Minquan Old Street

Northern Taiwan

This block of tastefully restored merchant houses and residences dates from the end of the Qing dynasty. On weekends there's a lively market atmosphere as the little shops sell speciality snacks, tea, vintage toys and souvenirs, and run indigo tie-dye (藍染; lánrǎn) workshops. Street performers also work the area. The best way to get here is to take a taxi from Yingge (about NT$200).

As you walk the Old Street, look for the diversity of styles in the shop facades: they incorporate late-Qing, Japanese and western baroque elements. The mortar used for the bricks is a combination of sticky rice and crushed seashells. The manholes are also beautiful, featuring scroll-like clouds and leaping carp. Many of the stores here used to be coffin shops, which is why some locals believe Minquan Old St to be haunted.

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