[Fragriver in Taiwan] Tamsui & Beitou: A day trip for Taiwanese movie fans

Tamsui (淡水) and Beitou (北投)are surely among the top travel destinations that you may find in almost every travel guidebook for Taipei. However, the most important reason that makes me interested in these places should be these places’ appearance in my favorite Taiwanese movies. Therefore, last Friday, I decided to take a trip to both Tamsui and Beitou to find out the places where my favorite movies are filmed.

Tamsui and Beitou are both located at the end of the Tamsui – Xinyi MRT line (the red line). Therefore, it is quite easy to reach these places by transferring to the red line and waiting until the MRT notifies that you have already reached Beitou Station or Tamsui Station. Given that Tamsui is a little bit farther on the red line and it would be cooler to visit Tamsui at late afternoon, I decided to visit Beitou first.

On reaching Beitou MRT Station, I got on the train to Xinbeitou. Xinbeitou is famous for its hot spring. Around a hundred years ago, when the Japanese found out the source of hot spring here, they turned these places into a destination for public bath, tea houses, or other recreational activities. The train from Beitou MRT Station to Xinbeitou MRT Station is adorably painted with colorful cartoon characters. The train moved at a very slow pace and it took around 10-15 minutes to reach Xinbeitou MRT Station. On boarding the train to Xinbeitou, I was a little surprised to find out that there were a lot of young Taiwanese coming to Xinbeitou on Friday.

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I did not have to wait for long to find out the answer for my above concern. After taking a walk around the Xinbeitou area, I noted that there were a lot of young people and many elder ones as well focusing on their smartphones to catch Pokemon. I remembered reading somewhere recently about the crowd in Xinbeitou due to the hunt for Pokemon.

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Young people (and even some elder ones) are crazy hunting for Pokemon in Beitou.

I made a two-hour visit to the Taipei Public Library Beitou Branch (Beitou Library), Beitou Hot Spring Museum, Puji Temple and Plum Garden. It was at the fountain in front of Beitou Library that the two characters in the movie “Turn Left, Turn Right” (向右走,向左走) (2003)(Starring Takeshi Kaneshiro and Gigi Leung) met for the first time after 13 years losing touch with each other. And 13 years after the releasing date of the movie, I came there for the first time. There are some other bloggers claiming on their blogs that they get to the park where the two main characters met each other but it seemed to me that they have got the wrong place.

Here comes the movie scene:

And here comes the fountain’s photo taken by mine.

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Thing seems to remain unchanged since 2003. I guessed if Takeshi Kaneshiro and Gigi Leung sat here in 2016, they still look as fashionable as they were in 2003. “Turn Left, Turn Right” should be the first Taiwanese movie I saw and remembered about. (I have just found out that the movie was actually a joint effort of Hong Kong and Singapore but entirely filmed in Taipei). I remembered when I first saw the movie in 2009, I strongly believed that  even two parallel lines meet each other some day and I may run into my significant other some day but seven years have passed and such belief has been faded in vain (just kidding, though). But it was really cool to sit there for a while, listening and singing the theme song “Yu Jian” (遇见) of Stefanie Sun.

After getting around the Library, I took a stroll uphill to visit the Beitou Hot Spring Museum, Plum Garden and Puji Temple. One thing that I admire Taiwanese people is their high awareness of heritage conservation. Everytime when I visited some old places in Taipei like Bopiliao or Dadaocheng and then Beitou Hot Spring Museum, I often heard the same story that the authority somehow intended to destroy these places at the first place but the people then raised their voices and insisted on maintaining these places and they even made out a museum out of the topic of hot spring. Beitou Hot Spring Museum is more interesting than I expected before as it provided a lot of informative insights into the period of Japanese colonization of Taiwan. The topics of the museum are not limited to hot spring only but also expanded to even movie industry of Taiwan in the past as lots of old Taiwanese movies were filmed in Beitou.

Plum Garden, built in the late 1930s, was once the summer retreat of Mr Yu Youren, a famous politician and calligraphy master as well. The place is built in Japanese style and there is an exhibition of calligraphy masterpieces by Mr Yu Youren as well.

I intended to walk further uphill to reach Beitou Museum but after a long walk without finding the museum, I then gave up. On my way down the hill, I found lots of Taiwanese people running to chase for Pokemon uphill. They even asked me if there were any Pokemon up there. It was funny to see a bunch of people running together like that and it seemed the game did well in motivating people to do some physical exercises and connecting the players. Although I had not checked in all places in Beitou, it is quite comfortable to go sightseeing and feel the clean atmosphere there.

