It may be extremely crowded and its narrow streets make it hard to get around, but Dihua Street in western Taipei remains one of the best places anywhere to experience the Lunar New Year atmosphere.
In what has become a tradition, the Taipei City Government began a 15-day promotional event on Saturday ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, to bring attention to an area that probably does not need it.
Among all of the major traditional shopping areas in northern Taiwan, Dihua Street is the consensus choice among shoppers who wish to load up with Lunar New Year holiday supplies.
Hundreds of stands, along with original stores in buildings that in some cases date back to the late 19th century, occupy both sides of a 350m section of Dihua Street that gets packed with visitors.
On weekends, it can take 10 minutes to walk 50m, a vendor said, but “this can add some taste of the Lunar New Year.”
The street’s variety of goods and foods, ranging from culinary utensils to candies and ingredients used in Lunar New Year dishes, fascinates visitors from overseas.
“I will probably buy everything,” Monica Medina said right after she tried some smoked duck and showed an interest in some chewy candies.
Medina compared the street with the “very Americanized” Chinatown in Texas, where she is from.
“This is totally different and very popular among young adults. I simply love it here,” she said, adding that she could sample whatever she liked and that she “had a lot of fun.”
Graham Ferguson of Canada, who has lived in Taiwan for 15 years and owns a restaurant in New Taipei City (新北市), also highly recommends Dihua Street, which he visits ahead of every Lunar New Year holiday and which he describes as “a must-visit.” attraction.
“Although it is crazy busy as usual, it’s a great experience and the best chance to get everything you need in one place,” said Ferguson, who took his family to do some festive shopping.
Another popular site among Japanese tourists is the Taipei Xia Hai City God Temple (霞海城隍廟), also on Dihua Street.
Worshipers visit the temple to thank the gods for protecting them during the previous year and to wish for a prosperous year ahead, a temple volunteer said.
The volunteer said it is a place where tourists can experience and learn more about local customs and culture.
However, the street market’s mystique goes beyond a few narrow streets.
Since 2006, it has grown to include stores and vendors in surrounding areas, such as the Ningxia Night Market and the commercial district behind Taipei Main Station, making it the biggest Lunar New Year Festival shopping district in the country.