If you follow Taiwan’s travel scene, you’ll have noticed this trend: Instead of being bulldozed and redeveloped, as often happened in the 1970s and 1980s, traditional downtown neighborhoods are now being cherished, revamped, and packaged as tourist attractions.
When a thoroughfare changes from being simply “old” to an “Old Street,” it undergoes a striking physical metamorphosis. The buildings are scrubbed clean; modern accretions like air-conditioning units, stainless-steel water tanks, and television cables are hidden, either behind the houses or beneath the road; and the asphalt road surface is replaced with stone slabs. Entrepreneurs move in and begin selling goods that tourists like to buy — often snacks and souvenirs, sometimes antiques.
Almost every town in Taiwan, it seems, has an Old Street. Some, like Daxi near Taoyuan, have two or three, depending on who's counting. Xinhua, just outside Tainan, has what I consider to be Taiwan’s finest Old Street — superb early-1920s architecture and businesses that still cater largely to locals, not visitors.Because of their isolation, Nanzhuang and Beipu have retained a lot of their preindustrial character...
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