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Famous old streets in Taipei

2015/12/01 17:30:26

Photo by Keoni Everington

Taipei, Dec. 1 (CNA) Amid the sprawling maze of squat, concrete buildings, punctuated by the occasional glittering glass tower, there are a few hidden gems from the long-forgotten past -- Taipei's old streets (老街).

In Taiwan's mad rush to modernize, much of its historical architecture has been torn down or glazed over with gaudy tiles, fortunately, some communities have recognized the significance of their old thoroughfares and taken steps to revitalize them. The following is a list of the most notable and accessible old streets in the greater Taipei area:

1. Dihua Street(迪化街)


[Photo by Keoni Everington]

It is the first, and therefore the oldest street in Taipei going back to Dutch rule in the 1600s. It's not a bad place to start as you get a lot of bang for your buck and do not have to travel far afield. The street is packed with shops selling ginseng and all matter of dried goods for food and medicine such as fruit, nuts, and mushrooms.

Midway through the street are the Xiahai Chenghuang Temple, where you can pray to the City God, and the Dadaocheng Theater, which offers Taiwanese opera and puppet performances for young and old. As a bonus, there are the old mansions on Guidejie and the great view at the Wharf.

Address: Sec. 1, Dihua St., Datong District, Taipei City

2. Sanxia Old Street (三峽老街)


[Photo by Keoni Everington]

Considered one of the longest and best-preserved old streets in Taiwan, you will encounter ornate baroque facades and arched hallways from the Japanese colonial era (1895-1945) filled with shops selling everything from its famous croissants and pig blood cake to traditional toys and indigo dye stores, the latter being it's original core industry.

Thanks to a renovation effort in 2007, all the structures on the street have been painstakingly restored to their early 20th century appearance down to the tiniest flowery carving of each Baroque cornice.

Address: Minquan St., Sanxia District, New Taipei City 237

3. Jiu Fen Old Street(九份老街)


[CNA file photo]

A favorite among tourists, this old street has a unique layout oriented entirely along a seemingly endless series of steep stairs, with non-stop curio shops begging for your attention along the entire route. There are a couple of landings where you can take a break between climbing and eat lunch, peruse market stalls, or catch a glimpse of the spectacular view of the countryside and sea. While you are at it, you might also consider exploring nearby Houtong Cat Village.

Address: Jishan St., Ruifang Dist., New Taipei City 224

4. Tamshui Old Street(淡水老街)


[CNA file photo]

A mere five-minute walk from the MRT Tamshui station, this old street meanders along the Tamshui river waterfront and due to its proximity to the sea, is packed with stands offering a cornucopia of seafood such as grilled squid, crab, shrimp rolls, fish ball soup, fried fish crackers, and Tamshui's famous "iron eggs."

Most of the facades on the street have been modernized, but there are interesting historic structures that predate the Japanese era nearby such as Tamshui Red Castle, Dr. Mackay's residence , Little White House, Fort San Domingo (紅毛城, Red Fur Fort), and Fort Huwei.

Address: Zhongzheng Rd., Tamsui Dist., New Taipei City 251

5. Wulai Old Street(烏來老街)


[CNA file photo]

This Atayal aboriginal village has a distinctively native feel with many food stalls and restaurants offering exotic dishes such as wild boar, bamboo tube rice, hot spring eggs, various mountain wild plants, fried-bees, and even flying squirrel, which can all be washed down with millet wine.

While on the old street, you can learn more about the practice of headhunting and other facets of Atayal history at the Wulai Atayal Museum. There are many other attractions in the area such as hot springs, aborigine performances, Wulai Waterfall, the Wulai Log Cart train, jungle trails, and the Wulai Gondola ride to the top of the waterfall.

Address: Wulai St., Wulai Dist., New Taipei City 233

6. Shifen Old Street (十分老街)


[Photo by Keoni Everington]

This old street in Pingxi District is not a street per se, but actually an old railway line that runs through the heart of this little town lined with souvenir shops, snack stalls, and it's most famous attraction -- sky lanterns.

Visitors paint their wishes on these multi-colored lanterns and then stand on the railroad tracks to pose with their creations before lighting them and watching them soar into the heavens. One drawback for would-be lantern launchers is the tourist trains which barrel through town and force everyone to clear the tracks to let it pass. Other noteworthy attractions include the rickety Jingan Suspension Bridge and the nearby Shifen Waterfall, Taiwan's broadest.

Address: Ping River (Pingsi) Township, New Taipei City 226

7. Bopiliao Old Street (剝皮寮)


[CNA file photo]

Now made famous by the gangster film Monga (艋舺), Taipei's oldest and once diciest areas, Wanhua (Bangka) District, is home to one of the few old streets on this list with examples of Qing era shops, such as a Chinese medicine stores, a barber shop, and a tea house. In this narrow lane, you will encounter colorful wall paintings, old movie posters, art galleries, and the Heritage and Culture Center of Taipei City. You also might run into a period film or TV drama being shot there.

Address: No. 101 Guangzhou St., Wanhua Dist., Taipei City 108

8. Shenkeng Old Street (深坑老街)


[Photo by Keoni Everington]

It's not an accident that this town's nickname is the Tofu Capital because of the unmistakable aroma of stinky tofu wafting through the air, but it also offers many other spins on preparing bean curd, including boiled spicy tofu, dried tofu, barbecued tofu, preserved tofu and even tofu ice cream.

The 300-meter-long old street was recently renovated from 2010 to 2012 restoring all store fronts with elaborate brick baroque facades from a century ago, giving one the feeling of being transported into the past.

Address: Shenkeng District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 222

9. Yingge Old Street (鶯歌陶瓷老街)


[Photo from Wikimedia Commons]

Just a stone's throw from Sanxia Old Street, Yingge is best known for its pottery and as you stroll through the cobblestone old street, you will see many shops selling its famous ceramic products as well as a large indoor market selling a wide variety of trinkets.

One of the highlights is being able to walk into the inner workings of a "Tunnel Kiln" from which you will eventually find yourself emerging into a ceramics souvenir shop. The nearby Yinge Ceramics museum is also a must see for pottery aficionados.

Address: Jianshanpu Rd., Yingge Dist., New Taipei City 239

10. Jinbaoli Old Street (金包里社)


[Photo by Keoni Everington]

Named for the plains aboriginal tribe that originally inhabited it, this old street is a vibrant, living artery coursing with throngs of people mobbing a myriad of local vendors plying their wares. Visitors flock far and wide to sample its Jinshan Duck, which is sold in front of the Taoist Guang-an Temple.

It is also known for its sweet potato and taro and related products such as chips, candied sweet potatoes and ice cream. The best season to partake in its sweet potato and taro produce is during the main harvest in the early fall after Mid-Autumn festival.

Address: Jinbaoli Old Street, Jinshan District, New Taipei City

(By Keoni Everington)
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