After exploring adventure-filled destinations in the outskirts of the main capital, we’re excited to wander finally through Taipei, Taiwan’s metropolitan city. And what better place to start than Dadaocheng, where some of the country’s oldest streets are found. There are more than a 100 year old culture and businesses that still thrive until this day. We had a full afternoon to experience the dazzling array of sights, sounds and even taste as we walk through the lively and charming Dihua street.
Found along the Tamsui River Wharf, north of Taipei, this neighborhood prospered when it became the main city dock for trade during the 1800s. Back then, the area was known as Twatutia, a popular place to cultivate and dry rice husks and grains. Soon, traders began to setup shop by the river. The first tea shop here was established in 1851. Even Taipei’s first train station was established here in 1891. A few years after, Taipei became the capital of Taiwan in 1894. Twatuia became an extension of the city.
For a time, Tawian was colonized by Japan. Then, the Japanese referred to this neighborhood as Taihoku. Since the area became a center for trade, it became a popular place for foreigners to stay. It was until the Koumintang Nationalist Party (KMT) ruled under Chiang Kai-shek when the area was named as Tataocheng or Dadaocheng.
Stroll through Dihua Street
Our walk started at the top of Dihua St section 1 of this main thoroughfare. Satiated after an excellent and filling Guizhou cuisine lunch at Qing Tian Xai, we were ready to hit the pavement. Dihua street, which runs parallel with the Tamsui River was originally called the Central Street. It was until the KMT renamed the street to Dihua Jie.
Upon first look, I was immediately impressed by the old architecture and brick walled pedestrian hallway at this side of Dihua. With a mixture of influences, Dihua showcases a variety of architecture from the traditional Fuijian Qing Dynasty style homes to Japanese modernist Baroque.
It was fascinating to see a variety of businesses here. Reminds me a lot of our Binondo and China town, but some of the businesses goes way back to more than a 100 years ago. Old tea shops, fabrics, groceries and pharmacies blending well with cute and hip cafes, clothing stores and restaurants.
Xiahai City of God Temple
I had fun just looking at the many shops and goods found here. I even tried one of the sesame-based drinks at a vendor on a cyclo. I noticed, as we went deeper into Dihua, the crowd becomes more dense that it became a river of people. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by these crowd but amazing how respectful people are with personal space even if there’s just a few cm to squeeze through.
It becomes really dense and busy around the area near the Xiahai City of God Temple. A small but highly significant as it houses the City of God statue (Xia Hai Cheng Huang God) all the way from Fujian China. It is also popular for people who want to improve their romantic lives or relationships. They have 13 steps to follow in the temple to help your love life prosper.
Dihua Street is just one of the main attraction in Dadaocheng which is under the Datong District. A half say wouldn’t suffice to explore this area if one is particularly interested with architectural heritage and age old establishments. It’s one area I would like to go back to so I can try the old generation tea shops to modern craft beers inside old buildings. Definitely a worthwhile place to stroll when in Taipei.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.