customers by seemingly handing them their cone then quickly pulling it away and pretending not to get their order. People ate this show up!
Like most of Taiwan, food is everywhere – in front of you, behind you, to the side… with amazing choices. I tried for the first time tiny deep-fried beach crabs that were seasoned with salt and hot spices, and consumed shells and all.
There is something here called “iron eggs”. Eggs that are stewed in spices and air-dried, and more seafood options.
There is so much fun and joy in these gathering places. People enjoying each other’s company and sharing food. I never encountered people getting out of control, perhaps because everyone is too full to do so!
If you do want a little break from the crowds though make sure to drop in to the Fuyou Temple. It is just off the main promenade and a (quiet, peaceful …) place for a little prayer to one of the gods. The temples are so relaxed in Taiwan. Nobody minds if you just sit and watch as people drop by for their daily prayers or to cast moon blocks, small wooden crescent shape divination blocks, to see what the future will bring. When I visited it appeared someone was getting their spirit cleansed, which made for an interesting break from the bustling crowds outside that were focused on food and fun.
If you have time there are some interesting historic sites to check like Fort San Domingo which was built by the Dutch in the 17th century and MacKay Memorial Church.
I was lucky enough to bump into a group that was in some sort of contest where they had certain tasks they had to complete, kind of a personal version of The Amazing Race. They asked me about my experiences so far in Taiwan and where I had been. It was a nice exchange. Then they asked me if I would assist them to complete one of their tasks. I’m thinking to myself they need to recruit a foreigner to help them complete a daring swim across the Danshui River or a bushwack up one of the mountains in Yangmingshan National Park. Sure, I’m in! Then one of the girls pulls out of piece of paper with some writing on it and a camera. A hug? I laugh out loud. Yes I’m happy to help out. The adventures will have to wait for now.
When visiting Danshui I would set aside at least a half-day including your travelling time. This allows for some nice walks, a couple of meals and some shopping, sightseeing, and a sunset if it’s the last half of the day. Plan a full day if you want to take the ferry over to Bali for some bike riding or walking.
I am a broadcaster, photographer, writer and videographer with a passion for travel throughout Asia. I love making connections and engaging with people. I am spiritual and seek adventure wherever I go.
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