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06 June, 2017

[TRAVEL] 10 Things We Do in Tamsui (淡水), Taipei, Taiwan

慢游台湾 · 淡水2日1夜游 / Danshui, Taiwan 

Continuing from my last post about the first 3 days of 3D2N Taichung-Sun Moon Lake-Cingjing trip, and 2D1N in Jiufen-Shifen-Pingxi-Ruifang lantern towns, we have touched plenty of historical and cultural places in Taipei...and now we have arrived at Dan Shui!

Tamsui, or more precisely known as Danshui (淡水), is a heritage seaside town which I have fallen in love with during my vacation in Taipei. Honestly I didn’t know there are so many hidden gems located within the New Taipei City, and Danshui is certainly one of them.

This historical township has very distinctive Spanish and Dutch influences mostly on the architecture. Wherever we go, we see tastefully-designed buildings which have been standing boldly in Danshui since centuries ago.

9D8N Itinerary in Taiwan
Day 1: KL - Taoyuan - Taichung
Day 2: Taichung - Sun Moon Lake (Blog)
Day 3: Sun Moon Lake - Qingjing - Taipei City (Blog)
Day 4: Ximending, Taipei
Day 5: Jiufen - Shifen - Pingxi - Ruifang, Taipei (Blog)
Day 6: Jiufen - Danshui, Taipei (Blog)
Day 7: Danshui - Daan District, Taipei
Day 8: Yang Ming Shan National Park - Shilin, Taipei
Day 9: Taipei 101 - KL

Let's zoom into the 6th and 7th day of my trip to Taiwan...

DAY 6/7: Dan Shui (淡水), Taipei (台北)

How To Get To Danshui:
 ❤ Take MRT (Red line) and alight at the last station, Danshui.
(The journey from Taipei Main Station to Danshui Station is around 40 minutes)
NTD40 for Easycard users (=RM6)

Although Danshui is a relatively small town and you can basically tour around Danshui within 1 day, I personally prefer spending more time here to enjoy the laidback lifestyle and vibrant streets here. So, we spend 2 days 1 night here and it’s totally worth our time!

Travelling Tips: Book a hotel / B&B early because of the popularity of this place. Best to stay near the MRT station / Danshui Old Street for ultimate convenience.

To explore conveniently around Danshui, take the Bus No. R26 which brings you to the
various attractions in this town (But please note that the buses operates till 12am only).

So, here are the 10 main highlights of Danshui which we manage to do/visit:

1. Eat all you want along Danshui Old Street (淡水老街)

Danshui Old Street, similar to Jiufen Old Street (Blog), is filled with many shops which have been around for decades, ranging from food and knick-knacks to art and craft. But on a second thought, it actually exudes a totally different mood here – Less scenic but equally vibrant and high in energy.

How To Get To Danshui Old Street:
❤ Exit from Danshui / Tamsui MRT station, just follow the crowd as they are mostly going to the Old Street area.

Food is everywhere along the old streets area. But the No.1 must-try item is Danshui Original Cake (现烤蛋糕), the famous old school sponge cake which still practises the most traditional baking method in town. It comes in two flavours: Original and Cheese. And of course being a cheese lover myself, I certainly go for the latter.

I know this brand is now in Malaysia too and people queue for hours for it! The queue in Danshui is quite long, but totally worth the wait. Made of only 4 basic ingredients (Flour, milk, sugar and egg), the sponge cake is extremely smooth and airy, exuding rich eggy aroma which I can smell from far.

My cheese version is equally fluffy, and the cheesy filling is deliciously rich and melty in the mouth. The best part is, one whole slab is priced at only NTD100 (=RM14)! I heard those in Malaysia are sold at RM20-25, that’s a huge gap in terms of price.

NTD100 (=RM14)

Red Bean Cartwheel Cake (车轮红豆饼) @ NTD10 (=RM1.50)

Don’t forget to get some Ah Po Tie Dan (阿婆铁蛋) local delicacy home too! This "Grandma Iron Egg" is a marinated quail egg snack, with savoury flavours from five-spice powder, rock sugar, soy sauce and salt. Delicious! 

 Located right in the heart of the Old Street area, there is a Chinese Ma Zu Temple (妈祖庙),
for those who would like to have a prayer for health, longevity, etc here.