I left Xinbeitou MRT Station for Beitou MRT Station then caught the train to Tamsui. For such description of Tamsui on the Internet (e.g. on Guidetotaipei.com), I think that almost every foreign tourist may find that Tamsui is not a must-visit place. It may be a nice place to hang out for the locals but it seems not interesting for a foreigner. You may talk about the riverside. As Taipei is bound by two rivers, Tamsui and Keelung, it is quite easy to find a riverside park within Taipei without traveling that far for Tamsui. You may talk about Tamsui Old Street. However, there is an abundance of old streets around Taipei and New Taipei and I myself find Tamsui Old Street is not as old as other old streets in Taipei like Dadaocheng or Dalongtong. The main reason that made me go to Tamsui is that the movie “Secrets” (不能說的秘密)(Starring Jay Chou and Kwai Lun-mei) was mainly filmed here. The TV series “In time with you” (我可能不會愛你)(Starring Ariel Lin and Chen Bolin) was also filmed here. As I searched on the Internet, Cheng Youqing’s house is around the Wenhua Residential Area in Tamsui and they even said that this area should be among the most Taiwanese areas in Taiwan.

When I arrived at Tamsui MRT Station, it was not difficult to find out the riverside and the old streets of Tamsui with a lot of stores offering a great variety of souvenir, food and drink, etc. In this regard, I think Tamsui is a little bit more lively in comparison with other old streets in Taipei that I have been to (i.e. Dadaocheng, Datong or in Shenkeng in New Taipei City). I then immediately understood why this place is popular among the locals, especially among the young people. It was around 3pm so I decided to walk uphill first to reach Zhenli Street to visit the Aletheia University and Tamkang High School for fear that these places would be closed soon. Zhenli Street is more like a small lane than a street. After getting through the main street leading from Tamsui MRT Station, I turned left to reach an intersection, where I continued to climb up to Zhenli Street.

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There are four schools on Zhenli Street, namely, Wenhua Elementary School, Tamkang High School, Danshui Junior High School and Aletheia University. You may also visit Fort San Domingo and the Little White House here. Unlike the crowded street near Tamsui MRT Station, the atmosphere in Zhenli Street was quite peaceful with students wearing uniform walking around. When setting my first step here, I just felt like walking in the Taiwanese movies I have seen before.

Aletheia University and Tamkang Senior High School were among the filming locations of Secrets. Jay Chou used to be a student of Tamkang High School so he decided to choose these places for filming his directorial debut feature film. It is a pity that Tamkang Senior High School is not open to visitor due to some recent events taking place there. I then just took some pictures from the gate of the High School.

Aletheia University (“Aletheia” is a Greek name, which means “Truth” or Zhenli (真理)) is a private university, established in 1882 by George Leslie Mackay, a missionary from Canada. The school was initially named Oxford College. You can now still find the old Oxford College inside the campus of Aletheia University today. I was impressed with the school’s 3H motto: Humble, Humane and Humor.

Following the right hand side of the street, I continued to visit Fort San Domingo, an adjacent to the university. (Another part of Aletheia University’s campus is located on the opposite side of the street, however, for a special reason, I will tell about it in the next part of this post). For entry into Fort San Domingo, you must buy entrance ticket of 80 NTD, which allows you to visit Fort San Domingo, Little While House (The Former Residence of Danshui Tax Division Customs) and Hobe Fort. Fort San Domingo (its Chinese name: 紅毛城) was first built by the Spanish back in 1644 and it was consecutively used by the Spanish, the Dutch and Qing Dynasty until 1868. It used to be residence place for the foreign consulates in Taiwan. When I came here, I found a lot of Korean tourists taking photos here.

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Actually, I did not find the building interesting as I think it is just a red-brick building. It is helpful to take a look around to understand a little bit about the story behind the eight flags used to be raised on the roof of Fort San Domingo or be surprised at how the Taiwanese arranged this place as kind of exhibition of Happy Relationship (with tips on keeping up good marriage), however, I was not that impressed. Little White House is also nothing but a house painted in white where the former Customs and Tax Department of Taiwan used to be located.

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However, many thanks should come to the Little White House as I could not find a filming place in Secrets as on the way to Little White House from Fort San Domingo, I found out this special corner.

Do you find this corner familiar? Tada, it was the place where Lu Xiao Yu /路小雨 (Kwai Lun-mei、桂綸鎂) and Ye Xiang Lun/葉湘倫 (Jay Chou/周杰倫) sheltered from the rain.

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There were a lot of tourists coming to Tamsui this day but it seemed that I was the only one that identified this corner. And it was cool that there was a heavy rain when I stayed in this corner and took some photos. I felt so excited that I kept looking back at these photos during the next two or three days.

As mentioned above, I said about the opposite campus side of Aletheia Street. On my way back on Zhenli Street, I visited the campus on the left hand side of the Street and found out the other filming location of Secrets. You may remember this corner when Ye Xiang Lun was shown around the campus by Qing Yi/晴依 (played by Alice Tzeng/曾愷玹) on his first day at school.

I came back to Tamsui Riverside and enjoyed the late afternoon’s atmosphere there. I had a nice walk along the riverside, enjoying the fresh air and listening to Jay Chou’s music played by the riverside stalls. It was Jay Chou that first made me feel interested in Taiwan so having a walk to Tamsui was a really pleasant experience to me. The trip to Tamsui should be the one that I enjoy the most so far. Perhaps the reason is that this place helps remind me of my favorite Taiwanese movies, bringing out some senses of achievement in mine. (Yes, coming to Taiwan and getting to see the places I used to watch through the screen are surely great achievements). And I do think of coming back there in other days in the future.

 

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