{Travel} Fun Taiwan: Tamsui

Travelling all the way up north to the terminal stop of Taipei city’s subway line leads you to idyllic Tamsui 淡水. Three quarters of an hour  was all it took to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city. Getting off the train, we hopped onto a public bus which eventually brought us to the Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf 淡水渔人码头. The wharf is famous for the Lover’s Bridge 情人桥, reportedly breathtaking at sunset when the bridge illuminates the beautiful colours of dusk. 

Walking along the waterfront, we were holding our noses in the air in search of food to satisfy our empty stomachs. Lo and behold, a fried chicken shop was just getting the ball rolling for the day. The chicken was enormous, about the size of two palms and deliciously crispy and crunchy. Fried chicken for breakfast, only during vacation yo!

A friendly shopkeeper kindly informed us that Tamsui Old Street 淡水老街 would be a better place for food and of course, that became our next destination. A short 25NTD (80 cents AUD) ferry trip later, we arrived at the Old Street pier. Indeed this was the hip and happening area of Tamsui, booming with visitors and busy shops.

Sighting an eatery with its three levels all packed with patrons, we followed our instincts and managed to find a table. We had everything on the menu, including fried vermicelli/ yellow noodles topped with minced pork and beansprouts, pork-stuffed fishballs, gigantic meatballs and Tamsui’s very own A-gei 啊给. A-gei is deep fried tofu stuffed with cellophane noodles and fish paste. A thick starchy sauce is poured atop the tofu to finish dish. Not usually a person with textural issues, I find this strangely unappealing as everything in bowl was slimy, mushy and overly starchy, worsened by its lukewarm temperature. Ick. Try it for yourself and tell me what you think.

Another local specialty of Tamsui is the Tiedan 铁蛋 (Iron Egg), which are quail eggs repeatedly boiled in spices and I suspect dark soy sauce then air-dried. The outer layer of the eggs is tough and chewy in texture while the inside resembles your typical hard boiled egg. The eggs were flavourful though the texture was a bit off-putting. At the end of the day, we only managed to finish about ten little eggs among the seven of us. Apotiedan 啊婆铁蛋 is the go-to shop for Iron Eggs, if you ever visit Tamsui for this interesting delicacy.

As we loiter along the Old Street towards the metro station, smelly tofu was everywhere. To my great dismay, this time the pungent smell was absurdly, eye-wateringly strong. To my utter horror, my friends got in line and bought themselves a giant skewer of the deep fried entity. Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

Of course, apart from the dastard tofu, there was plenty of other delicious things to fill up your belly, such as fish ball skewers, crab claws, mochi and plenty of pearl milk tea to tempt your tastebuds.

In a nutshell, Tamsui was not what I expected, neither amazingly impressive, nor deeply seeped in traditions. It was, in my humble opinion, a blissfully pleasant place filled with little surprises, an entirely worthwhile visit.