 Tamsui Mackay Church (淡水基督長老教會) is nearby too.

2. Take a river cruise ride

Approaching evening, the weather will start to turn cold and it’s the best time to go for a romantic river cruise ride around the Taiwan Strait. But, be prepared for a fair bit of queue there.

NTD23-60 (=RM3-9)

You can take a boat ride to the famous Fisherman's Wharf, or to a more tranquil jetty in Bali (八里), a smaller township just across the Taiwan Strait -- Great for relaxing and just chilling.

3. Enjoy sunset by the riverbank

One of the main reasons why Danshui is such a popular tourist attraction is because of its perfect location for viewing the sun setting into the Taiwan Strait. Danshui only has 2 best spots for sunset – One is along Danshui Riverbank where we have our sunset moment together, another is at the Fisherman's Wharf (Please see the next point).

The crowd around 5pm++ in Danshui Riverbank is already overwhelming!

Travelling Tips: The sun sets quite early in Taipei (Around 6.30pm), so the best time to go to the Danshui Riverbank / Fisherman’s Wharf is around 5pm – for sufficient time to chill and get a good spot. 

#OOTD in Danshui [The pastel blue outerwear is only NTD100 (=RM15)!]

Then...when the sun sets and the sky turns romantic...


4. Evening stroll along the Fisherman's Wharf and Lover's Bridge
How To Get There: 
❤ Walk, for approximately 30 minutes; or
❤ Board onto a boat (See Point 2); or 
❤ Take the Taipei Metro Tamsui Line: Bus No. Red-26, 836, or 837. 

Danshui Fisherman's Wharf (淡水漁人碼頭) is more than just an important fishing harbour, but also is now a scenic spot for beautiful sunset and fresh seafood. Taking centre stage of this area is the lovebirds’ favourite Danshui Lover's Bridge (情人橋). You can watch the sunset from the 200m bridge, or take a romantic stroll here with your loved ones. 

The water is surrounded by the riverbank scenery platform, where I can easily spend whole night there appreciating what I see in front of me – the illuminating Danshui river, reflecting myriad of lights from the white bridge.

The rest of this recreational area is packed with restaurants, convenient store and my favourite Starbucks chain. There is also a daily live band performance at one of the restaurants, where you can enjoy the beats of Taiwanese mandopop music while sipping on a glass of wine or beer. 

Taiwanese hot taro balls peanut soup is our supper of the day to warm the stomach
after a long evening walk.

5. Rent a bike and tour around Danshui!

When you are at a foreign place, always try to live like a local! Danshui is a safe and peaceful place for biking, if you want a better experience in the township. Plus, renting a YouBike (台北市公共自行車) here is easy peasy, just tap your preloaded EasyCard and you’re good to go!

6. Visit Fort San Domingo (紅毛城)

If you are into history and architecture, a visit to the Fort San Domingo museum complex located at the hilltop will definitely be an enriching experience. Although it was built by the Dutch back in the 17th century, the fort is very well-preserved. But, it is a scorching hot day and we decide to give it a pass.

NTD80 (=RM11) entrance fee

Other historical attractions recommended for the town explorers include Tamsui Art Gallery, Tamsui Little White House (淡水小白宫 – the Customs Officer's residence since centuries ago) and more. 

7. Visit Aletheia University (真理大學)

Back in 1882, it is just an ordinary school named Oxford College but today it becomes a popular tourist spot which is flooded with thousands of people everyday. Interestingly, the original Chinese name of the school means “The Hall of Reason of the University.”

#OOTD on the following day in Danshui

Because Danshui is the home of Jay Chou (周杰倫)’s high school, some of the scenes in his movie “Secret” (不能说的秘密) are filmed in this university, including the most touching scene in the piano room! How I’d wish the piano is still there now.

8. Try the most authentic A-Gei!

Apparently “a-gei” is Danshui’s No.1 specialty local delicacy which you should try at least once in Danshui. There are 3 popular places in Danshui where you can have this a-gei: 
❤ Original Store A-Gei (老店阿給) 
❤ Three Sisters A-Gei (三姊妹阿給)
❤ Wenhua A-Gei (文化阿給)

We reach the Original Store around 12 noon and the a-gei is already sold out, so we proceed next door to Wenhua A-Gei restaurant where the waiting line is at least 20 minutes long. 

