Tamsui Street guide / by Josiah Edbrooke

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Tamsui

Street guide

Tamsui is one of the places fairly high up on most tourist's to do lists when it comes to visiting Taiwan. It's famous night market and iconic sunsets over the the ocean are one of the most visited places in Taipei on the weekend. Due to the location of Tamsui, the sun sets fairly perfectly over the ocean. There aren't many obstacles to block the golden light on a clear day. Over the years of living in Taiwan, I've seen some of the most impressive sunsets here. There is one particular 2nd floor cafe that I like to sit and soak in the ocean breeze and golden glow there. While many people know of, and visit the obvious sights around Tamsui, there are still some spots that are out of the way, and are great for escaping the crowds there.  

Tamsui is one place that you can take as long as short as you feel like to explore. If you want a short visit, it's fairly easy to stroll up and down the boardwalk in 40 mins. But if you want to savor the sunsets more, you could easily spend a late afternoon and evening here. There are plenty of nice cafes and restaurants there, if you are looking for more of a sit down dinner. On the other hand though, if you want to grab a few street food snacks there are a whole lot of options for you to buy some take out food, and sit on the sea wall. 

As you step out from the MRT station, you are greeted with a largish park, this leads to the sea wall where there are some boats that are good for photographing. They have a nice contrast compared to the water and the general backdrop of the station. 

 all the boats in a row. f4, ISO 200, 1/125, 150mm

all the boats in a row. f4, ISO 200, 1/125, 150mm

 see through my eyes. f16, ISO 100, 1/80, 14mm

see through my eyes. f16, ISO 100, 1/80, 14mm

As you follow the path along the waterfront, you can clearly see Mt. Bali on the opposite side. If you have a wide lens, you can get some very pretty / fun experimental shots of the mountain bathed in sunlight. There are plenty of boats passing to and fro across the river which are fairly cheap. It's only 30nt or one way, so make sure you have your MRT card handy. It isn't all that expensive all things considered. If the sun is just right it can make for some nice shots a sunset over the water, an angle that would be hard to shot otherwise. 

One of the times I was shooting here was close to a typhoon landing, which meant the water had been whipped up into a muddy color, but normally it looks a lot nicer.

 the ferry across the river to Bali. f4, ISO 200, 1/125, 150mm

the ferry across the river to Bali. f4, ISO 200, 1/125, 150mm

 The bali wharf, shot from halfway across the river. f9, ISO 200, 1/125, 24mm

The bali wharf, shot from halfway across the river. f9, ISO 200, 1/125, 24mm

 Motoring along towards Lover's Bridge. f4, ISO 200, 1/125, 150mm

Motoring along towards Lover's Bridge. f4, ISO 200, 1/125, 150mm

As you walk further along the boardwalk, there are all sorts of take out drinks and snacks available. If you like fried food there are some good BBQ squid stands, that do with or without batter options. Also all different types of tea and fruit drinks. There are the more conventional western style restaurants available too if you prefer more pasta or American style fast food. If you are looking to spend a bit more cash, there are some restaurants right on the waters edge that offer outdoor couches and lazy boy seats. Although I can't say I'm much a fan of these places, as there is very little privacy there, if you want to get away from the large groups of tourists. 

At about the midway point up there is a ferry take will take you all the way to Lover's bridge and save you either walking or getting a bus there. It costs 50nt per trip, so not exactly cheap compared to other transport options, but you do save yourself getting stuck in traffic.  slightly further along there is a Starbucks that is always busy more or less. Because it's one of the most prominate cafes on the water front, many tourists go there to sit and relax with a coffee. It does boast a nice view of Bali, but it is tricky to find a good seat most of the time. 

