Tamsui or Danshui (in Mandarin) is one of the places that history buffs will fall in love with, at first sight. It is none of those places with posh buildings and futuristic infrastructures. You will find neither sparkling restaurants with menus listing exotic food items nor imported goods that are trending. Instead, the town of Tamsui will take you to locations and settings that none other in the world can. It will take you back to the roots of Taiwan, acquaint you with the past facts and monuments that were for ages, under foreign rule. The town is now notable for its rich offerings and is one of the most popular tourist destinations. Experience some of the amazing places and activities yourself and see why it receives so much love.
Tamsui Old Street
Tamsui Old Street a.k.a. Gongming Street is a hive of activity. Stretched from the northern part of the Tamsui MRT station to the end of the Ferry Pier, the old street is lined with pretty little stalls selling clothes, toys, locally handcrafted souvenirs and many more. Right from morning till late night, the street is permeated with the delicious aroma of various traditional and not so traditional snacks from the snack carts. If truth be told, these smells are what draws people to the old street, like how bees are drawn to honey. Stroll along the street, give your eyes a treat and relish on snacks that will leave you smacking your lips and asking for more. Don't have your fill at one single place, because the street will give you an unending supply of delicacies- more than you can handle and much more than you can imagine. Do not by any means miss the Tower Ice-cream or the longer- than-your- face coned ice cream, because those pieces of delight alone will leave in you, a soft spot for Tamsui.
Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf
Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf is a fishing harbour, with unexpectedly picturesque views, at the western end of the district. It is a very popular hangout for the youths, all thanks to the Lovers’ Bridge. The bridge got its endearing name as it was inaugurated on Valentine's Day of 2003. It instantly became a sensation, especially among young people. The bridge sees hundreds of lovers, every 14th of February. If you are in Tamsui with your significant other, do drop by the bridge and experience beautiful twilight moments. The area is especially packed on weekends, as people popped in for a brief visit and also to have a captivating view of the sun setting into the horizon. In fact, Fisherman's Wharf of Tamsui is renowned in the whole of Taiwan for the vistas of the setting sun that it offers. Watch the blazing sun go down, while you sip on your coffee, with the gentle riverside breeze brushing your face, making the whole experience sublime. As the place is primarily a harbour, you will come across seafood, too fresh to be true.
Fort San Domingo
The Fort of San Domingo, constructed in 1628 and named by the Spaniards has a colourful past. It was in the service of not just the Spanish empire but plenty of foreign governments. Its ownership travelled from ruler to ruler and from government to government over the years. The same fort was demolished by the very hands of its creators after getting defeated by the Dutch in the second battle of San Salvador. Another fort was constructed by the Dutch in 1644, at the same spot where its predecessor had stood. It was then renamed, Fort Antonio. The second version even got the pet name, Fort Red Hair, after the red-haired Dutch. The fort was struck hard during the 1884 Battle of Tamsui but emerged out unharmed. The 9 flags of various countries- Chinese, Japanese, American, Australian, Spanish, Dutch, etc. in front of the structure is a testimony of its changing hands. While you are in the area, step into the Former British Consular Residence, the building that radiates the Victorian era vibes. Take a thorough tour of the place, and the objects on display that dates back centuries. You can call upon the fort anytime between Tuesday and Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM. All you need to do is pay 80NTD, which includes entry charge into the Hobe Fort and Customs Officers’ Residence.
Pay tribute to George Leslie Mackay
The Tamsui that you marvel in today would not have been the same if it was not for George Leslie Mackay, the Presbyterian missionary of Canadian descent who came to the district of Tamsui in 1872. While he was there, he made several contributions for the upliftment of the district. He became an influential figure in Taiwan and founded the church of Tamsui, Huawei Mackay Hospital, which is Taiwan’s first western hospital and others. His greatest contribution, however, is the introduction of girls' education in Taiwan. Tamsui Girls’ School, the first-ever girls’ school in the country was founded by him. The country has great respect for its patron and pays tribute to the noble soul by erecting statues at different places. While one is at Mackay Street, another stands in grandeur at the Tamsui riverbank.
The Hobe Fort, also known as Huawei Fort is 1 km away from the fort of San Domingo. It was constructed during the Qing Dynasty in 1886 by Max E. Hecht, a German engineer. Even though it was built for military action, it never saw any military action. Perhaps, because of this reason, the fort is still in a good shape, even though more than a hundred years have passed by, without a single reconstruction. Other than the barracks and the guns, the fort still maintains a look very close to how it looked in the 19th century. From the thick earthen walls to the steep steps to the massive gates to the walls, Hobe Fort is still the same. You will still see the Chinese words at the gate, which can be translated to ‘The key to the north gate’. The vaults house a museum that preserves documents of how and for what purpose the French came to Tamsui. In 1985, the fort was designated by the Ministry of the Interior as a National Level 2 ancient Monument.
