Taiwan/Japan 2018 – Day 4 – Getting Out of the City

Breakfast

For breakfast we took a bus from our hotel, three stops, to Fuhang Soy Milk. Fuhang is one of those places that does few things, but does them well. And it is very popular for it. The stall itself is tucked away in the inconspicuous second floor food court of an unremarkable building, but the line snaking around the corner will tell you that you are in the right place. Although the line runs down the stairs and out the door, expect the wait to only take about 30 minutes on an average day.

The menu is simple, and you order in steps. First, choose your soy milk. Either sweet or salty. Next, you choose any baked goods you’d like on the side. The breads are fresh baked in a kiln and come either plain (but with a slightly salty flavor, like a pretzel) or stuffed with egg or a Chinese donut. There are pictures for you to consider while you wait in line. Once your tray is loaded up, way with cash at the end of the line.

Tamsui District

Our main destination for the day was the seaside district of Tamsui. It is reached from downtown Taipei by the subway red line, taken all the way to the last stop.

Tamsui is a small (by Asian standards) town/district near the water with a view that overlooks the Taiwan Strait. On a nicer day, you could ride bikes for the stretch along the water. It is also common to spot locals fishing from the boardwalks and piers. Once the town wakes up, the streets closest to the water and the subway station have the atmosphere of a street fair, but at the time we arrived (10 am), Tamsui was still waking up and many of the stores were still closed.

From the MRT station we walked east, following the waterfront. One store was open this morning; Mr. Brown Cafe. We stepped in for our morning coffee/bubble tea.

After that refreshment, we continued east along Tamsui Old Street. This street is the main tourist shopping street, though at this time in the morning it was only beginning to wake up. A couple of blocks further east, we passed Tamsui Church. However, we didn’t linger, as our destination was Fort San Domingo.

Fort San Domingo

At the end of Old Street, continue about one block east along the road. The entrance to Fort San Domingo is on the uphill side.

Fort San Domingo started as the site of Spanish occupation, but changed hands many times. The compound most recently served at the British consulate up until 1972. Given the extensive history, I was expecting a structure that would reflect its old age. But due to continuous use by various foreign bodies, the main buildings have been continuously updated and remain quite livable by modern standards. The older Fort building contains exhibits that detail the history of occupation of Taiwan by foreign entities. The main building to the west still contains furniture and other elements of the British consulate, giving a glimpse into consulate life.

Fisherman’s Wharf

After Fort San Domingo, we followed the edge of the water back east to the ferry for Fisherman’s Wharf.

The ferry for Fisherman’s Wharf departs every hour, and a one-way journey costs NT60. If you easily become seasick, I recommend delaying boarding of the ferry as long as possible, as the boat rocks quite a bit while sitting at the dock. Once underway, conditions are much smoother. The journey out is about 30 minutes.

The main attraction of Fisherman’s Wharf is Lover’s Bridge.

Perhaps because of the gray weather or off season, the rest of the wharf area was very quite with few shops open. While we were excited to see the iconic bridge in person, there was very little else to do in this area.

Instead of waiting for the return ferry, we took the 26 bus back to Tamsui Old Street. The bus is a comfortable alternative if you’re not into boat rides, and route 26 has convenient stops both near the wharf and near Old Street.

Lunch at Old Street

The neighborhood has dramatically increased in liveliness during our absence. We stopped at two different places for lunch.

At our first location, near where the ferry embarked, we shared a plate of stinky tofu.

At the second location, a sort of big fat dumpling with an outer layer of fried tofu and inner stuffing of glass noodles and fish paste, and boiled fish balls.

After lunch, we headed back to the MRT station.

Chiang Kia-Shek Shilin Residence

On the way back toward downtown Taipei, we made a stop over at the Shilin station of the MRT red line to visit the former residence of Chiang Kai-Shek. The grounds has free admittance, but the largest draw may be the actual home of Chiang and his wife. Entrance to the home was NT100 each.

The former residence is filled with original furniture and various other artifacts from Chiang’s life and evidence of his political influence. Note that very little of the text within the home carries English translations, so if you don’t read Chinese it is advisable to check out an audio tour guide before beginning.

After touring the home, we spent some time walking around the orchards and rose garden on the property.

Dinner

For dinner, we headed to a small restaurant serving guabao. Guabao is a traditional Taiwanese food; resembling a small taco or sandwich made with a Chinese-style bun and stuffed with pork. The restaurant we visited was called Lanjia Guabao and can be found off of the Gongguan stop of the green line.

Yuling says if there is one place you need to visit when you come to Taipei, it is Lanjia Guabao.

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