February 4th, 2022

新年快樂 (Xin nian kuai le) – Happy (Chinese) new year!


This was my view the morning that I visited Tamsui: cold rain, temperature about 15 degrees. It had been raining for a week. Winter is a terrible time to visit Taipei.

There are displays like this in the windows of shops all over; fire-engine red, firecrackers, fake gold ingots. This was in a McDonald’s!

The name Tamsui is old. The Mandarin pinyin is “Dànshuǐ“, pronounced “DAM-shway”. The characters are 淡水, meaning “freshwater”.

While researching this I found a document of things to do and see in Tamsui.

I found a YouTube video of a person roaming Tamsui Old Street and the waterfront; gives you an idea of the general scene, but doesn’t feature the old Tamsui Customs Wharf or the Customs Officer’s Residence, so I found another video that did.

Tamsui is the terminus of the MRT Red Line, to the north of Taipei. Here’s a shot of the interior of the car.

The Guandu Bridge.

Tamsui. A waterfront view up the river.


I transferred to a bus going the 1 kilometer north of Taipei Station to get to what I wanted to see.

First, the Taipei Customs Wharf.

“The Tamsui Customs Wharf consists of 3 main sites – the customs house, consular residences, and dock. The construction of the dock and wharf started from the Qing dynasty to the period of Japanese rule, when the wharf was completed. During the period of Japanese Rule, the piers, disembarkation landings, berths for vessels, and dry docks were built. Wharf buildings, 3 inspection depots, warehouses, and military barracks were also constructed… In 2000, New Taipei City designated Tamsui Customs Wharf as a monument and the area became a park after restoration.” (https://en.tshs.ntpc.gov.tw/xmdoc/cont?xsmsid=0G292397875046536266)


This photo is inside the building shown in the last photo; this is where the administration was done. Here is a set of pictures of it.

Next stop: Fort Santo Domigo.

I paid NTD80 at the entrance-way at the bottom of the hill.

“Fort San Domingo was originally a wooden fort built by the Spanish who were vying for control of Taiwan in 1628. Later the fort came into Dutch control in 1642, and the Spanish were driven from Taiwan. In the process, the Spanish razed the fort to the ground. The fort was rebuilt in brick by the Dutch. The Dutch were expelled from Taiwan thanks to Konxinga and his Ming loyalists. After the Qing dynasty took Taiwan from the Ming loyalists, they repaired the fort in 1724. The local Han Chinese at the time called the fort “Red Hair Fort 紅毛城” as a racial slur to the Dutch.”  (https://www.foreignersintaiwan.com/blog-370963385326684/fort-san-domingo)


“Following the Second Opium War, in 1868 the British took over the fort, made it their trade consulate, and painted it red (it was previously white). The fort was struck during the 1884 French bombardment of the Battle of Tamsui but suffered no damage… The linguist Herbert Allen Giles resided in the fort from 1885 to 1888 and completed some of his work on the Wade-Giles system of romanization of Standard Chinese there. Next to the fort the British built their consular residence in 1891… [After World War II] the premises remained as the British consulate in Taiwan until 1972, when the United Kingdom recognized the People’s Republic of China. It then served as the Austrian [sic] embassy in Taiwan for a few months, until that nation also recognized the PRC. ” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Santo_Domingo)

I was warmed by a mention of Australia; a pity it was misspelled.

There was a fantastic view despite the rain.


Just beside the Fort is the former British Consulate Residence.


An arty shot of the former British Consulate Residence.

There is an interesting document about the former British Consulate Residence.

The British coat of arms! “Honi soit qui mal y pense” and “dieu et mon droit”. The student newspaper at my old university was named “Honi Soit”, and you got points for pronouncing it correctly (“Onny Swah”).


The former home is outfitted in period furniture. I was struck by the resemblance to the terrace houses in inner-city Sydney. They all were constructed in the last half of the 19th century, modeled on buildings in England.


They even had fireplaces! This when the Tropic of Cancer runs just a few hundred miles away.

I headed down the steep hill south along the waterfront. There were a lot of shops open and alleyways to explore.

I paid a quick visit to a Taoist temple (淡水福佑宮) dedicated (I think) to Mazu.

“Mazu or Ma-tsu is a Chinese sea goddess also known by several other names and titles. She is the deified form of the legendary figure Lin Mo or Lin Moniang, a Fujianese shamaness whose life span is traditionally dated from 960 to 987. Revered after her death as a tutelary deity of seafarers, including fishermen and sailors, her worship spread throughout China’s coastal regions and overseas Chinese communities throughout Southeast Asia. She was thought to roam the seas, protecting her believers through miraculous interventions. She is now generally regarded by her believers as a powerful and benevolent Queen of Heaven. Mazu worship is popular in Taiwan as large numbers of early immigrants to Taiwan were Min people; her temple festival is a major event in the country” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mazu)

I ate in a food court nearby. This photo is of my meal, a faintly Japanese dish with curry. Then I caught the MRT home.

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