Fri, Aug 03, 2007 - Page 14 News List

Messing about on Danshui River

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Danshui River paddle wheel boat about to cast off.

PHOTO: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

Cruising in circles on the Danshui River in a Mississippi-style paddle wheel boat was a discombobulating experience.

Jazz played and there was a happy buzz as the Lions Club members toasted each other and the wine started to have an effect.

Immaculately turned-out wait staff cleared away the buffet dinner in the main cabin as Las Vegas cabaret singer Kathy la Mar found her rhythm, singing Bette Midler's Wind Beneath My Wings.

Fly, fly, fly away/you let me fly so high./Oh, fly, fly,/so high against the sky, so high I almost touch the sky.

Maybe it was the gentle roll of the boat or the alcohol, but a few couples swayed unsteadily to the music on the dance floor.

Southern belle meets love hotel best describes the decor: Ornate carvings, stained glass windows and chandeliers. Strips of red carpet, faux marble columns and a trompe d'oeil ceiling drew the eye up to the decks above.

The guests were well dressed, as if this was a big cruise ship dinner at the captain's table.

Outside, it was a balmy evening and Taipei was glistening on the yonder shore. The landmark, red, steel-arched Guandu Bridge was just visible.

There was a slight tang in the air, a mist and a breeze as businessmen congregated along the ship's rails to talk shop.

Some of the Lions Club wives carried doggie bags (no need to waste food) and there were a few courting couples, leaning over the stern, watching the big wheel churn.

In the main cabin La Mar had moved up a gear and the bass bumped along to Marvin Gaye's What's Going On segueing into Superstition, by Stevie Wonder.

Loudspeakers channeled the music onto the decks and the boat rocked as it turned around for the third or fourth time.

I was told that on a previous cruise it got stuck on a mud bank and was rescued by a towboat.

That is why the boat goes round in circles. Too far up the Danshui and it will be tossed about by waves. Too far downriver and it gets stranded.

The grandly named New Tamshui River Image Cruise has been operating since May this year and currently seems a safer bet than the gondoliers to Maokong's tea plantations.

Though Danshui is too far upriver, the wetlands of Guandu, its birdlife, and riverbank views, make this a pleasant tour.

It departs four times a day. Mornings are marketed as business trips and breakfasts are available. Lunch and afternoon tea have the advantage of live classical music, while dinner is served with the sounds of a live band.

Obviously, bad weather can be a dampener. Also, "messing about in boats" on the river - as originally suggested by Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows - doesn't come cheap.

A morning cruise (9am to 10.30am) is from NT$720 to NT$900; weekday lunch (12pm to 2pm) is NT$1,240 and NT$1,880 on the weekend.

Afternoon tea (3:30pm to 5:30pm) is NT$1,240 to NT$1,5540; while dinner (7pm to 9pm) is NT$1,550 in the week and NT$1,880 on Saturday and Sunday.

For further information contact the New Tamshui River Image Cruise, Taipei, on www.greatriver.com, or call (02) 2897-9049. Bookings can also be made through the tour operator SET (東南旅行社) on (02) 2522-1000, and extension 2636 for a faltering English-speaking service.

It should also be noted reservations need to be made at least three days in advance. Embarkation is at Guandu Wharf (關渡碼頭), off Dadu Road (大度路), below Guandu Temple, near the car park.

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