May 31, 2013

[Non-Touristic] Danshui Old Street? We Expect More.

When it comes to traveling, I believe throughout everyone's lifetime, we must have asked ourselves one question --- how to learn more about a placeWe might do research a lot before the trip begins. We might call for a local guidance. We might stay at a certain place for a longer period, if our budget or our boss permits. However while making so much effort, we might end up facing a struggle: Is it possible that we avoid the major tourist attractions, but still get the essence of a local community?

Our guests walking through a silent trail where an old community tells stories of the past. 

When I was designing a Walkabout tour in Danshui, I told myself NOT to plan a journey that is too involved in the main tourist attractions, like the "commercial" old street, which is actually not the oldest one in Danshui. I had once studied in Danshui for fours years and I love this lovely cultural little town. And to be honest, I sometimes got annoyed by tourist invasion around 4 or 5 o'clock everyday. The reason why I decided not to take our guests to the main tourist area is that I think they deserve receiving something more profound and something that shouldn't be left out --- the cultural memories in the present.

So this time, 30-cm tall ice cream
And no lining up for fish ball soup anymore!

The most representative natural assets in Danshui --- Danshui River and Guanyin Mountain

While planning this Danshui tour, I hope to cover a few cultural dimensions of Danshui. Culturally speaking, Danshui consists two major parts. First part features the culture of "Han" people, referring to the Chinese. And the most representative area in the present time are Chongjian Street 重建街 and Qingshui Street 清水街, where the most traditional market place and the oldest-known temples are located. The second part features the influence of the western colonialism with some best-known cultural heritages: Fort San Domingo, Little White House and Mackay Memorial Chapel.

Han/Chinese Culture 
Red bricks and the rustic street plate now becoming unique former culture presentations

One of the three major temples in Danshui --- Danshui Longshan Temple
In the center of the traditional market in Qingshui Street, there stands Longshan Temple where the goddess of  sea has been highly worshiped by the locals.

Western colonialism and its representation
Colonialism architecture. Fort San Domingo, the former residence for British officials.
Mackay Memorial Chapel
A view in front of Little White House, with Guanyin Mountain as background.
Besides these two major entities, there's a rather small area that shows a contradiction between urban development and cultural preservation. Just a few meters away from Danshui MRT station, you'll find a rustic floating community, where resided the old veterans who moved to Taiwan from the Mainland during the 1960s, struggling to survive by fishing in the modern time. 

Margin of the city 
This is an area that has long been left out by city development and creates a sense of disorientation and confusion.

It's hard to believe there exists a contradictory scenery that is so close to Danshui MRT station

Danshui was once the most prosperous town of foreign trading during the end of Qing Dynasty. 
The institution has been through several reformations in different eras: first, it was a foreign trading company owned by the British in Qing Dynasty; then The Shell Company bought the company and built up an oil business; during the Japan Occupation Period, it was occupied by the Japanese; a few years later the institution was bombed by Americans during the Second World War.

Thanks to the full devotion of Tamsui Culture Foundation, the former Shell Company has now become a cultural exhibition center. And it is also the first cultural property in Taiwan where a community university is located. 

A saved culture heritage - Shell Company 

A part of the railway is conserved to represent the history that crosses different eras.

Traveling in Danshui tends to be easy whatever your budget or purpose is. Danshui has very much to offer in many aspects: culture, history, art, local life, entertainment, nature and everything, all packed in one town. 

Speaking in a language of cultural preservation, people nowadays are starting to be more and more aware of the idea to keep Danshui's cultural heritages in a complete shape regardless of the booming tourism industry and urban development and extension. 

Although the commercial old street does attract people around for food-tasting and shopping, we actually expect more to happen in this lovely cultural town. 

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