Danshui in Taiwan, is also known as “Tamsui”(淡水). This seaside town once played a critical role in international trading. Danshui was not without turbulence where many countries and authorities try to take control of it for the past 300 years. Foreigners came and left.
The foreigners might have left Danshui, but their existence had since been incorporated into Danshui’s history, culture and architecture.Today, Danshui is a top spot to explore in New Taipei City, where modern structures like the Lovers’ Bridge at Fisherman’s Wharf and red-bricked old buildings co-exist as if meant to be. The lively Danshui city awaits with plenty of things to do. Here are 13 things to do start with :
1. Stroll on Danshui’s Old Street (淡水老街) and enjoy local street food that are unique of Danshui.
As far as old streets are concerned in Taiwan, old streets are usually synonymous with food. Lots and lots of food. As you exit the Danshui / Tamsui MRT Station, just follow the crowd and pretty much everyone is going towards the direction of the old street.
A few classic Danshui street foods include fishballs with meat fillings (淡水鱼丸), “a gei” (阿给), braised eggs (铁蛋)and fish crackers (鱼苏). “A Gei” is basically fried tofu stuffed with glass noodles, named after the Japanese pronunciation of tofu – a ge. The braised eggs are a must try because the texture is rather peculiar. The eggs are braised over and over again in soy sauce, resulting in concentration of the braising source in the egg white at the same time toughening it. The eggs are available freshly braised or in ready-packs.
2. Enjoy the Breeze Along the Riverbank of Danshui / Tamsui (and Feast on Street Food, again !)
Parallel to the Old Street, the Danshui Riverbank is a vibrant section of Danshui. Food stalls, quaint cafes, and ice cream parlous proliferate the place it’s a sin not to eat anything there.
3. Cruise on Danshui River.
The ferries are operated by Shun Feng and there are six routes: Danshui Ferry Pier – Bali(淡水渡船头 – 八里), Danshui Pier – Fisherman’s Wharf (淡水客船码头 – 渔人码头), Fisherman’s Wharf – Bali (渔人码头 – 八里), Danshui Pier – Bali (淡水客船码头 – 八里), Fisherman’s Wharf – Guandu Bridge (渔人码头 – 关渡桥 ), Guandu Pier – Danshui Pier – Fisherman’s Wharf (关渡 码头- 淡水码头 – 渔人码头)。 Ticket price ranges from NTD 45 – NTD 60 depending on which route you take; EasyCard is accepted.
4. Visit the two wharfs of Danshui – a. Fisherman’s Wharf (渔人码头) and b. Customs Wharf (海关码头).
4 a. Fisherman’s Wharf (渔人码头)- The massive compound including the Lover’s Bridge, souvenir shops, food stalls, cafes and a Chocolate Wonderland will take you some good time to walk about. The Lover’s Bridge was named as it was inaugurated on the 14th February 2003, Valentine’s Day. And all those yachts that you see? Some are private; while there are also ones you could hire as party boats or for marriage proposals.
4 b. Customs Wharf (海关码头) – The Customs Wharf was once an important international port during the 1860’s. The customs office was situated right there and then on the riverbank. The mooring stones that once anchored the boats and the red-bricked buildings that once served as warehouses and offices still stand strong today, only that their functions no longer apply but instead, the buildings have been transformed into cultural and exhibition spaces.
5. Visit Fort San Domingo (红毛城)
The original fort was built by the Spaniards in wood in 1628. The fort went through a series of change hands, being ruled by various countries and governments in a span of 300 years. The nine flags in front of the fort illustrate this history, with the flags of Spain, Koxinga era of Ming Dynasty, Qing Dynasty Netherlands, UK, America, Japan, Australia, and lastly the ROC Taiwan.
Next to the fort is the Former British Consular Residence, a Victorian house built in the 19th century with Chinese elements. The former residence has been refurbished and it is now a museum that’s open to the public.
6. Visit the Customs Officer’s Residence (Little White House) (前清淡水关税务司官邸/小白宫)
In the 1860’s, foreign officers were appointed as customs and this colonial style white mansion was where they stayed. There were originally three buildings that were of the same but two were demolished. The last of the remaining was saved by the “Save the Little White House Campaign” by the general public. The corridor exudes a romantic atmosphere that’s often a popular spot for pre-wedding photography.
7. Go on a Mackay Trail and Discover the Legacy He’d Left Behind.
Danshui would not be the same without George Leslie Mackay, a Canadian Presbysterian missionary that came to Danshui in 1872. He’s contributions will always be remembered by the Taiwanese. You’ll find his statue around Mackay Street and on Danshui riverbank, which was his landing spot when he arrived Danshui.
Mackay founded the Danshui Church (淡水礼拜堂),
the Hobe Mackay Hospital (滬尾皆医院) which has new dual functions of serving as Mackay Exhibition Hall and a nostalgic cafe,
and he also founded Taiwan’s very first girls school – The Danshui Girls’ School (淡水女学校). Other Mackay-related sites in Danshui include The Residence of Mackay (not open to tourists), The Residence of Misses (not open to tourists) and Mackay Family Cemetery.
8. Visit the Hobe Fort (滬尾巴炮台)
The fort was built during the Qing Dynasty in 1886 by German engineer Max E. Hecht, appointed by Ming-Chuan Liu, the first appointment governer of Taiwan. The inscription of “Bei Men Suo Yao” (Key to the North Gate) by Ming-Chuan Liu still remains on the entrance to the fort. The fort was never used in any wars and is beautifully preserved with secret tunnels that are also used for exhibition purposes.
9. Visit the Danshui Art & Cultural Park (the Former Storage of Shell Oil Company ) (原英商嘉士洋行仓库， 淡水壳牌仓库)
Many foreign companies came to Taiwan when the Danshui Port opened for international trading. Shell built the warehouse and operated their petroleum business at Danshui. The warehouse was almost demolished at one point but narrowly saved by preservationists. Today, the Former Storage of Shell Oil Company is put into good use and transformed into Danshui Art & Cultural Park to hold cultural activities and exhibitions.
10. Visit the Douglas Lapraik & Co. Warehouses (得忌利士洋行)
Douglas Laprak & Co shipping company was established by Scottish traders based in Hong Kong. The warehouses today are exhibition halls for Chinese stone lions.
11. Visit the REAL Old Street of Danshui – Chongjian Street (重建街)
The sloped Chongjian Street was once the flourishing city center of Danshui. It is much less commercialized than the old street that’s listed at No. 1, and it definitely looks a lot older with many ancient buildings dotted along the street.
12. Visit a Temple
There are many temples in Danshui; Fuyou Temple, Longshan Temple, Qingshui Zushi Temple and Yinshan Temple. The Fuyou Temple that enshrines the Matsu Goddess and it is the oldest Temple (since 1796) in Danshui; shown in the picture below. Don’t overlook the stone that’s opposite the temple. It is thought to be the “Matsu Stone” which smoothened the construction process of Zhongzhen Market located opposite the temple.
13. Enjoy the Beautiful Sunset at Danshui
Pictures speak louder than words. Nuff said.