By REGINA G. POSADAS
Like its catchy name, Dadaocheng in Taiwan’s capital Taipei will definitely catch the attention of any shop-happy and culture-loving traveler. How could it not with its fusion of old and new stores and structures, a wide range of wares, distinctively local flavor, and intriguing history as a 19th century trading port?
In Dihua Street alone (the only part of Dadaocheng that I got to see owing to time constraints. I missed the park, the wharf, the market, and other attractions after just a few minutes of strolling,I spotted a handful of inviting tea houses and coffee shops, a cooking school, a pharmacy, an Italian restaurant, a fashion house that proudly practices fair trade, a fruit stand, sweets on a cart, and several stores selling fabrics, lanterns, wooden utensils, and other souvenirs and dried goods. Seeing two chubby sunbathing dogs on the sidewalk and strangers stopping to pet them, plus rows of neatly parked scooters and pastel-colored bikes on the narrow street made me smile while walking. I also came across the popular Xiahai City God Temple, which was built way back in 1859 and is home to hundreds of deities, including the Chinese Cupid or Matchmaker God. There, the tourists and locals alike that I mingled with on a warm, Manila-like weather Thursday afternoon were praying, burning incense sticks, offering money, or taking pictures.
Further exploration of the area made me conclude that Dadaocheng is a great destination for art lovers as well, especially the “old school” creative ones who are choosy about their drawing and writing supplies, enjoy crafting with their hands, and appreciate quirky displays and museum offerings. If you are after art that you can view, do, customize, or bring home as a keepsake or as unique pasalubong, then a visit to these three fascinating places along Taipei’s most ancient street is a must.
Classy fountain pens and rollerball pens, high-quality ink, and handmade ballpoint pens adorned with fine glass are more than enough reasons to insta-like this serene stationery store located at the corner of Dihua and Guisui Streets. But you know what’s even better? Their pens can be personalized with your name or your preferred text in various fonts and colors, making them ideal gifts for the artist, calligrapher or longhand loyalist in your family, a circle of friends, or workplace. In addition, Gazing Far has pen rests, handy canvas bags, and three kinds of homemade/specialty inks: red bean, mung bean, and purple grape.
www.gazingfar.com | No. 167 Dihua Street, Datong District, Taipei City | Open daily from 11 a.m. to 6:20 p.m., except on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Further exploration of the area made me conclude that Dadaocheng is a great destination for art lovers as well, especially the ‘old school’ creative ones who are choosy about their drawing and writing supplies, enjoy crafting with their hands, and appreciate quirky displays and museum offerings.
The most photographed store in the area, thanks to a captivating display that cleverly combines animals and art, has DIY projects you can take home, wear, display, or mount on the wall. Yes, there are big white and colored animal masks you can make,don, or hang after (I saw monkey, pig, elephant, chicken, lion, tiger, fox, owl, and rabbit heads inside the gallery) and smaller figures too (like a cat, dog, panda, bird, and winged horse) that you can fold and assemble into shape. This animal art is a great way to keep youngsters busy and off their gadgets while creating something lovely and lasting at the same time.
www.facebook.com/dianhuagallery | dianhua178.strikingly.com| No. 178 Dihua Street, Datong District, Taipei City | Open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Declared a “historic building” by the Taipei City government in 2009, this multi-level art venue with standout terrazzo floors was originally a Chinese medicine shop in the 1930s and has gone through different owners. Kudos to the current owner K.C. Chen, for establishing Museum 207 in 2017 and for her commitment to preserving and restoring heritage buildings while simultaneously promoting the rich cultural history of Taiwan. Entrance is free so take your time wandering on the exhibition areas on the first and second floors, the café, gallery, and classroom on the third floor, and the rooftop viewing area where a gorgeous vista of the district awaits. Happening now until July 7 is a story on repairs exhibition titled Cherishing the Old, a reminder to value what we have and to revisit the dying craft of “repairs” in light of today’s casual “buy and discard” mentality.
www.musuem207.org | No. 207 Dihua Street, Datong District, Taipei City | Open daily (except Tuesdays) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays.