[This post will be updated if new information about places around the station comes available. 🙂 ]
After arriving at the terminal station of the Tamsui-Xiny Line, head to the Tamsui Old Street, visit Fort San Domingo and other heritage sites and watch the sunset other from the river bank close the old street or at Fishermen’s Wharf at the mouth of the river. To get there, take a bus or a ferry from the Tamsui Wharf. You can also take the ferry to the opposite side of the river and check out the small settlement of Bali.
Tamsui Old Street (淡水老街)
You could easily spend a whole day exploring the delights of Tamsui. Tamsui Old Street is the place to load up on the town’s renowned iron eggs (quails’ eggs stewed in spices and dried until chewy), and of course visit the surreal Believe It Or NotMuseum, with its assortment of pickled oddities and some live ones too – a two-headed, six-legged turtle for one. Along the riverbank you can take in herons fishing in the Tamsui estuary, blow all your change on fairground-style games, and try another Tamsui specialty, ah-gei (fried beancurd stuffed with vermicelli noodles) at the Original Ah-Gei Store (No. 4, Alley 11, Zhongzheng Rd.).
Up the narrow set of stone stairs that make up Alley 14 of Zhongzheng Rd. is the Red Castle – a 19th-century mansion built in the Victorian style, now home to a high-end restaurant and terrace bar with wonderful views from the café on the 3rd floor. Follow the river downstream and you’ll come to the “Old Dutch Fort,” Fort Antonio (better known as Fort San Domingo) and the Former British Consular Residence. From the fort, head uphill on Zhenli Street and you’ll arrive at the former Tamsui Customs Officer’s Residence, also known as the Little White House – a beautiful white colonial-style building with vaulted arcades, fronting a meticulously tended garden.
Bali Old Street
Across the river from Tamsui, just a few meters from where you step off the ferry, Bali Old Street is a slightly shorter, slightly more laid-back version of Tamsui Old Street. The pace here is a little slower, a little less frantic than its counterpart on the other side of the river. Food choices include more roasted corn, fried squid, corn dogs, barbequed tofu, and fried birds’-eggs-on-a-stick than you can shake a stick at. The most popular vendor though is undoubtedly the donut shop at the top of the street. Three snacks are on sale here – your classic donut, a two-pronged crispy bun called “twins,” and taro cookies, which consist of taro paste sandwiched between two deep-fried cream crackers.
Bali Left Bank Park
A fairly similar experience to Tamsui’s riverside boardwalk, Bali Left Bank Park is, as well, somewhat more easy-going than its cousin across the water. A slew of interesting shops selling Western ’50s-style toys line the bank – think cup-and-ball and rubber-band rifles (though you’ll also find that some are distinctly Taiwanese – child-sized versions of the war god Guan Gong’s Green Dragon Crescent Blade, for example). There are also some expansive green spaces and sheltering trees where you can sit awhile in the shade and enjoy your ice-cream tower. Follow the path downriver and you’ll come to the Wazihwei Conservation Area (挖子尾自然保留區) – an old village and a peaceful mangrove park, which few tourists visit, even on weekends, with soft muddy earth that is home to fiddler crabs and mudskippers galore, as well as several species of waterfowl.
Shihsanhang Museum of Archaeology
The archaeological site at Shihsanhang, discovered in the 1950s, offered up a rich trove of archaeological treasures that shed considerable light on the history of one of Taiwan’s northern lowland tribes. The site threw up pottery, beads, bronze utensils, silver, copperware, gold jewelry, and coins, as well as human and animal remains, some dating back almost 2,000 years, and, moreover, provided evidence that the Shihsanhang people were the earliest in Taiwan to have possessed iron-smelting technology. The museum, opened in 2003 to exhibit the finds, provides a fascinating look both into the lives of this early Taiwan indigenous people and into the archaeological process itself. Good English signage throughout, and lots of hands-on activities for youngsters, makes this a fun place to visit as a family.
HOTEL IN THE AREA
Fullon Tamsui Fishermen’s Wharf
Add: No. 83, Guanhai Rd., Tamsui Dist., New Taipei City
(新北市淡水區觀海路8 3 號)
Tel: (02) 2628-7777
Tamsui is a great starting point for trips along the North Coast.
Read more about the North Coast here:
The North Coast of Taiwan — from Guanyinshan to Keelung
Across the Tamsui River from Tamsui you can see Guanyinshan (Mt. Guanyin), a great place to go for hikes and enjoy marvelous views.
Read more about Guanyinshan here:
GUANYINSHAN (Mt. Guanyin) Travel Guide