Tamshui - A City
with a Colorful Past
Fort of the Red-haired
|Looking at Taiwan
today it is easy to get the impression that the island's first encounter
with the Western world came with the arrival of McDonald's barely over a
decade ago. Although this is far from true, evidence of early Western
involvement in Taiwan, which dates back to the arrival of the Portuguese
in 1517, is hard to come by. A fortunate exception to this general rule is
found in the fishing town of Tamshui (which means "freshwater"),
20 km northwest of Taipei. Here, remnants of earlier Western contact still
stand perfectly preserved.
|Remnants of the
|Fort San Domingo, as
redoubtable today as it was when built by the Spanish over 350 years ago
in 1629, stands on a hill overlooking the mouth of the Tamshui River. One
of the oldest buildings in Taiwan, this squat, box-like fort proved to be
more resilient than its Spanish builders. In 1641 it fell to the Dutch,
and in 1661 it fell again. At this time, revolutionary events on the
mainland saw the arrival in Taiwan of 35,000 Ming dynasty troops who,
fleeing the rebel Ching (Manchu) dynasty army, ousted the Dutch from
Tamshui and the rest of Taiwan. It was also about this time that the fort
came to be known as Hung Mao Cheng (Fort of the Red-haired Barbarians).
The fort's history as a pawn between opposing powers remained in check
until 1857, when it was leased to the British as their consulate in
Taiwan. The elegant red-brick consul's residence adjoining the fort was
added in 1891. A cool and stately piece of England forever marooned on a
hillside overlooking a Taiwanese fishing village, it remained occupied by
the British until 1972.
|The fort and consul's
residence are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, except Mondays and the
day after holidays. Admission is NT$20. To get there from the center of
town, walk about 2 km along Chungcheng Street. Running parallel to the
river, this is the oldest street in Tamshui.
|Present Day Tamsui
Tamshui's past, you can turn your attention to its present. Tamshui today,
although steadily being surrounded by a forest of high-rise apartment
buildings, remains at heart a small, vibrant fishing town known for its
university, its beach, its seafood, and its sunsets. Tamkang University
and its sizable student body contribute significantly to the bustle of the
town. The campus sits atop the hills behind Tamshui, and it is worth
visiting for its Maritime Museum. The five-story ship-shaped building is
unmistakable. It houses a library, engine models, a mock ship's bridge,
and model ships from Columbus's Santa Maria to the Nimitz-class aircraft
carrier. Pretty dry stuff, maybe, but one model that should make an
impression is that of Cheng Ho's treasure boat. The Chinese are better
known for building walls than ships, and it may come as a surprise that
from 1405 to 1433 they had a large maritime presence in the Indian Ocean,
with Cheng Ho venturing as far as East Africa. More surprising still is
the sophistication of the ship's design. The boats were huge fantastical
spectacles, as long as Western ships of that day and at least twice as
wide. Admission to the museum is free and it is open every day except
Mondays and certain holidays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
|Tamshui is small enough to see in a few hours,
but most people who go there make sure they don't leave until after the
sun has set. Half an hour before the event, people begin to gather along
the river bank looking for the best spot to watch or photograph the fiery
disc sink into the sea.
The tourist can visit some
local antiquity and browse famous food of Tamshui. Especially, you cannot
forget the famous seafood, such as Sea Watermelon Seeds, clam, fried crab
…. as so on, these famous food are attractive to glutton. Shrimp rolls
is another famous food in Tamshui, if you haven't tasted it, that mean
you've never been to Tamshui.
Traffic (start from Academia Sinica)
tourists a good opinion, which is taking MRT
(Metropolitan Rapid Transit, subway) to Tamshui.
First take bus No. 212, 270 or Blue 25 to Kunyang
Station (bus fare is NT$15). Then you can take MRT from
Kunyang Station to Taipei Main Station and transfer
Tamshui Line to Tamshui Station (MRT fare is NT$50).