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Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Danshui: Taipei's Coney Island - Page 3

Written by Erin Kuschner
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In the lively fishing village of Danshui (more commonly known as Tamsui to the locals) a lengthy boardwalk summons its strolling visitors to slow down a notch; to look left at Taiwan’s Danshui River, and right at the flashing arcade games lined up in blinking rows.  For the residents of Taipei a mere 40 minute ride on the metro can provide an escape from a city of over 2.5 million.  A bike path serves as a more scenic route, and was in fact the mode of transportation I chose to make my way from Taiwan’s capital to Danshui.

Between the vendors and shops, lie tucked-away temples where locals and tourists can light incense and pray to the various Buddha figures scattered around the area.


Entering a smaller temple, I first pass through a stone courtyard with a row of orange chairs – a more modern twist and mostly utilized by the elderly citizens of Danshui while they wait for their families to finish paying their respects.  Intricately carved columns surround the courtyard and tell ancient stories carved into pale green stone. I went straight to the main alter which was adorned with a red and gold theme and rows of solemn gold figures facing a bowl of burning incense.


Although I am not a practicing Buddhist, I decided to light one anyway; and with no one around I felt a sense of quietude amongst the sound of traffic and shoppers beyond the courtyard.  It is gems like these small temples that reflect the deeper history of Danshui away from its games and shouting salesmen.


On my way back to the bicycle rack, I saw a breach of the antiquity I had just experienced within the temple.  There, standing innocently across the road from Danshui’s metro station, was a Starbucks.  Perhaps this was a sign that Danshui was succumbing to the fate of a more recent Coney Island, with its demolition of old-school rides and plans for luxury condos.  Could Taipei’s weekend get away soon be taken over by corporate chains?


marketScanning the river and its teeming boardwalk, I answered myself with a confidant “no.”  The simplicity of Danshui is what people come to see.  Visitors seek to leave behind Taipei’s hectic urban jungle and enter a world where your lunch is caught in front of you and your inner child is released with a few old-fashioned games, and your belief in tradition confirmed with remnants of the past.  I climbed on my bicycle and peddled away with Danshui at my back, leaving behind shouts of “Guaning, guaning!” and the youthful clanging of arcade bells.

©Erin Kuschner

(Page 3 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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