Here you can choose to have your individual a-gei served with chilli sauce in 4 different levels of spiciness, and a bowl of stuffed fish ball soup. The a-gei itself reminds me of our very own Hakka Yong Tau Fu, as a-gei is a huge piece of fried tofu, stuffed with cooked Cellophane noodles, and sealed with surimi (imitated crab meat). 

The noodle is something like glass noodles, slightly translucent and very silky-crunchy in texture. But the winning taste comes from the spicy gravy itself – a blend of thick sweet soy sauce and spicy sauce which gives the palate an instant kick. Considering the portion size, the a-gei is not a cheap delicacy. One set of a-gei with fish ball soup can cost NTD70 per person (=RM10). 

NTD40 per a-gei (=RM6) / NTD30 for fish ball soup (=RM4.50)

9. Visit the local night market

While on the way back from Danshui Old Street, we pass by a local night market which is just 3 minutes walk away from our B&B. Approaching 10pm, some hawker stalls are still open and we manage to grab some oden in warm broth for supper.

The chilly weather in the evening can go down to 13 degree Celcius,
so a warm bowl of oden in broth would certainly help. 

If you are feeling peckish, try the old man’s signature egg fried rice too – the rice is so fluffy, and beautifully coated with soft eggs. Honestly I have not tried such delicious fried rice in my life! 

Sandwich Doughnut @ NTD40 (=RM6)
Interesting snacks also win the hearts of locals and tourists alike.

Sweet Malt "Ox Tongue" Snack (甜麦芽牛舌饼) @ NTD20 (=RM3)

 Rabbit Rabbit Tea, a famous milk tea chain in Taiwan is just a stone throw away from our B&B.

 10. Stay overnight at the lovely B&B:
Happiness Inn (这一站 幸福 民宿)!
No.149, Sec. 1, Shuiyuan Street, Danshui District, Taipei 251, Taiwan.
Contact: +886 2 2626 1133

Like I’ve said earlier, I prefer a rather slow-paced vacation to take my own sweet time to explore Danshui. So I spend a night at one of Danshui’s most recommended B&Bs – Happiness Inn, Danshui (这一站幸福 民宿).

This minsu uses smart card access system, definitely safe and convenient.

❤ Location: 9/10
8-minute walk from MRT Tamsui Station, while Tamshui Old Street is a 10-minute walk away.
❤ Nearby amenities: 7/10
24-hour Family Mart is right in front of the inn, while a local night market is located across the street (See Point 9). 

The B&B is located in a silent neighbourhood, away from the bustling tourist spots, yet convenient enough to go to the nearby attractions by foot. Upon check-in, the staff happily assists us to carry our luggages to the room, and spends time explaining to us some of the attractions nearby and how to get there, etc.

Next to the check-in counter, there is a shared lounge where guests can bring their own food and chill there. Complimentary services such as postcard delivery and picture-taking at the photobooth are available too. How sweet they are! I mean, the impeccable services they provide far exceed my expectations here.

Our room, situated on the second floor (only accessible by stairs; no lifts available) is a lovely Nordic and Japanese style room with plenty of soft, white lights shining from all angles.

The in-room facilities are pretty complete – flat-screen TV with cable channels, electric kettle and refrigerator as well as private bathroom which comes with free toiletries and a hairdryer.

Most importantly, free WiFi is available throughout the whole premise. Free laundry facility (self-service) is always open at the 2nd floor too, just next to the room I stay.

When we check out by 12 noon on the following day, they help take care our luggages up to 6pm on the same day of check-out. 
Overall, I am a very satisfied guest of Happiness Inn, Danshui. Great location, good value for money, perfectly quiet place for couples’ getaway. A cosy, no frills B&B that I’d highly recommend to you guys. 

Danshui is indeed a beautiful seaside town and probably the nearest spot for sunset away from Taipei city area. Perhaps I am the kind of person who loves staying by the nature, especially by the sea.

Being surrounded by water alone is enough to make me a happy kid. Be it with your family, friends or other half, I believe Danshui is a small lovely town that you'd enjoy as an escape from the urban metropolitan.

Next Up: 1 Day Trip  in Taiwan Yang Ming Shan National Park 

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