Lunar New Year is quickly approaching and in preparation for the week-long festivities, markets across the country are opening specializing in the sale of special items that Taiwanese people like to enjoy during the holidays. A lot of these items include various types of food, snacks, various kinds of nuts, traditional candy, tea, red envelopes, Chinese medicine, etc.
The busiest of all the Lunar New Year Markets in Taiwan is at Taipei’s Dihua Street (迪化街) in one of the oldest districts of the city where it is estimated that almost a million people visit the street in the two weeks leading up to the Lunar New Year festivities. The news has reported this year that rent for the season vendors setting up shop on Dihua street this year has risen to extreme proportions forcing vendors to spend at least $300,000NT ($9000USD) to secure their spot for the two weeks of business. You would think that this insane amount would deter people from setting up shop at Dihua street, but it seems exactly the opposite.
Dihua street itself has a history dating back to the 1850s where it was part of an important centre for commerce in Taipei especially for Taiwanese tea, Chinese medicine, fabrics, etc. The street today still remains one of the most commercial active areas in Taipei and has been preserved to show its historical roots.
I decided that because of the wealth of information about Dihua street already on the internets that instead of writing a lot of information that I’d let the pictures do the talking - I will defer you to a couple of blogs that explain Dihua Street as well as the historic Dadaocheng area (大稻埕) of Taipei in greater detail and should give your a better idea of the area.
The market opened up earlier this week and will run for two weeks leading up to Lunar New Year. Shopping Dihua Street is a really cool experience. There are massive crowds, vendors yelling, customers bartering for better deals and even more important is that you'll get to try a lot of foods for free! Make sure to check out the market if you have time in the next two weeks!
Getting to Dihua Street is easy - Take the Taipei MRT to Datouqiao MRT station (捷運大橋頭站) and take exit one (1號出口) - There will be maps in the MRT station and on the street that will guide you on your short walk to the street from the station.
Dihua Street is often full of older people preparing for their family to return for the holidays. The older generation is the generation that is the best at cooking and food is one of the most important parts of the holiday. In this shot you see a woman taking a break from shopping.
Taiwan has several varieties and flavours of peanuts. Sometimes its hard to choose which kind you want to buy, luckily you can always try some before you buy them! My personal favourites are the garlic peanuts, and of course the spicy Siuchuan peanuts (麻辣花生)
One of the unfortunate aspects of Lunar New Year in the Chinese-speaking world is that people still partake of Shark Fin Soup. The industry is one of the worlds worst in terms of animal abuse. This year at the major entrances of Dihua street you will see young people holding signs protesting the sales of Shark Fin within the market. I gave them the thumbs up as I walked past. Its a cruel industry that involves catching a shark, removing its fin and throwing it back in the water to die. A complete waste of such a majestic animal and an industry that is causing a mass reduction of the world's remaining shark population.
Lunar New Year is a busy time in Taiwan, I'll be quite busy as usual. We have a week off from work and I'll be taking part in the festivities with friends. I'm also going to try to get in a pretty awesome hike that I've been planning on doing for a while as well as travelling down south to shoot one of my favourite lunar new year activities. More to come soon!
Happy Lunar New Year to everyone in Taiwan!
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