Saturday, October 31, 2015

Danshui - Taipei by the Sea

Danshui or Tamsui (淡水), literally “clear water,” is a lively yet laidback seaside district in Taipei known for its street life and scenery.  Only a short train ride away from the city center, I—flanked by Wesleys—hopped aboard the MRT and headed out there to catch the sunset (my brother’s last, and my first in Taiwan).  It was perfect timing for my brother to join us in exploring our country of heritage for the first time together.  My brother wasn’t even born yet the last time I went to Taiwan with my family.  It was surreal that we were doing this.

My parents have shared many good times in Danshui in their youth.  Dad was a college student in Danshui for two years.  He went to school and lived in a dormitory up on a hill overlooking the water, with an unobstructed view of Guanyin Shan, the mountain in the background of some of these photos.  He told me that the mountain is named after the goddess of mercy, Guanyin, because the peaks resemble the face of the goddess lying down - but only from higher up, not from the bottom where we were.  The pictures that we took do not resemble what he remembers Danshui to be like - due to a spike in tourism in the area, it is no longer the quaint fisherman's village that it used to be.  He recounted how he worked at a restaurant here to make extra money in order to take out his girlfriend, who happened to be my mother.  My mom would take a long bus-ride from the city to meet him, and then they would go out on his motorcycle, with Mom sitting side-saddle, as was appropriate for women at the time.  Someday, it would be great to go back with my parents and let them be our tour guides and storytellers.  The sights and sounds of modern attractions were exhilarating, but if only we could see what they saw when they were young lovers out there.

With our shirts stuck to our backs, the three of us (Wesley, Wesley, and I) gleefully lined up for our first taste of boba at a 50Lan stall right when we exited the train, delighted to find that they default to using real milk rather than milk powder in their drinks, appalled to see that the standard size of boba here is that of a Starbucks Trenta.  I tried my best to balance the cup in one hand and my camera in the other, until it became unbearably annoying to make adjustments and I recruited my brother to be my official drinkholder.  By this time, my brother was already guzzling the remainder of my husband’s drink, which he had also found to be too logistically discombobulating to carry around while trying to snap photos.  

We reached the Old Street area just in time to capture the sun setting through a foreground of bubbles blown by children and street vendors.  Our feet carried us along a crowded path on rickety rental bikes.  We stopped to watch a Taiwanese punk rock band perform, and we heard the racket of a few others as we pedaled along in the muggy dusk.  We noshed on our first stinky tofu skewer, and we found red bean patties that could barely contain themselves.  My brother taught me how to shoot with a BB gun, and we were offered ugly stuffed animals but bartered for a Minion after having successfully burst fifty balloons.  I felt somewhat rebellious…our parents never let us play the carnival games or purchase “dirty” street food!  As disobedient children in our twenties, we did our best to soak in this strange yet familiar culture with our eyes, our ears, our mouths, our noses, and our skin.  It felt good.

1 comment:

  1. Oooo the red bean pancake thing looked so yummy! We call it imagawayaki - what's it called in Taiwan?