July 24, 2013
Tamsui and Fisherman's Wharf

One of the easiest trips that one can take to get out of Taipei City proper is to Tamsui (the area formerly known as Danshuei). Situated on the northwest coast where the Tamsui River meets the sea, this historic town has undergone and continues to undergo radical transformation.

The origins of this transformation can perhaps be attributed to the MRT, which has been responsible for the rapid development of the greater Taipei area. Where it could take several hours to reach by bus on a weekend pre-MRT era, the MRT takes 45 minutes or so.

The MRT follows the Tamsui River for the last few stations until you reach the Tamsui station. From there, you can follow the river or head to the right and visit the "old street". I'll quickly explain that "old streets" are becoming more popular (well the renovation and promotion of these existing old streets is gaining popularity) in Taiwan. Typically they are old eating and shopping areas which have been spruced up, and this is true in Tamsui. Lot's of tempting snacks can be found with some local produce and lots of little bits and bobs which may or may not be suitable gifts to take home.

If you take the river path though, you will also find places to eat, but in a much more relaxed setting with river views. I personally prefer this option, and despite the popular location you can get a feast for a very reasonable price at a proper sit down restaurant. There is of course a focus on seafood, but that's no bad thing in my opinion! If you're not hungry, you can also grab a coffee and enjoy the views and breeze.

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There a number of shops/stalls along the section of the river path near the MRT station with old style games which seem to keep children occupied. It seems as though the level of noise that used to be associated with this area has been toned down somewhat in recent years, which is also a good thing in my opinion. In general the path along the river has also been considerably improved, and for the most part it is child friendly.

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Several ferries run from this area (at time of writing, although more routes may be added), one to Bali (not that one) and the other to Fisherman's Wharf. You can walk to Fisherman's Wharf, but it is a reasonable walk (especially with young children), and the ferry is kind of fun and cheap. In fact you can use an Easy card (the same card you can use on the MRT and local busses), and both take around 10 minutes.

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Fisherman's Wharf has developed at a rate of knots (sorry about that, couldn't resist the nautical reference), with a huge new hotel and various places of entertainment. Don't expect to find jetties with lots of people fishing as the "wharf" is surrounded by the walls necessary for protection against the sizeable storms that beset the country. However, it is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. There is enough space for the children to run around, plenty of snack and tea/coffee shops to keep you refreshed, and a large UFO tower type thing (a rotating tower with an observation deck).

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I mentioned above that there more be more ferry routes coming soon, and at least one was certainly signposted. The "blue highway" as it's being touted as an extension to the public transport system in Taipei would be a great way to get around, and I'll post again if more routes are added. There are a number of pleasure cruise type boats in the wharf as well, although they seemed to be for private hire rather than scheduled cruises. If you don't want to take the ferry back to the MRT station there are plenty of busses from just behind the hotel.

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I've written before about Fort San Domingo, and that is a must see if you come to Tamsui I think. I will also be looking into the history of the area in future posts, as Tamsui was one of the first places in Taipei where foreign residents lived. In the meantime though, hop on the MRT and enjoy a day by the sea.

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