Friday, August 15, 2014

A Walk Through Dihua Street

Dihua Street is the oldest street in Taipei. It once was a center of bustling commercial activity, and to this day still is full of shops selling traditional Chinese goods and wares. We decided to visit the street on a sunny afternoon this week.

The street is closest to the Daqiaotou MRT. After getting out of the station, we walked a few blocks, directed by well-labeled signage, before arriving at the entrance of Dihua Street. About a block away from the opening of the street is a narrow staircase up towards a large bridge that crosses the Tamsui River, so we climbed upwards to catch the view.  

This stretch of river is quite picturesque, and there is a well-maintained bike route that goes along the riverside.

Looking out over the other side of the bridge, you can see the mountains near Tamsui, (alternatively Danshui). We actually ended up going there a few days later.

After taking in the gorgeous views from the bridge, we turned back around to walk down Dihua Street. The end of the street near the bridge was rather deserted on a Monday afternoon. A few businesses were open, but there were only a few sprinkling of visitors here and there.

Alongside the traditional shops there are a few rather hipster cafes and stores selling updated modern versions of local crafts. Here is one quaint cafe - art gallery hybrid with a lovely brick patio out back. We stopped here for a breather and to get an iced latte before heading onwards down the street.

As we kept walking, the streetscape began to change, block by block. There were more open shops, more people walking around and mingling, and increased traffic on the road. The atmosphere felt more lively and festive.

I looked up at one point and noticed the beautifully preserved brick and stone facades on the buildings. It kind of reminded me of Singapore's traditional shophouses, only those tend to be wooden with colorful shutters. 

We passed by many shops selling Chinese herbs, medicines, and dried goods. Everything was neatly packaged up or jarred, and there were little dishes of samples for customers to try. 

One street corner shop was piled full with bags of garlic!

Here is a small sampling of the dried goods that were on offer - nuts, lentils, dates, fruits, and dried mushrooms...

...and shark fins! Shark fin is a delicacy but quite a controversial one - the practice is deemed cruel and wasteful, as fishermen will slash off the fins of sharks before throwing away the rest of the body.

There's a lovely little temple further along Dihua street called Xiahai Temple.

Yongle Market, a multi-storied fabric market, is also located on Dihua Street. There are many stalls crammed together over two floors, full of colorful fabrics and textiles. On the 8th floor of this building is a museum dedicated to shadow puppets and opera. There is a theatre and practice rooms, and on this day we saw several groups practicing for their performances.

We got to the end of the street just as the sun was setting, and headed to the nearby Ningxia Night Market. No photos of that one - it was a bit of a disappointment, as it was simply a row of streetcarts lined up the middle of the street. There were lots of interesting eats, but I prefer more enteratining night markets which have food interspersed with other types of stalls (shopping, games, drinks, performances), like Shilin or Raohe. Still, all in all, a good day exploring Taipei!

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