November 30, 2010
Fort San Domingo
For this article I thought I would try something a bit different and write it "live". So on this gloriously sunny day it's off to Danshuei, and more specifically Fort San Domingo.
The best way to get to Danshuei is by the MRT which I am traveling on as I type. Take the red line right to the end. It's a surprisingly long way to the end of the line actually, but once there either walk or jump in a cab to the Fort.
I elected for a cab going and the driver added an extra NT$30. He insisted that in Danshuei there is an extra fee of NT$30, and the kindly people at the entrance to the fort corroborated his story (although allegedly you don't have to pay this if you call a cab from 7-11).
Anyway, this was offset by the cost to get into the Fort; nothing. Absolutely free. What could be better on a gorgeous sunny winter's day in Taiwan.
Back to the reason for the trip however, Fort San Domingo. As I have mentioned in the past, there aren't many really old buildings left in Taiwan, be it due to war or natural disaster and perhaps in some cases development, although the government has come to realise that the "old bits" are worth preserving.
The origins of the Fort go back to when the Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch were vying for control of trade routes in the area in the 1600s. The Spanish first built a structure on this location, but this was razed when the Spanish forces were summoned to the Philippines. The Dutch then occupied the site before being forced out by Chinese forces.
Fast forward a couple of hundred years or so and in come the British who leased the fort from the local Taiwanese authorities and it became the British consulate from 1863 to 1972.
Outside the main building there is a courtyard where the prisoners used to exercise and an outdoor washroom and kitchen. In the building itself are four cells. Apparently these were for dastardly British wrongdoers but I couldn't find out if anyone famous had been incarcerated there.
Curiously several of the small cells had industrial strength air conditioning. "A bit of a luxury," I quipped. "It's for the summer in case anyone feels ill," said the guide. "Especially for foreigners like you." Fair enough and I am quite sure I would be grateful in the summer.
In addition to the fort building, there is a two story building just across a grassed square which served as the residence for the consul and his family. It is really just like stepping into a Victorian stately home however and really quite unusual for Taiwan.
I have to give the guides a big thumbs up. They were all very courteous and spoke English.
It's definitely worth a visit in my opinion. The place itself is interesting and well explained in English. The views over the entrance of the Danshuei river are impressive and a visit seems to instill a sense of peace every time I come.
If you can travel off peak you will avoid the crowds. It makes a good half day trip and there are plenty of other things to do in the area, more of which I will explore soon.
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