Sanxia Old Street Guide / by Josiah Edbrooke

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Sanxia Old Street

Street Guide

 A quick circle route of Old Street.

A quick circle route of Old Street.

Sanxia Old street is quickly developing into a large tourist attraction as Taipei quickly expands further out. The council is already constructing the overhead MRT line as I'm writing this. Even though I have covered mostly big mountain hikes so far, I felt that Old street deserved a spotlight as the night life and architecture is unique and interesting. I've been here on multiply occasions and it's a street photographer's dream. There is a big mix of old traditional buildings fused with quaint little coffee shops, and bustling night markets. 

There are quite a few interesting temples and buddhist buildings in the area that are open to the public. They feature some intricate sculptures and stone work that is beautiful to photograph. The biggest temple in the area is a great subject for BnW conversions and candid street photos. For many of the pictures in this guide I used my Olympus OMD EM5 MarkII with the 17mm or 75mm prime lens. They are generally faster than any of my zoom lens and give a much nicer bokeh, making them ideal for a street photography area like Sanxia.

 One of the smaller temples at the start of Old Street. f1.8, ISO 1600, 1/40, 17mm

One of the smaller temples at the start of Old Street. f1.8, ISO 1600, 1/40, 17mm

 Awesome looking stone sculptures. f1.8, ISO 1600, 1/20, 17mm

Awesome looking stone sculptures. f1.8, ISO 1600, 1/20, 17mm

 a roadside shrine. f1.8, ISO 1600, 1/50, 17mm

a roadside shrine. f1.8, ISO 1600, 1/50, 17mm

On certain days of the year the local population hold big street festivals in this area, letting off fireworks on the bridge and many different pop up night market stalls. It's a interesting taste of local Taiwanese culture.  Sanxia's population is mainly young families, meaning the area is one of the safest I've explored in Taipei (that said Taipei is a very safe place in comparison to some cities in England and America). 

It is a great area if you want to simply chill out and relax in one the many independent coffee shops or browse the local craft stores, there is something for everyone. Old street starts on the corner of Mingshen rd more or less, and has a very distinctive look. 

At the entrance to Old Street there is a very large old tree (oak I think maybe??). Once you see it, you'll know you are in the right place! As mentioned before, many of the temples are open to the public to look around it. This provides some wonderful macro photos and shallow bokeh compositions! 

 Outside looking in. f1.8, ISO 1600, 1/50, 75mm

Outside looking in. f1.8, ISO 1600, 1/50, 75mm

The actual Old Street section isn't the longest road you'll ever shoot, but for the keen eyed photographers out there, there are plenty of unique street compositions to be captured. Sometimes it requires a little imagination, as in person, the small details might not seem like much. With a little post production you'll be surprised I think though. The lighting at night is quite dynamic. There is a wide variety of traditional lanterns, neon lights and fairy lights. It also doubles as a fantastic location for long exposure pictures. Once you frame your shot and are happy with the composition, wait until the inevitable scooters passes down Old street and start snapping away. The results are a nice blend of traditional and modern life. 

 A bracketed long exposure shot of Old Street. f6.3, ISO 200, 2.5, 17mm

A bracketed long exposure shot of Old Street. f6.3, ISO 200, 2.5, 17mm

 Standing guard over the temple & night market. f1.8, ISO 200, 1/6, 17mm

Standing guard over the temple & night market. f1.8, ISO 200, 1/6, 17mm

One area of the old street I really enjoy photographing are the storefront signs. What would normally be a boring sign can be turned into an interesting piece of art in my opinion! With the right lighting they can look incredibly striking.

 A fellow photographer friend of mine shooting the finer details. f1.8, ISO 1600, 1/5, 75mm

A fellow photographer friend of mine shooting the finer details. f1.8, ISO 1600, 1/5, 75mm

If you still have space on your memory card for more pictures, a short 2 min walk from Old Street is the bridge which is another photogenic feature in this area. On a hot muggy summers day you'll often find many locals out riding bikes and enjoying the breeze coming off the river. In fact if you fancy a scenic bike ride, the cycle track actually follows the river bank all the way to Banqiao if you are feeling particularly energetic. It is fairly easy to hop on a rented Ubike which cost about 20nt per 30 mins. It's a cheap and fun way to get around if you want to see more of the local area while exploring. I've gotten as far as Yongning from Banqiao before rain halted my ride, but its a fun little trip none the less! 

The bridge is a great place to people watch and get some nice candid shots of everyday life in this part of Taiwan. There's always a large mix of people mingling around this area in particular, so if street photography is your thing, it's a great location to visit. Any long exposure shots will require a decent tripod as it can be tricky to get a really sharp shot in the low light conditions here.

 Riverside lights. f20, ISO 200, 60, 17mm

Riverside lights. f20, ISO 200, 60, 17mm

 A local relaxing on a hot summer night. f1.8, ISO 1600, 1/30, 17mm

A local relaxing on a hot summer night. f1.8, ISO 1600, 1/30, 17mm

There are several different bus routes that take you directly to Sanxia from all different parts of Taipei. With the afore mentioned in construction MRT it will only get easier in the future. Personally I prefer to take the MRT Bannan line (blue) all the way the Yongning, then transfer to the 916 bus. It is the fastest route I think, and it cuts out the slow local roads by taking the highway to Sanxia. Traffic can be an issue on weekends or bad weather though. There have been a dew times I've been stuck on a bus going back but normally it's pretty quick. 

I hope this has been a helpful little guide to one of my favourite, nighttime shooting spots. It is worth a visit if you've never been to this part of Taiwan before. There are several other locations that are a nice day trip close by like Yingge. 

Until next time! 

Sy E ^^