Out of all the places I visited in Taipei, I must say that Dihua Street is like a little gem of discovery for me. The fact that strolling the street on an early weekday morning allows me not only to enjoy the serenity of having no crowd of tourist around and even more fulfilling to witness how Taiwanese usually start their day – the flocks of bikes towards the breakfast stalls, the opening of herbal medicine shops and the early morning prayers at the neighborhood temples.
The most noticeable feature of Dihua is the 800-meter street of architectural marvel dating back the Qing Dynasty(red wall building) and Japanese colonial occupants (Euro-Japanese style buildings). Considered as one of the oldest street in the city, there are still remaining walls with ornate design and detailed drawings that can be found.
I believe there is a continuous effort to preserve the remaining old-style buildings despite the obvious urban planning changes that is taking over a city like Taipei. Judging by the nearby residential buildings, there is no mistaking how valuable every square meter of realty is, thus it is an admirable effort given to the preservation of the old street.
Though I don’t understand the labels or what was being sold or for which ailment it is recommended for, not even if it is a Chinese sweet delicacy or a medicine, a visit to any China town is incomplete without a stroll along the traditional medicine shops.
Somewhere in the middle of the long street is a temple called Xiahai Chenghuang Temple (Xiahai City God Temple), which is particularly popular for single males/females hoping to find luck in love, attributing to the displayed statue of the City God and his wife, the Chinese Cupid.
More than the herbs or the old street, another reason to put Dihua of Datong District on your list of Taipei city exploration is the nearby Dadaechong Wharf. On a clear, sunny day despite the uncomfortable sweaty feeling, the calmness of Danshui River with the city skyscraper skyline and mountains in the background is a testament to what makes Taipei a beautiful city.
The real charm of Dihua street lies on the absence of any high profile tourist attraction. I find it as authentic as you can get for a typical Taipei neighborhood- somehow baring the mask of past colonization but without any attempt to be define by its past.
It is as real as you can get, as real as seeing the children walking to school in the morning or a grandpa just biking around without a worry of facing a shutterbug tourist like me.