Getting Lost in the Oldest Part of Taipei: Dadaocheng and Dihua Street

September 3 2020, 1:35am

One of the things that continues to amaze me about Taipei is the sheer number of unique neighborhoods. Beyond the night markets, beyond Taipei 101 and places like Maokong (貓空 / mao kong); there are dozens of little enclaves that feel like being transported to a different period in time. For the future, I definitely recommend checking out Ximending (西門町 / xi men ding). For the past, you’ll want to head to the western part of the city, to a little area known as Dadaocheng (大稻埕 / da dao cheng) or Twatutia .

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Dadaocheng was once a flourishing trade hub back in the 19th century. Foreign boats would dock along the Tamsui River (淡水河 / dan shui he). Over time, this area became the second largest city in Taiwan, rivaling Tainan to the south. Many foreigners made their homes in Dadaocheng and up the river to Tamsui.

Today, the area has far less boat traffic but it does have a sizable river park, known as Yanping Riverside Park (延平河濱公園 / yan ping he bin gong yuan). This park sits on the river side of an area that includes the oldest street in Taiwan, Dihua Street (迪化街 / di hua jie).

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From Ximending, we headed north along Xining Road (西寧路 / xi ning lu) until we got to Changan Road (長安路 / chang an lu). From here, we headed west along Changan Road to the southern entrance of the park.

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I was expecting the park to be idyllic. It was idyllic, but it was also rather empty (perhaps it had something to do with the fact that it was a weekday).

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It was nice to see the far-stretching views of New Taipei City (新北市 / xin bei shi) and all the art scattered about.

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Much of this art didn’t have any plaques attached to them, but they were still cool to see. A lot of the art was nautical themed, including this traditional-looking boat below.

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This was probably my favorite piece of art, no surprise here.

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We walked up to Dadaocheng Pier from the southern entrance of Yanping Riverside Park before heading back into the city.

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To access the riverside park, you go through a giant wall that acts as flood prevention during typhoon season.

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After exiting the park near Minsheng Road (民生路 / min sheng lu), we walked two blocks east before going back south on Xining Road.

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Along the way, we saw a few signs and structures with character.

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Fully knowing what was on the next parallel street over to the east, we walked south to the start of Dihua Street after crossing over on Nanjing West Road ( / nan jing xi lu).

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I don’t think I was fully prepared for what I would see on the oldest street in Taipei. If the above sign is any indicator of what to expect from Dihua Street, the area is pretty unique.

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What I saw was very much a product of the history of the area—foreign trade mixed with Japanese colonialism, traditional methods marked by modern creativity.

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You can see some of the unique architecture in the photo above. This is the view from start of Dihua Street looking north.

The area has vibes that very much reminded me of my trip to Tamsui.

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In the middle of Dihua Street is a narrow one-way road with vehicles parked on both sides. Dozens of shops line the street selling items from tea to Japanese confections, herbal medicine to hand-woven bags. With how many cool and unique shops there are, you’ll want to zig-zag your way up the street to make sure you don’t miss anything.

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One of the first shops we stopped at was a teashop called Dae by Day (茶日子 / cha ri zi). They had cute little teas and snacks for sale. Upstairs there were more items to buy. After perusing the shop upstairs, we came back down and purchased some tea for the road.

By now, it was around lunchtime. Noticing a line out the door of a large building, we followed the line to see what was up.

The building in question was the Yongle Fabric Market (永樂布業商場 / yong le bu ye shang chang). The line was for a famous oil rice store called 林合發油飯店 (lin he fang you fan dian).

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The line was super long and went out through the door. Still, the line went by pretty quickly.

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They have a few other eats, including the oil rice but we just decided to go with their specialty.

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It was fun watching them scoop out the rice into these bento boxes, weigh them, and set them aside near a fan to be slightly cooled.