Tamsui Art and Cultural Park
Tamsui Art and Cultural Park stand right behind the Tamsui MRT station. During the olden days, it was renowned as the Shell Tamsui Warehouse and was used to hoard tea and other products, by the English tea merchants. After getting expanded into an oil production company, it reached its heights of glory and had played a significant role in the global oil business, until it met its doom. In the 1944 US bombing, the warehouse was drastically attacked and burnt for 3 days straight. Since then, the deformed warehouse left the limelight and stayed low. However, as the structure once sang the glory of the English empire in Taiwan, it was repaired to retrieve back parts of its reputation. The place is now back to square one and is enjoying hundreds of visits by tourists, though it is no longer the Shell Warehouse of yesteryears but Tamsui Art and Cultural Park. Some of the warehouses are used as craft shops to display pieces of art and culture. It is one of the most favoured hangouts of amateur painters. You will often find budding artists, with their equipment, weaving their most intense thoughts in an array of colours. There is a small museum in the back, and you can easily spend a day around the place, without having to worry about your tummy because a mini bar-restaurant is present on the premises.
The private university of Aletheia did not grow up as Aletheia. During its infancy, it was renowned as Oxford College. It was incorporated in 1882 and is the first institution for higher studies in Taiwan. The ancient building of Oxford College has now changed role and is serving the public as a museum. It is one of the much-cherished legacies left behind by George Leslie Mackay, the man who was instrumental in the development of the country. The museum houses photographs of him and his family, along with moments of the college’s past and other rare pieces of history. Spend an hour or two and learn more of the Canadian who did so much for the country. The campus evolved into a much greater version and was renamed Aletheia University in 1999. Entrance to the old building is free of cost, and there is also a pretty little garden in the vicinity where you can capture some pretty moments.
Iron eggs, to be precise are quail, pigeon or chicken eggs, black, in colour and can look unappetising. But don’t let that fool you. Despite its unwelcoming colour, they have a chewy and flavoursome texture and taste nothing like the regular boiled eggs. They are repeatedly stewed in a mixture of herbs, spices and air-dried. It has got a sweet and spicy yet salty taste to it, with a concentrated egg flavour. It originated in the town of Tamsui and is believed to have been created accidentally from soy eggs, one rainy day when business wasn’t going so well, by restaurateur Huang Zhangnian, who served them to the dockhands in the seaside town. It became an instant hit and has been selling since then like hotcakes, under the brand Apotiedan, or Grandma’s Iron Eggs. Over the years, the acquired fame of Iron eggs keeps on rising, making it a popular snack not only in Tamsui but also in the Middle East and Africa, as well. Don’t even think of packing your bags to head back home, without experiencing the rich taste of the black eggs because Tamsui can never claim the name “Tamsui” without the iron eggs and in the end, you can do nothing but regret the chance you didn’t take.
Tamsui Customs wharf
The Tamsui Customs Wharf is close to San Domingo and is at a walking distance from the Tamsui MRT station. It is constructed in 1869, out of stones from the Guanyin Mountain. The 150-metre long wharf, located alongside the Tamsui River was an important port during the 19th century and is still one of the most commercial ports in Taiwan. It is a creation of China’s Qing dynasty and is their only remaining pier in Taiwan. Ironically, it was used not by the Chinese but by the British who had full control of the Customs administration. Often times, artistically driven locals claim their temporary spots by the riverside and spread out their canvases and easels to paint mesmerising views of the Guanyin Mountain.
A- Gei is another traditional snack that originated in Tamsui. It is a piece of fried tofu, stuffed with cooked Cellophane or glass noodles and sealed with fish paste. The snack is the masterpiece creation of Yang Zheng Jinwen, who created it in 1965, out of various food items. It was named after Aburaage, a Japanese fried and stewed tofu. When the temperature drops, A-Gei taste best when accompanied, hand in hand, with a bowl of stuffed fish ball soup. However, if you are feeling the heat, you can also help yourself to a serving of A-Gei, with a glass of cold soy milk. Either way, the taste is awesome. Whether you prefer it with fish ball soup or cold soy milk, the choice is yours.