Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Danshui Day Trip

We live in the far south of Taipei, and Danshui is in the far north, so when we go there it's a day trip for us. But it's worth the effort getting there, as the hoards of daytrippers that descend on Danshui most weekends can testify.

Danshui offers everything you could wish from a tacky seaside resort, except the sea. Sited next to a wide river, there are no beaches at Danshui, only plenty of junk food, cheap arcade games and poor quality souvenirs. Not hoping for more than this is the key to enjoying a day in Danshui, plus a tolerance for crowds and excessive noise.

My son loves visiting Danshui. Despite the distance from us, it's very easy to get to, lying as it does at the end of the red MRT line. We take books to read on the train, and arrive there in about an hour.

First on our itinerary are the arcade games. Simple 'shoot the balloons' or 'get the ball in the hole' entertainments, they offer the inevitable terrible, cheap toy prizes that are worth less than the cost of playing the game, and require no effort to win. 

My son loves them.

Next, we indulge in unhealthy snacks. Danshui is most famous for shrunken, black eggs. More to our taste are curly crisps on sticks and tall ice-creams.

There's also a DIY candyfloss machine that's good for a laugh and a malformed product.

Candy floss making is clearly a line of business closed to my child.

Over the last few years, I've noticed Danshui is slowly becoming more upmarket. Trendy shops with slightly more ethical products are beginning to appear among the souvenir stores.

But mostly it's the same streets heaving with slow-moving crowds and scooters.

The views over the river are pleasant, and there are many old fishermen who judge the water clean enough to offer edible fish. I sometimes wonder what changes these old men have seen in the town over their lifetimes.

Danshui is often portrayed in official tourist brochures as the place to catch the ferry to Bali, on the opposite bank of the river.

The Government website also details other attractions such as Hongmao Castle, and refers to Danshui by its more Taiwanese name of Tamsui. This was adopted by the MRT system a year or two ago as well. Danshui, Tamsui, whatever, is the Taiwanese equivalent of British Blackpool, with appropriate entertainments, such as buskers singing hokey songs and accompanying themselves on sythesisers, and living statues.

Another great entertainment for the locals is this man. I believe he's Turkish, and he used to run a kebab shop in Danshui Old Street. He progressed to selling ice-cream, which he does in an entertaining way by withholding it from the buyers with many teasing twists and turns. He also moves his - quite large - stomach and chest muscles in time to music. Very amusing. It's difficult to get past his stall, the crowd he attracts is so large.

This entertainer really captures the spirit of Danshui - fun, silly and lowbrow, and with no pretensions of being anything else.

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