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Oil rice (油飯 / you fan) is also known as glutinous rice and Taiwanese Sticky Rice. Oftentimes, it will be served during festive occasions, but it also is fairly common to find around Taiwan. The rice is sticky rice prepared with sesame seed oil. In many cases, there may be meat added to it along with some umami-type flavoring. In this case, Lin He Fang’s oil rice has a generous portion of shiitake mushroom (香菇 / xiang gu) on top.

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Here are all the boxes of oil rice ready to be served to customers.

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Next time, I will have to give their chicken a try.

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Here is the box wrapped in rubber bands…

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And the finished rice. I think it also had bamboo shoots in it, which was nice.

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In addition to Lin He Fang, we also got noodles and A-菜. The noodle shop is located in the food court area on the corner opposite to Lin He Fang.

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Here’s a close-up view of the A-菜.

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The noodles look fairly plain, but the depth of the broth was amazing.

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Lunch was so good and so cheap too. I think we spent around $10 USD for this nice-sized meal.

After lunch, we continued our trek northward along Dihua Street.

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There’s certainly no shortage to the number of herbal medicine and dried food shops here. If you’re looking for dried Lion’s Mane, dried scallops, or even Swallow’s Nest, you’re bound to find it here in Taipei.

Scattered amongst the dried food shops were unique a few unique gems including this shop selling 3D paper art.

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Being a huge fan of papercrafting, I loved checking out this store and seeing all the things for sale. The various masks they had were so cool!

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Another super interesting shop we came upon was this one selling a variety of woven baskets and bags. I’m not sure what it was, but when we were visiting there was a large Japanese tour group that stopped by to see what the shop had for sale.

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Farther up the street is Ho Hsing 1947 (合興壹玖肆柒 / he xing yi jiu si qi). This shop sells steamed cakes and pastries with a variety of filling. Each cake is meticulously crafted with care.

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The inside felt reminiscent of Japanese confectionary shops. The occasional Japanese also helped (I’m sure with their clientele as well).

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We tried a black sesame seed steam cake. After ordering, the attendant took the cake, put it into a steamer and came back to us after a few minutes with this tray.

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The steam cake was unlike anything I had had before. On the outside, it looks like something made of sand, but the texture is much more delicate. The experience was kind of like eating a solid, grainy, steamed bun. Although I say grainy, it wasn’t hard at all. The texture was soft and fluffy. The addition of the sesame seed was a nice touch.

It’s definitely something to try out, if you’re in the area.

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Just a short walk north of Hoshing 1947 is Lin’s Wagashi Confectionery (滋養製菓  / zi yang zhi guo).

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Like the area, the shop is a combination of cultures—Japanese and Taiwanese confectionary culture. The shop combines the best of both worlds to produce delectable confections.

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Like many wagashi shops, there are a variety of gift boxes that are available for purchase. There are many items that you can take out a la carte though including a wide range of mochigashi.

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Here’s a type of mochi with whole azuki bean on the outside.

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They also have a similar Japanese treat, but with lotus seeds on the outside. I enjoyed seeing the mix of cultures as much as tasting the end result.

Once we got to Lin’s Wagashi Confectionery, we made the slow, windy trek to Shuanglian Station (雙連站 / shuang lian zhan). Lin’s was the perfect way to end our exploration of the oldest street in Taipei.

Though the area can be a little difficult to get to, as it’s not near MRT, there are a bunch of buses that run to and around the area. We chose to walk, because it’s much more fun to discover random things this way. If you do visit Dadaocheng and Dihua Street, be sure to allow ample time to wander the area as there are a lot of shops, art, and food to take in. Enjoy!

大稻埕碼頭廣場 (Dadaocheng Pier)

延平河濱公園 (Yanping Riverside Park)

迪化街 (Dihua Street)

永樂布業商場 (Yongle Fabric Market)

合興壹玖肆柒 (Ho Hsing 1947)

滋養製菓 (Lin’s Wagashi Confectionery)

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