If you’ve ever wondered what mysteries lie behind the smattering of part-grandiose, part-dilapidated buildings near the government offices surrounding Ximending (西門町), Taipei Walking Tour (台北城市散步) will offer you a glimpse with its guided tours. The series kicks off on Sunday with a tour of Taipei Walled City — a cluster of old buildings which saw its heyday under Japanese colonial rule in the first half of the 20th century. This is one of three attractions that the English-language walking tour covers, the other two being the Dadaocheng (大稻埕) area and the tourist area around Wanhua District’s (萬華) Longshan Temple (龍山寺) such as Monga (艋舺). Sunday’s group will meet at Exit 5 of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall MRT. Tours will take place every Sunday until the end of June.
The Taipei Walking Tour was born out of a blog, says Sandrine Liao (廖湘婷), one of the event’s organizers. The founder, Chiu Yi (邱翊), who grew up in Dadaocheng, realized that visitors would just take a quick look at the Xiahai City God Temple (霞海城隍廟) and then leave.
“[Chiu] felt it was a pity that people were missing so much of the attractions in the area,” Liao says.
Photo courtesy of Taipei Walking Tour
Three years ago, Chiu started a blog about the history of Dadaocheng — how it was a thriving port for international commerce during the late Qing Dynasty — and started giving free tours of the area. He soon found out that walking tours, which are popular in Europe and the US, were not common in Taiwan, so he founded a company and hired guides to give tours in Mandarin, English and Japanese.
Taipei Walking Tour tries to set itself apart from traditional travel agents. Liao says that “‘Beyond guidebooks’ is what we want to bring to the people who come to us.” Like Chiu, most of the tour guides have some sort of personal connection to the area, whether they grew up there or are simply passionate about sharing these untold histories to a larger public.
The tours have also been a great way of re-introducing locals to their own neighborhoods.
“Take Dadaocheng for example,” Liao says. “A lot of locals from Taipei didn’t know that it was a once very important international business center with a lot of foreign consulates including the US, Germany and the Netherlands.”
If you’re not so keen on staying put in the city, Taipei Walking Tour also organizes environmental walking tours including treks to rice fields and rivers around the outskirts of Taipei. The itinerary includes visiting the remnants of a watering system which was built 100 years ago.
Either way, a combination of having fun, getting some exercise and learning something new, the walking tours are a great way of rediscovering Taipei.
What: Taipei Walking Tour (台北城市散步)
When: Sunday at 2pm
Where: Taipei Walled City during Japanese Occupation, meet at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall MRT exit 5 (捷運中正紀念堂站5出口)
On the net: www.taipei-walkingtour.tw
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