I would suggest walking further up the river where there are quite a few lesser known options to sit and relax with the pretty view. 

 deep fried squid! f1.8, ISO 2000, 1/320, 150mm

deep fried squid! f1.8, ISO 2000, 1/320, 150mm

After getting your fill at the main street at Tamsui, Hop of the ferry over to Lover's bridge to see the night lights and reflections. Here you can often find many a couple and photographer capturing the sights and lights of the bridge and the sunset. There are a few more restaurants and cafes you can duck into if the weather starts to turn for the worst! If you walk to the end of the pier at Lover's Wharf there is a gap in the gate that the local fishermen have made, enabling them to walk further up the wall close to the mini lighthouse there. 

From here you can get some nice pictures (color or black and white) of the boats heading out to fish at dusk, and the lights of Tamsui in the foreground of Mt. Bali. I used a variety of portrait and ultra wide lens to shoot here on the the numerous visits. You can get in tight and find some interesting compositions or shoot ultra wide and capture the whole panoramic view! 

 Some of the smaller cafes around the corner from starbucks. f4, ISO 100, 1, 20mm

Some of the smaller cafes around the corner from starbucks. f4, ISO 100, 1, 20mm

 Panoramic shot from Lovers Wharf. f16, ISO 100, 1/60, 22mm

Panoramic shot from Lovers Wharf. f16, ISO 100, 1/60, 22mm

At night, Lover's bridge lights up in alternating colours throughout the evening. This creates a nice opportunity to shoot the reflections in the water it creates to great effect. Here it would pay to bring a good tripod to really smooth out the surface of the water. There are quite a few boats that come and go, so it can be tricky to get really nice smooth reflections sometimes. It helps to pick out your composition beforehand too, as it can get fairly busy here. A lot of local photographers come here to shoot from similar spots and locations.

For me personally, if I happen to see a particular spot that a lot of other people are shooting, I like to take that as a challenge to shoot some different angles. There's something nice in finding my own composition that no-one else has noticed or captured. For quite a few of these pictures I didn't have a tripod, so I ended up shooting handheld at higher ISO. This resulted in more noise than I would normally be happy with, but considering how dark it was I'm happy with how most of them turned out!

 heading out to sea. f1.8, ISO 3200, 1/125, 150mm

heading out to sea. f1.8, ISO 3200, 1/125, 150mm

 Bridge reflections. f1.8, ISO 3200, 1/8, 150mm

Bridge reflections. f1.8, ISO 3200, 1/8, 150mm

 the wharf on a summer evening. f1.8, ISO 3200, 1/30, 150mm

the wharf on a summer evening. f1.8, ISO 3200, 1/30, 150mm

One cool place to visit if you are at the wharf is the beach that is super close by. It's only a short 5 min walk from the bridge but fairly quiet and empty. It's a perfect to shoot the sunset without having to deal with the large crowds at the more famous spots around Tamsui. Once you walk over the bridge from the wharf, follow the road along and the path the beach is fairly obviously marked. It's a fairly large beach up and down, so if you want to walk up and down it, I guess it might take about 35 mins. It's nice to get a taste of the seaside after spending so much time in a large city like Taipei though! I would highly recommend this spot if you want to capture a slightly different view of Tamsui! 

 Footprints in the sand. f22, ISO 200, 1/25, 20mm

Footprints in the sand. f22, ISO 200, 1/25, 20mm

 using the rocks as a foreground elements works nicely here. f22, ISO 200, 1/30, 14mm

using the rocks as a foreground elements works nicely here. f22, ISO 200, 1/30, 14mm

To sum up, Tamsui is a pretty place to shoot golden hour, and spend your summer evenings in Taipei. It has a large mix of cafes, street food, fancy restaurants and do it yourself picnic spots. For the photographers among us, it's a great place to practice some street shooting and use that warm golden light to good effect. If you are visiting Taiwan, Tamsui is great place to visit if you want to get a taste of the coast here, but don't have time to visit Yilan or further down the east coast!

I hope this has helped out, if you want any other tips on this location feel free to drop a comment or email! 

Until next time!

Sy Edbrooke ^^