Hopping on the Taipei MRT local subway, you can easily take one of the main lines to the very northern stop at a small town called Dansui, also spelled “Tamsui”. This small town was once a major port of commerce in the 1800s, and it has historic sites worth checking out, such as the Dutch Fort San Domingo or Hongmao Castle and old temples that have absorbed the hopes, fears, and dreams of generations of people in the area. Unfortunately, our time constraints didn’t allow us to visit such historic points of interest, but we did at least get a chance to enjoy a bike ride along the harbor and really experience the ambiance of the place.
I’d read that Dansui is known for beautiful sunsets, but our day was a cloudy one. Nevertheless, there was a certain mysterious otherworldly feel to the place as a result, and the gloom actually created its own sort of melancholy beauty.
The bike rental we got our wheels from were right outside of the MRT train station when we got there, which was also right by the water. Once we were each on two wheels and mobile, we began with a nice smooth sidewalk path that was easy to glide effortlessly on as we weaved around pedestrians and their pets.
However, to make things interesting, the bike path isn’t as clear cut as it is in Santa Monica, Venice, or Huntington Beach. This probably had to do with the place being pretty old and not exactly cohesively developed. Soon after the smooth concrete, we found ourselves getting our bones shaken as we were rolling over a brick path that was also teeming with people enjoying local shops, booths, and carts spilling out of a major local street/night market. It was pretty tough trying not to run over people’s toes.
The crowd cleared up, but the evenness of the path did not return, and it was just really hard to tell what was going to come up next. There was a very interesting statue collection under some drooping trees whose branches dipped poetically into the water. In what looked like bronze casting was a little girl and surrounding her were a number of cat statues as well. If anyone can tell me the story behind that girl, I’d be much obliged.
At one point, the “road” ended at a set of concrete steps that went right into the ocean, probably for small boat boarding, and then there was a slab of sidewalk that pretty much just lead out into the water and ended. Probably also a small landing area for small boats, although there were none in sight.
We had to make a sharp right and ended up on the narrow sidewalk of a major street instead, and since everyone was trying to find a way back to the waterside, everyone started taking different routes and we had to try to regroup at the end.
The path finally got back to being more friendly and cohesive, becoming a series of nicely built wooden walkways, but our rental clock was ticking, so we had to head back.
Hungry after the ride, we had a choice of restaurants, fast food, street market, and department store food courts. We opted for the food court, since the street market looked like a thick river of people that we’d have to fight through to get a bite to eat. We were not disappointed with the food court selection, as we found this interesting place that sold sizzling hot plate and boiling hot soup all still cooking when they hand it to you insulated in a wooden block. Delicious.
Next up, helmeted hiking in Taroko Gorge.