Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, boasts various tourist attractions from parks, temples, markets, museums and more. However, you may want to start your journey on an auspicious note with a visit to Dihua Street where you can pay respect to local deities, sample local delicacies, admire historical shophouses and catch the sunset by the river all in one evening. Most importantly, all can be done within a short walking distance.
Xia Hai-City God Temple is more than a century old and houses several local deities, one of which is said to be a god of love, but you'll only need three incense sticks, according to a sign outside that is in three languages; Chinese, English and Japanese. The temple may be modest in size but you'll be in awe by its golden interior and many statues for worshipping.
Besides paying respects to the City God Xia Hai, who has a long beard and colourful regalia, you can also pay respects to his wife, his guards and Buddha, each at their respective altars. There are also signs explaining what each deity will bless you with, which is comforting since I would rather know what I may get myself into.
The temple may not look it but it's a place to visit for people who wish to be lucky in love. The god of love I mentioned before is named Yue Lao, whose 43cm statue stands on the main altar of the City God. With due respect, I could have mistaken him for the god of knowledge or wisdom as he sports a man bun, a full long beard and a flowing robe while holding a staff with a bottle gourd at the top in his right hand and a scroll in the other, looking so sage. What gave him away is a heart-shaped sticker on the pedestal he stands on. The Matchmaker (or Marriage) Deity is said to be able to help singletons to find suitable partners. And if you do actually marry someone later on, you can come back here to pray to The Wife of the City God for a happy family, too.
Muteloo folks (no judgement here), you can buy cute amulets of Xia Hai in red or Yue Lao in pink and bring their blessings along with you. Don't forget to hold it over the incense burner in front of the temple for extra blessing. To get to the temple, board THSR (Taiwan High Speed Rail) and get off at Taipei station to board MRT Taipei and alight at Shuanglian station. Lastly, catch Taipei City Bus no.811 or a red bus no.33 to Dihua Street. The temple opens daily from 7am-7pm.
It takes a bit of an effort to get there but it's worth your while since, from the temple, you can take a short seven-minute walk along Dihua Street to the Dadaocheng Wharf for a laid-back dinner with a side of sunset. The historic and oldest street of Taipei is lined on both sides with colonial-style shophouses, which interestingly contrast with modern shop signs, as it was once a CBD for tea and fabric trading. If you have an eagle eye, a few buildings still have their original facade, which have symbols showing what kind of ware they sell. A decorative ginseng relief near the top of a shop that sells, well, ginseng, for example. You'll definitely catch wafts of Chinese medicine but you can also find other traditional goods such as incense, spice, teas and dried food. It's extra bustling and lively during Lunar New Year as people flock there to shop.
Once you reach the intersection, turn left to Minsheng West Road and the Dadaocheng Wharf should be at the end of your eyesight. Calling it wharf is selling Dadaocheng short, as behind the flood wall lies a public recreational space where people can chill next to the Tamsui River. The historical trading port was given a new lease on life in 2015.
On the other side of its intimating wall, you'll find beautiful murals as backgrounds for obvious photo ops. You can also ride a bike along the river, have casual meals from many container restaurants, catch a ferry ride, enjoy other activities on weekends or holidays and get in touch with nature as the wharf is adjacent to the Yanping Riverside Park.
You can technically have a cheap "rooftop" dinner atop one of these container restaurants while watching the sunset and enjoying the gentle breeze. An honourable mention must be made for No Worries Cafe, where a friendly mixologist in a suit and tie is willing to offer you samples of his "adult juices" that you can take home in a cute bottle. As the night falls, the lit-up cityscape of New Taipei City across the river is quite a vista to behold. Definitely, a low-key and not-too-shabby way to end your day with.
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