One can say that traditional markets are the point of divergence for the local social circle.
The 2020 “Taitung Old Street Festival” organizes by the Taitung County Government brings us Zhongzheng Road in Taitung City. We begin in Datong Market which has seen better days since its once glorious time as “The” Taitung Street during the Japanese occupation period. Let’s follow our tour guide Lee Dongyun as he takes us back in time on a journey in search of Taitung City’s olden days.
Our tour guide Lee grew up in the streets of the old downtown district. His family had a tofu stall in the Datong Market. All his memories from childhood revolve around life in the traditional market. All the old houses in these small streets and allies seem to come alive as you listen to Lee recount all the fun and interesting recollections from the past.
Datong Market has over 65 years of history dating back to the 1950’s when it became the lively heart of the economic center of downtown Taitung City. Back in the days, the booming industry businesses brought in by the Fishermen’s Association at the end of Taitung Street spurred the development in Taitung City. Ice making factories popped up all around the Haishan Temple and rows of lumber yards stood beside one another. It was said that Zhongzheng Road once was filled with rows of Japanese owned private clinics, cheongsam (traditional Chinese dress) shops, and Chinese herbal medicinal stores. The glorious days of the old streets’ areas are long gone. These days only the original mottled signages remain.
The Chinese Association Hall built in 1927 is the small quaint building across the street withstood the times. Not only is this the only remaining Overseas Chinese Hall in Taiwan, this building also commemorates the historical significance for the Japanese resistance period. Blissful Sweet Green Bean Soup dessert place around the corner has been passed down for generations for over 50 years charging just 1 NT a bowl for the sweet green bean soup when they first opened for business. The simple, unassuming sweetened flavor is a testament to how this nostalgic old school place has withstood the test of times.
Lee guides us through every old hostel and tea shop; as we go down every old street and alley on Guangdong Road, Guangzhou Street and Jingcheng Road, where we come across the soon to be torn down Datong Movie Theater.
The now vacant spaces that used to house various theater halls named Gold, Silver, Wealth, Treasure, Blessing, and Longevity Hall are soon to be no longer. Memories for every person who grew up in Taitung fill these nostalgic spaces. Whether it is the theater playing the endless second-run movies, the hand painted movie poster of the first Harry Potter, or the theater promotion truck’s speaker announcing famous actor Andy Lau starring in the Kung Fu Vs. Acrobatic. With Lee guiding us and touring these old streets filled with so many evocative memories and stories, one can’t help to get taken back in time and be reminded of the true Taiwanese warm hospitality from the olden days. It seems as though this walk down to memory lane of the old streets of Taitung has everyone’s hearts filled with sentimental nostalgia. It’s almost as if this particular Taitung weekend morning just got even more charming.
Have you ever picked out your snack from a cloth hanger?
For those of us who grew up in the 1970’s must’ve all experienced this amusement. The rotating racks are filled with all sorts of chips, snack, and candy, like a kaleidoscope of colors on a carousel. With just 10NT for a pack of snack, it’s hard to resist this temptation as it is so satisfying getting a treat after a long day of school.
Tongli Trading Co. was the first project to apply the introduction of the element of art into a spatial renovation project. Keeping some existing old design elements but interweaving new fresh design elements helped to create a uniquely friendly atmosphere corner bodega store. The end result is a fresh yet familiar comfortable space for the old customers, but also a space that attracts the attentions of the younger generation visitors. The County Government even go as far as giving the otherwise dark and dingy Datong Market a fresh coat of paint. Every in he of the messy and damp old floors of the traditional market got a deep scrub. The County Government invited all the remaining market vendors to participate in the design and renovation process - from selecting the new unified canvas signage or hanging the vintage looking light fixtures. These are just the first steps to the transformation to spotlight this old traditional market, giving it a new life and hoping more new vendors will join in on this journey to bring back the glory days of this once prosperous space.
Vice-governor, mayor, Director of Cultural Department, and the market queen Mama Tung participated in a cook-off on the day of the event. Geared with their aprons, spatulas and shopping baskets, these contestants set off to select the freshest produce in the market to prepare their best dish to please the judges.
Across the other side of the market, the children also are wearing their little aprons and each with a scavenger hunt list in hand. The tasks evolve around the traditional market give these market mini-Interns a sense of the interesting market life.
Today, crowds and laughter once again fill the old traditional market. This is the ultimate goal of Taitung Old Street Festival - to bring back the close bonds between one another from the past.