Fri, Jan 13, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Go back in time this New Year

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Most Dihua Street vendors practice a try-before-you-buy policy.

Festivities for the Lunar New Year celebrations officially begin in Taipei today with the opening of Dihua Street (迪化街) market.

Until Jan. 26 the street will be packed with stalls selling a wide variety of traditional New Year goods, continuing a tradition that goes back decades.

The area of the old city adjacent to Dihua Street, which includes Ningxia Road (寧夏路) and Huaying Street (華陰街) will be festooned with red lanterns suspended from bamboo poles, while stalls topped with colorful tarpaulin roofs will line the sidewalks.

For those looking to try some interesting New Year foodstuffs there's salty dried fish, spicy beef jerky, wild boar sausages and a multitude of cavity-creating sugary candies to choose from.

One of the street's most enduring features is that the curious can eat their fill without actually purchasing anything.

The area is not only a Mecca for those looking for gifts and food, but it offers an all-too-rare glimpse of the Taipei of days gone by and while foodstuffs are high on the agenda of nearly everyone who visits the area, the vast array of edible substances are not the street's only attraction.

Performances of traditional folk arts and opera have also proven to be a great draw with locals and tourists alike in recent years. Along with performances by several of Taipei's leading classical Chinese opera troupes, shoppers will also be able to enjoy temple dancing, street magic shows and other forms of traditional entertainment.

If you do choose to take a trip back in time and enjoy the activities then do bare in mind the fact that large crowds attract criminal elements. While local police increase patrols and volunteers take to the streets to help curb theft at this busy outdoor market, at this time of year cases of purse snatching and pick-pocketing are common.

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