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A Day in the World of Dadaocheng's Century-Old Graces

Dadaocheng was once Taipei's most important commercial port; here is an escape to the “city of old” via the historical architecture, old folk customs, fabric shops, Chinese-medicine shops, and other cultural gems.Dadaocheng is a place of many charms and myriad fascinations. A shopping emporium with wonderful Dihua St. as its lifespring, shoppers and thrill-seekers have been coming here well over a hundred years to satisfy both whim and need. Come in the short lead-up to Lunar New Year and you'll be deeply impressed by the fantastic press of buyers and sightseers revelling at the vast cornucopia of all things traditional that are needed to celebrate the arrival of the new spring and new beginnings.

2. The renowned Dadaocheng purveyor of meat-filled steamed buns, Miaokou Roubao.Dadaocheng was at one time Taipei's main port and commercial center. The portside foreign-run factories stood like a small forest, making this one of the earliest loci for contact with Western culture in the Taipei Basin. The result was that Dadocheng locals became adept at communicating with these travelers from far-distant lands, exhibiting a zeal for commerce. Today the traces of the Taipei of old linger throughout the community—in the heritage architecture, in the traditional folk customs, in the fabric shops, in the Chinese-medicine shops, in the old-style fine foods and snacks, and in much else. Here we set out two routes for neighborhood day-tours for you. Choose the one that best suits your likes (or choose both and come again a second day). Both allow for slow savouring of the Dadaocheng's many century-old graces. Try to visit on a non-holiday to allow yourself greatest room for leisurely strolling through a place that enjoys living just a little bit in the past, by choosing the best of that past to live on.

Historical Architecture and Fine Foods Tour
Admire historical architecture on Dihua St.→Buy hand-made pastries at Li Ting-xiang Cake Shop→Eat traditional snack foods at Yi Mian Wang→Enjoy heritage architecture at Koo Family Salt Hall→Eat traditional steamed buns with meat filling at Miaokou Roubao→Admire historical architecture at old Chen Tian-lai Residence→Admire historical architecture at Li Chun-sheng Memorial Church→Soak in the sunset at Dadaocheng Wharf

3. Li Ting-xiang Cake Shop, a century-old business on Dihua St.1. Authentic Yi noodles and won ton soup at “Yi Noodles King”Each and every building on old shophouse-lined Dihua St., it seems, stores a treasure-vault of stories. It is suggested that when traveling this tour route, you start at the north end of Dihua St. by the Taipei Bridge and move south. As you walk along, historical relics slide by, old shophouses shoulder to shoulder, no space in between, each narrow-fronted and running far to the rear. The roofs are in the classic Chinese minnan (Fujian south) style, slanted and covered in ceramic tile. There are fine-looking two-story Western colonial-style buildings as well. These are decorated with expressive gables and parapets, and also sport attractive flower and plant images on the facade and capitals. These exuberant Baroque embellishments at first startle the onlooker because they are found in a non-Western cultural environment, but soon blend seamlessly into the local manmade habitat. To protect its original, authentic appearance, the city government has moved to protect, restore, and rejuvenate Dihua St., using incentives and subsidies to encourage renovation, encouraging area inhabitants to preserve the architectural integrity of their heritage properties. The result has been a renaissance and creation of another beauty in the city's expanding strong of neighborhood pearls.

4. Li Chun-sheng Memorial Church, a European-style Baroque creation.As you move along Dihua St., you may well smell the Li Ting-xiang Cake Shop before you see it. All the many cakes and pastries here are hand-crafted in the traditional way. Each is stamped with an auspicious symbol inviting peace and prosperity; buying these as gifts for friends will be something exotic and novel. A little further along the street, turn left down old Guisui St. to visit Yi Mian Wang, which means “Yi Noodles King”; Yi noodles are egg/wheat noodles that are fried. In an earlier guise, the shop here sold peanut soup, but it was later switched to the new food treat and a new name that brought the location widespread renown. Take time to munch down some genuine old-time Yi noodles and delicious standard complementary side-dish foods, topped off with a serving of shaved ice with sweet toppings.

5. The sunsets over the Danshui River at Dadaocheng are lovely, and draw many romantic types.Continue walking east along Guisui St. and then head down Lane 309 to find the stately Koo Family Salt Hall standing before you. Today housing a preschool, yesterday it was home to the powerful Koo family (still powerful today), the extravagant exterior with its bold mix of Western and Min (Fujianese) architectural elements clearly demonstrating the family' s lofty position in Dadaocheng society.

Time now to head back to Dihua St. At the corner of Dihua St. and Minsheng W. Rd., you'll see the Miaokou Roubao stand, no doubt with a lineup before it. Roubao are traditional-style steamed buns with juicy minced meat inside, and the roubao here are extra juicy and extra savory, a fact that has brought this little snack vendor a big reputation. Continuing south, enter Guide St. Here you'll come across the old Chen Tian-lai Residence, Li Chun-sheng Memorial Church, and the solid block of old-style shops on what was once called Qianqiu Jie or “Thousand Autumns Street.” The classically ornate Baroque-style buildings here make it easy to imagine this spot in its heyday, lined with foreign owned factories, goods coming and going in stupendous quantity to and from distant lands.

You are now by Danshui River and the Dadaocheng Wharf. This was for some time Taipei's water window to the world. By the wharf, you'll see a large, colorful mockup of the type of Junk ship used by the commercial concerns of old to transport goods to/from the bigger ships lying downriver at the seaport of Danshui. The long, meandering riverside bike path streams by, and many riders converge here toward twilight to take in the lovely sunset over the Danshui. This is a fine time to imagine the sailing craft mooring for the night a century ago in an exotic world now just memory, and a fine way to end your day touring proud old Dadaocheng, you'll surely agree.

Historical Architecture and Fine Foods Tour Koo Family Salt Hall
Add: No. 9, Lane 303, Guisui St.
Chen Tian-lai Residence
Add: No. 73, Guide St.
Li Chun-sheng Memorial Church
Add: No. 44, Guide St.
Tea-Refining History and Traditional Goods
Shopping Tour
Yongle Fabric Market
Add: 2 & 3F, No. 21, Sec. 1, Dihua St.
Xiahai City God Temple
Add: No. 61, Sec. 1, Dihua St.
Lin Liu-Hsin Puppet Theatre Museum
Tel: (02) 2556-8909
Add: No. 79, Xining N. Rd.
Website: http://www.taipeipuppet.com/english/index-menu.html