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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

Twenty Thousand Teeth took out in Tamsui

Day 848

The in-flight magazine on our flight from Cambodia to Taiwan had an article about Tamsui that piqued our interest, especially when we read that twenty thousand teeth were extracted by one man here!

Tamsui is on the north coast just a 45 minutes train ride from central Taipei. With its fascinating history and an interesting character who resided here, we decided to pay the place a visit.

We were not the only ones. The Spanish settled here in 1629 but expelled 12 years later by the Dutch. They stayed here until 1661, but I'm not sure why they left. By the 19th century, Tamsui became the largest port in Taiwan, but too much silt was the demise of the harbour. Then in 1895, the Japanese invaded.

Now Tamsui is a favourite destination for city dwellers and tourists to get out of the metropolis and have a pleasant stroll along the riverside eating a variety of seafood, taking their dogs and even cats for walks and hoping to see one of its stunning sunsets.

Jac led the way; we were aiming for Mackay Street, named after George Leslie Mackay. This Canadian missionary, who arrived in Tamsui in 1871, sounds an intriguing man. He learnt the local dialect from herds’ boys so that he could preach the gospel to the aboriginals here and travelled around as a dentist, famous for extracting over 20,000 teeth while singing and preaching his Christian message!

We saw a lot of his influence, the first being a statue of his head with a brilliantly long beard. Many young dudes in London would be proud to have one like his.

We strolled down a narrow lane with sweet little gift shops, cafes and artwork on the walls, (loved one of teeth being extracted!) and came to Tamsui Presbyterian Church, one of the 60 local churches that Mackay established here. Sadly it was shut.

Our next stop was the former residence of Tada Eikichi, a Japanese entrepreneur and public servant, who had this tiny, simple wooden home built in the 1930s with a great view of the river and Guanyin Mountains. Luckily it was free to enter as we only had a quick visit, we needed to go to the toilet, and for some reason, we were not allowed to use the one there.

Jac read that there was a café within Aletheia University. Sadly when we reached there, a stern worker turned us away. It was shut due to the coronavirus. But with Jac’s tenacity, she found a toilet, and we sneaked into the college.

Good ol’ George Mackay founded the University, even designed and supervised its construction. It used to be called Oxford College as residents of Oxford County in Ontario funded most of it. It’s now an independent college and changed its name in 1999 to Aletheia, which is Greek for “truth”.

It’s a shame we couldn’t wander around the grounds; it did look lovely, but we understood why it was shut to visitors – very wise to protect the students.

After lunch on the riverside, we popped by the Tamsui Customs Wharf with glittery balloons and an upside-down boat made from driftwood.

Sadly the sunset was nothing to write home about, but we have a pleasant stroll back to the station, passing fishers, singers, statues and murals.

Yes, we can understand why the Spanish, Dutch, Japanese and George MacKay moved to Tamsui, a charming place indeed.

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