Tamsui is a nice little town at the mouth of the Tamsui River in New Taipei City, at the northern end of the Taipei Metro Red Line. It’s a popular spot to get out of the city for a day out, and on a recent sunny day three of us did just that.
With two of us being based in Sanchong (pretty cool area, see here) over on the other side of the river, we decided to start by taking the bus from Luzhou (northern end of the Orange Line) to Bali, another small town located on the opposite bank of the river from Tamsui, and then hop on the ferry over to Tamsui from there.
The bus skirts round the base of Guanyinshan (a neat mountain to hike up, which you could potentially combine with a visit to Bali/Tamsui, see here); this view from the top shows the Tamsui River with Bali on the near bank (at left of photo) and Tamsui on the opposite bank with Yangmingshan behind it on the right:
And here’s the view of Guanyinshan from Tamsui Station, with Bali visible as the strip of lights along the river to the right:
If you head to Bali by bus, jump off at Bali Mazu Temple which is right over the road at the top end of Bali Old Street (the bus stop‘s called 渡船頭, ‘ferry wharf’, duchuantou, but you can easily find the temple on Google Maps and track your progress). As always in Taiwan, the temple roof is a cracker:
Bali Old Street runs from the temple down to the ferry dock & waterfront promenade. These old streets are found in small towns all over Taiwan, where they form the nucleus of the town and usually have a bunch of stalls selling street food snacks and any famous local produce the area’s known for. The most famous one is probably Jiufen Old Street, an atmospheric town up on a hillside in the mountains to the east of Taipei with awesome coastal & mountain views and very photogenic steps, teahouses, and red lanterns everywhere.
It has to be said, Bali Old Street isn’t quite so charming! Bit rough around the edges to be honest. But still, it’s cool to stroll down and there are plenty of snacks on offer; it’s not very long, and down along the waterfront there are more stalls and restaurants. We stopped in at a seafood restaurant on the waterfront for lunch before taking the ferry over to Tamsui.
Poorly photographed here, but the Bali riverside has nice views across the river towards Tamsui and the mountains of Yangmingshan National Park behind it:
The ferry dock’s just near the bottom end of Bali Old Street, they run every 10 minutes until evening (exact finishing time varies with the season), and it’s just 23 NT which you pay by swiping your EasyCard (the Taipei subway pass) before boarding.
Resolution came out terrible on this pic but anyway here’s three boys on a ferry with a bag of beers:
The ferry only takes 10 minutes but it’s a nice ride with sweet views back towards Bali, and Guanyinshan behind it (which I’d hiked up a few weeks earlier, see here).
Once you’re in Tamsui, the train station’s to the right (south) when you get off the ferry, but it’s better to head north first for a stroll along the river. There are loads of cafes, restaurants and bars along here so take your pick and settle in for some food, drink, and people watching.
You can walk all the way up to Fisherman’s Wharf a few km away (the point where the river meets the ocean), and there’s another ferry which runs up to Fisherman’s Wharf from a different ferry dock a short distance north from the Bali Ferry. There are also buses from Tamsui Station if you come up to Tamsui on the Red Line from Taipei and want to head to Fisherman’s Wharf first.
But we didn’t actually do any of that on this particular day as it was getting late (the Fisherman’s Wharf ferry was stopping at 6 if I remember correctly) and we were already several beers down and found a nice little bar for a couple more. It’s called Prost, cosy little joint with a solid beer selection and harbourside seating (though unfortunately a bit of construction going on when we were there), you can find the place on Google Maps though there are plenty of other cool spots to take a seat. Now, anyone who knows me knows I hate smoking and think it’s for idiots (which it is), but anyway here’s Dom & Aneil being idiots:
After that we went for Thai food at a restaurant by Tamsui Station, and then rode the Red Line back into central Taipei to meet friends at a Japanese izakaya.
All in all a nice day out, and while I wouldn’t say Tamsui is a must-do if you’re visiting Taipei for the first time, it is a good option if you have a day to fill in your itinerary and have already been to Jiufen.
It’s easiest from most starting points just to shoot straight up the Red Line, but if you want to take the bus to Bali first, it’s number 704 from Luzhou Station on the Orange Line; come out of exit 3 and it’s the stop just across the street through the trees:
Another option is to take the R22 bus to Bali from Guandu Station; Guandu is on the Red Line a few stops before Tamsui, so this will probably be more convenient if you’re not staying somewhere along the Orange Line.
A few more random details in Tamsui:
A small museum in Tamsui commemorates the French assault on Tamsui in 1884 during the Sino-French War (fought for control of northern Vietnam) when Taiwan was a colony of the Qing Empire, through interactive displays including this cute translation: